November 2017 . . . .

“Thirst”

All right, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this. I have an entire drawer in the kitchen full of refillable water bottles, with the goal of not buying bottled water from the store. Logical and frugal, right? But here’s the thing: once upon a time, I didn’t carry around water. I lived in a place called a town, where I had a dwelling called a house (or an apartment, or a dorm room). I went from task to task, and when I felt the oncoming urge to sip at water, because the saliva in my mouth had turned to cotton, or when a headache came on and I needed to ingest a couple of aspirin, I found a restroom or a water fountain or I went home into a room called a kitchen and turned on the tap and let the flow of water fill a glass, then I drank it and relieved this urge to sip. If I was playing outside, say a rousing hand of whiffle-ball or home-free-all, and that need to sip came over me, I called “Time-Out!” and ran to my house to do that drinking-a-glass-of-water thing all over again. Like I hadn’t done it just a couple of hours earlier!

Frustrating? No, not really. If I didn’t want to run all the way home, I asked a friend if we could go get a glass-of-water at his house. If he didn’t want to go all the way inside, we might turn on the outside spigot and drink from the hose! I’m not proud of that, but they were tough times. And if no one wanted to take a time-out for some water, I might just say “OK, see you tomorrow!” and go home to imbibe a couple of glasses of water. Maybe even with a plunk of ice!

Here’s what I imagine: a bunch of old men in the late ’90s (the era, not their ages, although you never can tell) in rumpled, expensive suits, sitting around a table thinking about the sort of things such bitter people do.

“Hey,” one of the old farts pipes up. “Try this one on for size: if we bottle the water, everyone can just keep on doing whatever they were doing. More productivity because of shorter breaks, right?”

“We’ve already done that, Fitzwalter, you idiot,” growls a wizened little insect-gnome of a man in a tall leather chair. “Too many people stand around the water cooler already!”

“No, no! That’s the beauty of this,” Fitzwalter the Idiot replies. “First, we convince them with advertisements and celebrity endorsements that they need to take a sip of water all the damned time. I don’t know, let’s put a stake in the ground and call it ’wetting.’ ”

“No — that’s too much like our adult diaper campaign,” whines the ancient gnome.

“What about ’hydrating’ ” one of the others shouts.

Fitzwalter points a yellowed fingernail at him excitedly. “Even better. And we’ll put their water in individual containers at each desk, so they don’t have an excuse for getting up!”

“Won’t they just drink the bottle up and leave it behind?” asks the gnome-man.

“Not at all, sir. We’ll convince them through .  .  . medical testimonials, that gulping down water causes cramps, especially when they’re really hot or thirsty.”

“We have medical testimonials?”

“Not yet, sir. But we will.”

A fourth gentleman, younger than the others but just as cold around the eyes, holds up his hand, tentatively. “What if, and I’m just spitballing here, we sell the water to them, as .  .  . I don’t know .  .  . spring water. We’ll get the boys in marketing to work up an explanation for how it’s even better for them.”

Croaks of “Oh, sir! Genius, by god! Pure genius!” and a spattering of applause from the others. Everyone lights up a victory cigarette and they disappear in the billowing smoke like Pompeii beneath Vesuvius.

So I am returning to my youth. I don’t carry around water, and yet nothing in my life goes on without me taking a water break. I stop and go to the sink. And when I’m thirsty, I’ll gulp a whole glass of water, too. Just try and stop me.