Wednesday, February 07, 2007

I was recently sitting in W. A. Frost, a local upscale restaurant and bar that for some reason lets me in anyway, when I had occasion to reflect upon the item sitting directly in front of me on the bar. It happened to be a 2/3-full bottle of Fiji Water that someone had left behind after he scampered off to do Unca Don things somewhere else. Since I was, if not bored, at least not surrounded by Suzanne Blues, I tried to observe the thing in front of me with "baby's eyes," my term for not letting preconceived notions affect my perceptions. And I was pretty astounded at what I saw.

In one sense, you already know what I saw: the partially-full bottle of designer water. But as I looked at it and thought about it, it became more and more bizarre:

First, someone made a plastic bottle out of whatever petrochemicals go into plastic bottle making and then shipped it to Fiji. This assumes that they didn't make it locally in Fiji, which I suspect is true.

Someone in Fiji filled the plastic bottle with water. Just plain old ordinary water, albeit Fiji water. I know this because it says "Bottled at the source" on the bottle.

Someone then shipped the plastic bottle of water to the United States, specifically to Saint Paul, Minnesota, about as far from Fiji as you can get and stay on this Earth.

Somebody loaded this plastic bottle of water onto a truck and delivered to W. A. Frost, where it was then stuck into a cooler.

Somebody ordered a bottle of "Fiji Water" at the bar and drank about 1/3 of it.

This person then left, after paying $3.50 US (sans tip) for the privilege of drinking those four ounces of water.

The opened plastic bottle was then tossed into the trash at Frost, and eventually ended up in a landfill. I just went over to Frost and asked them if by some odd chance they would recycle that plastic bottle, and the answer was of course no.

Let me say this in another way:

The little plastic bottle (500 ml) was born in some industrialized nation, child of an arcane chemical process about which little is known today. It then traveled by ship to Fiji to receive its raison d'être: its contents. The long trip to Fiji was very interesting and exciting to the bottle; it had never dreamed it would get to travel so far and see so much of the world. Even though at the end of this journey it was only filled with water, it was fancy water, Fiji water, and water of which the bottle was justifiably proud and about which it bragged to its friends. It knew that Fiji has one of the last unspoiled aquifers in the world and that its water, his water, was the best natural Artesian water. "Water is important," it would say, "and my water is special so it is even more important. And it was made by Artesians!" His friends all wisely agreed: who can argue with the importance of water?

Once it had been filled, it got to travel on a big ship to the United States. "Wow, this is great!" said the bottle. "I get to go to America, land of opportunity and 'Desperate Housewives!' Life couldn't get any better! I bet some hip Californian is going to drink me after a hard day of surfing and writing about L.A. crime if he's out of beer!"

But the bottle's journey was far from over -- it didn't get to stay in wonderful California as it hoped. Instead the little bottle got loaded into a truck and traveled its way across America, able to enjoy vast expanses of paved Interstate Highway and really loud country music from the truck driver along the way. "Gosh, wait 'til the other bottles hear about this!" said the bottle with a noticeable twang as he and the rest of the truck's cargo neared their destination.

And what a destination it was! Saint Paul, Minnesota, home of the Minnesota Wild and some other stuff. The bottle virtually quivered with excitement as it was offloaded. The excitement dimmed a bit as the bottle realized it was seven fucking degrees below zero Fahrenheit outside goddamn it, but it was new to Minnesota and didn't realize it got worse. At any rate it didn't have to wait long outside in the cold because no one among its new human friends wanted it to freeze. "I have special water," said the bottle, "and they are taking care of me because they know this." And it was mostly right, plus of course if it froze and split open and died one of its new human friends would have lost about fifty cents' worth of product and been pissed.

After a short recuperation from the long long trip in a smelly warehouse, the lucky little bottle was loaded into yet another truck. However, this truck's driver listened to The Current, Minnesota's public alternative radio station and 89.3 on your FM dial, which the bottle liked lots more than country music. Being only a bottle, it did wonder if it was possible to line dance to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, but being new to the area and a bit bashful besides it didn't know who to ask so it never found out.

Eventually the bottle arrived at W. A. Frost, an upscale restaurant and bar in Saint Paul that inexplicably allowed seedy characters to come in and sit at the bar from time to time. "No matter," said the bottle when he realized this. "Those seedy fuckers will never be able to afford to drink me! I have special water from Fiji!" And of course he was right.

But finally the day came when someone who wasn't seedy sat down and ordered a bottle of Fiji Water. "Hot damn!" said the bottle. "At last I get to get drunk!" He actually meant "At last someone will drink me!" but bottles are notoriously poor at English grammar, especially after listening to endless hours of country music.

