Innovation by the Bottle
It’s no secret that many people – especially men – have, shall we say, unusual hobbies. My dad, for example, loved to carve tri-tone train whistles out of solid blocks of wood and then hand the noisy things out to family members, friends and other unsuspecting people. Go figure.
One of my own hobbies is scanning daily newspapers for interesting and unusual or obscure stories. Sometimes I even take the subject matter or gist of the story and use it to write a column around. Like this one.
I read recently about a leading manufacturer of public drinking fountains who has adapted to changing consumer habits by making radical new versions of their best-selling models. The company had realized that more people around the world are using traditional drinking fountains to refill personal water jugs, rather than bend down and slurp as has always been required at drinking fountains. What usually happens with old style fountains, however, is some sort of dance in which the bottle isn’t filled, shoes and clothing get wet, and everyone walks away damp and unhappy.
And so this company designed all new models that will fill a 16-ounce vertical bottle in 10 seconds or less. The new units, which cost from $700 to $2,075 each, have already been installed in hundreds of colleges and dozens of international airports. And that, thirsty people, is what happens when you add water to American ingenuity and the free market economy.
I have firsthand experience doing the “Nalgene Shuffle,” trying every contorted move I can think of to refill my hard plastic (BPA-free, of course!) bottle with water from a standard drinking fountain. On the rare occasion when there is enough water pressure for the stream emerging from the fountain to reach the top of the empty bottle, you still have to tilt it at just the right angle in order to get any water inside. But that angle then makes it impossible to fill the bottle to the top. Arrghhh!
Most often, unfortunately, there isn’t enough water pressure to even begin filling a bottle and one must resort to the old school method of bending down and hoping against all hope that the stream doesn’t suddenly give you a nasal enema, or worse, that your mouth actually touches the metal fountainhead. Horrors!
I don’t know about you, but my siblings and I were warned from birth about the dangers of drinking fountains. We were told nightmarish stories about kids just like us who had contracted some sort of pandemic illness merely because their lips came in contact with a fountain of filth. As a result, I would have to be nearly dead from thirst before I would ever go near a drinking fountain.
I remember seeing one of my friends run to get a drink from the fountain near the brightly painted concrete pipe sections at Two Strike Park. He was so hot and thirsty, he barely waited for the water to start shooting out when – shockingly – his lips not only touched the fountainhead, he almost inhaled the thing. For the rest of that summer, I waited to hear news of his hospitalization and impending demise. So sure was I that he had contracted so-called “lock-jaw” or polio or some other crippling childhood malady, I waited and waited for my recklessly unsanitary friend to start foaming at the mouth or for body parts to start dropping off before my very eyes.
Apparently, the mortal fear of catching a deadly disease from a water fountain wasn’t promoted only by my mother. The same company that makes the new bottle-ready fountains was also known in years past for adding anti-microbial agents to the mouth guards of their fountains.
Now that I think about it, though, I wonder why Mom never worried about whose lips had been on all those train whistles Dad used to give away.
I’ll see you ’round town.