I don’t want to sound peremptory, haughty, hindsighted or so brashly punctilious that my comments may be dismissed with a tongue cluck and a flapping feather boa, but it’s hard not to notice that everyone is walking around with a clutched bottle of water. What memo did I miss? Asteroid? Blight? Invasion? End Times? Cormac McCarthyism? At a certain point in our recent cultural development people began walking around like the anxious survivors of a crashed mission to Mars. Apparently folks are no longer able to countenance the idea of waiting for a water fountain to appear, or for the purchase of a Pepsi at the next corner market. They skulk around the streets and shopping malls, hospital waiting rooms, weddings, parent-teacher conferences and emotionally racking death bed vigils with a stylized little plastic bottle of ordinary water. In hand!
Life, daily life, that is, has become a cheaply produced 1973 Tuesday Movie of the Week. It stars Richard Hatch, Christopher Tabori and an increasingly hairy-headed John Saxon. It is a small-budget cautionary tale written around commercial breaks for AeroWax (“Now with 50% more plastic. Ladies, we heard you.”) Salvo Tablets, Shake ‘n Bake, and with some regularity the crying Indian Chief in full headdress standing next to a freeway and staring out at us in mute judgement, his single tear inveighing against litter as Impalas and Pintos, taunting namesakes of the formerly Fruited Plains, can be seen speeding by in the background and disgorging full grocery bags of trash out their windows. <Note to the Litter Council or whatever you were – once the White Man has stooped to infecting gift blankets with smallpox in order to kill off the nuisance Native American (1763), we will not likely be shamed by their descendants into picking up our trash>. Then during the same jarring commercial break, ‘Now, instead of counting sheep, you can count upon a good night’s sleep, from Serta!’ tousled bottle-blonde Joey Heatherton yells off-key next to a showroom bed while writhing suggestively in a painted-on knit jumper with flying nun lapels and deeply plunging neckline, costing this 13 year-old many many many nights of sleep, and every 7 days an aggregated 22 minutes or so of Tuesday Movie of the Week footage.
Oh, yeah. The movie of the Week. The film is mesmerizing once one hurriedly returns from the Heatherton Chamber (or ‘bathroom’ as my parents called it). Like all good cautionary TV fables of the seventies, the story transfixes with its all-too-plausible portrait of a future dystopia – usually the year 1997 or so – which portrays an Earth whose ‘resources’ have been so denuded by Man’s greed (or Person’s greed, as Ms. Magazine would churlishly correct us all in the inevitable rejoinder) that the bland future-folk have to CARRY WATER IN THEIR HANDS ALL DAY, TAKING BLANK-FACED METRONOMIC SWIGS AS THEY WALK ALONG, LIKE SELF-OILING ROBOTS IN A REALM OF THE MECHANIZED DAMNED.
Yesterday while walking along our beautiful main street I saw a young couple with a baby in an expensive-looking stroller. Which is to say only the baby was in an expensive-looking stroller and not the couple AND their baby. The hip, grizzled young dad, with his smashed beanie and standard-issue lobe-wideners took a long, luxuriating draught from a liter bottle of water, eyes closed, throat jumping up and down, and handed it to his auburn-haired gauzy-dress lady, who likewise took a long, long pull and handed the bottle back. The day was lightly overcast and cool. These people were not being driven by the heat into these long, slaking gulps of water. They were simply comporting with life in the West in 2014. We walk around…..holding. bottles. of water. I remember a friend in the food service business some years ago perking up when I mentioned that his establishment, a world-conquering chain of coffee shops, had begun selling their own label of bottled water, stacking them near checkout as an impulse buy. “Why is everyone carrying water around everywhere?” I’d asked. This is about 7 years ago. He’d chuckled. “We’ve been meeting about it for months,” he said. “It’s the new health buzzword – hydration.”
At the Ralph’s near our house there are pallets of bottled water stacked outside as one would expect in the days preceding a visibly oncoming apocalypse. IT IS WATER, FOLKS. If you’re thirsty, take a drink. To the rest of you I will say this; your macabre thirstless auto-sipping is the stuff of a David Lynch student film.