The excited little bottle was served to the very non-seedy Frost patron, a nice avuncular-looking man, who then opened it and poured its special Fiji water into a reasonably clean glass. The bottle was completely blissed out. "Just wait until this nice man tries my special water!" he said to himself. "He will be transfigured into a godlike being. Or something. I guess they didn't really explain it at the bottling plant very clearly, but something good will surely happen to him. It's special water! And made by Artesians!" And by the way, the bottle was careful to say none of this out loud because then the nice man would hear it and think he was completely shitfaced and check himself into Hazelden without ever drinking the bottle's special water. The little bottle was not completely naive, as you can see.

But the nice man just had a few sips of the bottle's special Fiji water then payed his check and left. The little bottle was thunderstruck:

"WHAT??? Why didn't the nice man turn into a godlike being? I know that he didn't because he left a shitty tip. But I also know that he wasn't one of the seedy characters in a nice man disguise because he actually paid his tab. What gives? He didn't even finish my special water, the water I brought all the way from Fiji for him! I had to cross oceans in ships and travel Interstate Highways in trucks listening to country music and sit in a warehouse and all this stuff and he just takes a couple sips and leaves? Life couldn't be so unfair, could it?"

Well sure it could, and it got worse. The bartender, more than a little irritated at the shitty tip, spiked the poor little 2/3-full bottle of Fiji Water into the garbage bin and totally ignored its pitiful little cries for help. Then some bad humans came and took the bottle to the local landfill and tossed it onto a pile of used Huggies. And this is where the bottle found out that -- Jesus Christ it's fourteen below zero, minus forty with the windchill, what the fuck am I doing here in this God-forsaken hell hole? -- indeed it does get worse.

So the little bottle who traveled all the way to Fiji for its special water and then went on to meet its destiny in Saint Paul ended up in sitting in a landfill shivering and cursing, scorned at the very moment of the fulfillment of its life's purpose by someone who wasn't even particularly seedy -- or, apparently, very thirsty.

Alas, the poor little bottle sits there in the landfill to this very day, completely frozen solid but still very pissed off about the whole affair. Thankfully for the bottle, the Huggies are frozen solid as well at this point.

Hi, it's me again, story time's over. There is no moral to this sad little vignette, at least not one that I care to draw overtly. But I will tell you what it says on the label of the 500ml bottle of Fiji Water:

"What ecosystem is your water from?"

And you thought I was ironic.

-- Hulles


cK said...

If you inspect that label more closely, you might find that Fiji is merely a brand, sort of the way French must have been in the first French fries. A way to make one think of more exotic things.

Fiji Water might be some of the water bottled by the water department in Rockford, Illinois.

Funny. The exotic extrapolations people are willing to make to suspend disbelief and carelessly select these products--water from Fiji, Evian, etc.--is the same sort of thought process they might use to understand environmental damage they may be inflicting. One simply needs to invert the exotic and one will quickly know the energy wasted in production, the landfilling problems, and so forth.

The mind, baby.

Hulles said...

It really is from Fiji, at least according to the label (and the web site, btw). And I'm glad you got the point of my post.

Heather Harper said...

I recycle. I think it should be mandatory.

Hulles said...

Heather, if only you can wait until we run out of easy access to petrochemicals I'm sure you'll see it become mandatory.

Phoenix-Lord said...

Heehee. This is Lauren from OSI Physical Therapy. This was most amusing! Bottled water always amazes me beacuse I grew up in the Carrbean and we got all of our water free from the sky. We called it rain. Tates great!

...maybe we should start bottling it!

Hulles said...

Hi phoenix-lord. That was quick. I haven't had a chance to get over to your place yet but I look forward to it. And yeah, I keep wanting to answer the silly rhetorical question on the bottle with "My water comes from the local ecosystem - a faucet, not via a process that takes a ton of energy and natural resources like yours."

LaCosta (Lollie) said...

It could have been worse for the little bottle. After a brief but potentially exciting stay in Cali, the bottle could have been headed for Florida, where the truck's cooling system breaks down in Ocala, heating the contents of the cab to a plastic-softening, cancer-inducing water temperature. The poor little bottle would have to live the rest of his guilty life knowing that he poisoned his contents and consequently the bastard who only drank a third of his "special cargo."

Hulles said...

Lollie, you're a sick sick person, just the kind of reader I write for (except Heather who is quite naive and innocent).

I personally think the little bottle would be quite happy that he got his bit of revenge as he sat on a stinking Florida landfill.

And bastard he may be, but he's a nice bastard -- my friend Unca Don. Of course you had almost no way of knowing that....

Thanks for coming by.

Anonymous said...

I make a living at selling plastic bottles. GO PLASTIC..

Hulles said...

I certainly don't begrudge you making a living selling them. But you have to admit the hypocrisy of touting Fiji Water as being an ecologically sound choice for drinking water is a little over the top, don't you?

Anonymous said...

I agree, way over the top.