Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Water Worries

When you grow up in a small town in Pennsylvania, you don't think often about the water you drink. When you grow up in Orange County, you obsess over it.

The water in OC in the 1970s was awful. It was gray, and sometimes you had to wait awhile for all of the weird little bubbles to settle down before you could see through it.

We had our weapons. A measure of OC success -- and assimilation -- was the ubiquitious Sparkletts water set up in the corner of the kitchen. Every week, the "local Sparkletts man," made famous as a sort of post-modern milkman for the sun-drenched set, would show up in his truck with the shimmering sign, dropping off a few huge bottles of water. Then your dad -- with much drama, the sound of rushing water, some large bubbles and occasionally a puddle on the floor -- would flip a bottle over and place it on top of your "Office Space"-style water cooler, and you'd have water. You'd also have a place to congregate and gossip to avoid work, but as a kid, that didn't come up so often.

I wanted to Sparkletts rig not only because our water was gross but because of the status afforded those who had one. To lack the Sparkletts was to reveal yourself not only as a greenhorn but also as one who cares very little about health. You'd rather drink cloudy, brown water than fork out a few bucks for your health? Are you kidding me?

Naturally, it was a battle in our house. My mother did not see the logic. As a New Yorker, I'm sure she was used to opaque water. As native Pennsylvanians, we were not.

Arrowhead, with their lilting "Arrowhead ... spring wa-a-ater." motto, came a close second to Sparkletts.

Many years later, as a young adult, long removed from both Orange County and the joy of a home Sparklett's cooler, I was confronted with people drinking water from smaller bottles. As a contrarian, I originally scoffed at them, once raising the ire of a guy by calling his drink "yuppie water." "What, I'm a yuppie because I drink my Poland Springs Water?"

In a word, yes. And no matter how long your hair is, how much you brag about your band, and how much you want to date this girl I'm dating, I will not retract this.

Sorry. I got sidetracked.

My point is that eventually, I came around. Not enough to spend a dollar every time I want a drink, and thanks to the magic of first Brita, and then the glorious filtering system of our Amana refrigerator, I don't have to. I buy a bottle of water, mostly for the design of the bottle, and then refill it several times during the course of a week.

I am no longer a water expert, and can't really tell the difference between bottled and regular water. As long as it's cold. I do miss the Sparklett's cooler, though. It's one of the few things I miss about having a job. A few years ago, when I spent more time at the Jawa's school, I regularly pilfered water from their cooler, figuring if it wasn't included in our massive tuition payments, it should be.

Along the way, I became very opinionated regarding water bottle design. The Jawa loves the square bottles, which, to us, look like shampoo bottles. I like the thicker bottles, but am intrigued by the recent trend toward shapely, 25 ounce bottles with simulated grips on the sides.

This speaks directly to me as a workout guy. I like the grips, I like the shape. The bottle is easy to grab, easy to drain. The 25 ounce size means you only have to refill once during a workout.

Thought Sparkletts seems to have folded up their tent in this very competitive world of water, Arrowhead ("...spring wa-a-ter...") continues to fight it out. Their latest innovation, however, leaves me very cold, and not in a good way.

Arrowhead, perhaps looking for something beyond shape and fake grips to make them stand out, has adopted -- in their eyes, refined? -- the bottle spout. Their new design is a massive pain in the butt.

Everyone knows that simple twist-offs are inadequate. You need to pop-top, or the innovative twist top, especially while at the gym. No one wants to send a water bottle cap flying through the air while they're on the Precor. Nor do they want to have the bottle send water spewing all over the place, should they drop it. The twist and pop-tops solve these problems. They do not need improvement.

Certainly, they don't need replacement by a complicated snap-off lid that then stays connected to the bottle by a small, plastic strap. Arrowhead has introduced this unnecessary feature, which functions something like an attached gas cap. This means that you need to unsnap the cap, which only unsnaps from one spot, confusingly marked by a plastic tab, to drink. If you are winded, and used to pulling open pop-tops with your teeth, the odds are good that you will attack the cap somewhere other than the small plastic tab. The bottle will not open, and you will hurt your teeth, and your lips.

So you will have to stop what you're doing, focus on the bottle, locate the tab, and then open.

Once the bottle is opened, you will then have to avoid the still-affixed lid, which dangles like the aforementioned gas cap, sometimes digging painfully into your lips. It is not an efficient system. I hope they did not pay a group of engineers handsomely to design this. Obviously, they should have ponied up for a focus group instead.

Fie on you, Arrowhead. You were so close. The bottle is wonderful, but the cap is awful. Serious water drinkers will now have to buy Arrowhead, and then a different brand, hoping that the bottles are universal, so that he then may switch the other cap to the Arrowhead bottle, thus avoiding painful lip and teeth injuries.

As if working out isn't painful enough.


Anonymous Noodle's Mom said...

I beg to differ. I love the shape, and I love the attached cap. One flick of the thumb during an intense total body fitness class opens my water bottle, and one flick closes it, ensuring that even with arms and legs flying, should my water bottle end up rolling on the ground, the part I put my mouth on won't have been touched by anything gross that lives on the floor of the gym.

7:48 PM  
Blogger Bud and/or Marsi said...

have you ever been to pennsylvania as an adult? i just can't picture you there.

9:34 PM  
Anonymous anotherlefty said...

At least they still have some kind of a cap you don't have to twist off and hold in your grubby paw while you're driving. Most other brands here in Old AZ seem to have dropped the easy pop top.

9:10 AM  
Blogger Bud and/or Marsi said...

what is this "work out" you speak of?

3:44 PM  
Anonymous RoseAnn said...

Wr have something in common, I am also VERY opinionated about water bottles. I have been whining about the new eco-Arrowhead bottle since I first saw it a few months ago...stopped buying prompted me to start a petition to bring back the old bottle...yes, I'm definitely crazy, and with too much time on my hands...but don't let that stop you from signing:

2:32 PM  
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