Reading time: [est_time]
I clutched a water bottle in each hand while dumbly staring at a rack of water bottles hanging in front of me. My head felt the same way I imagine the peak of a mountain feels when a thick layer of clouds engulfs it, cutting off all visibility from its base. I wasn’t sure how long I had been standing there and hoped no one had taken notice of my slightly peculiar behavior. Still clutching the water bottles, I walked 20 paces over to the checkout line where another collection of water bottles hung from the wall. I scanned this wall quickly, not because I was already familiar with every bottle the store carried (I was) but because I didn’t dare linger here too long in case one of the cashiers caught on to what I was doing…or more aptly what I was failing to do.
I hadn’t come to REI to buy a water bottle, but now I was beyond rescue. Deeply engrossed in a complicated series of cost benefit calculations that would have impressed my former finance professors, I considered 10 different varieties of water bottle and their likely performance in a myriad of possible scenarios. I had read somewhere on the internet that a Nalgene bottle would double as a foam roller and the packaging on another one boasted that its insulated bottle would keep my hot beverages warm for the maximum period of time. I pondered both these potential benefits carefully. 1
10 more never-to-have-back minutes of complex scenario analysis, doubt, and mild self loathing and I had decided on a foldable 1 liter bottle with a carabiner. Perfect. Well, not perfect, but probably the best option. As I check out I attempted a smile and hoped the cashier wouldn’t detect the serious inner turmoil this decision had caused me.
“$12 please.” He smiled back.
I walked out of the store exhausted and tried to ignore the nagging concern about the wisdom of having chosen to spend my afternoon in this way. 2
In my otherwise painstaking calculations I had failed to account for one important detail. This detail turned out to be the only one that mattered: I forget things. A lot. I forget names I heard only moments ago, important directions to places I’m trying to get to, and most relevant to this situation: actual things. My reputation for forgetting things is so strong it now commonly precedes me when I’m visiting friends and family. They check before I leave in fear they may have to post something to me. Here’s a partial list of some of the more major things I’ve left behind in order of significance:
Personal laptop charger
$200 pro boogey board
Work laptop charger (!)
$300 Bose 2.1 Stereo System
Daily prescription medicine
I’m sure many other things that seemed to have disappeared over the years also belong on this list. I’m also pretty sure I forgot a few major things that also belong on this list.
And after a handful of preliminary expeditions into the British countryside my $12 water bottle was destined to befall the same such fate.
I mourned over the loss of my fancy water bottle on a 7 hour bus trip from Bristol to Leeds to see family. I had just finished my lunch consisting of a half finished bag of salty vegetable chips and pretzels. It was a distressing time to learn of such news.
Having had time during the bus ride to go through all five stages of grief I stepped off the bus a new, albeit water bottle-less man. Not long after the cost benefit analysis began anew, incorporating the last month’s worth of new information and weighing whether maybe a foam rolling Nalgene water bottle actually might be the way to go.
The next day Grandma called to remind me that I had forgotten to let her know I had arrived in Leeds 3 and oh did you forget anything else? Her final sweep had been no match for my forgetting abilities and had failed to include the bookshelf in the living room. 4 I could rest easy while in Leeds. My reputation would continue unharmed.
I told Tony, who was hosting me, about this tragedy. Turns out at a conference he attended he had been given a water bottle that was slightly smaller but otherwise just like the one that was now spending the rest of its bound-to-be pleasant days in the countryside village of Blagdon. It even had a carabiner.
The serendipity of this quick turn of events was not lost on me and I spent the next couple days contemplating what it all really meant. I came to no concrete conclusions except for that I had probably spent too long in that REI store a month back.
Before I left, Tony gave me the water bottle and asked if I thought it’d do.
I thanked him and said I thought it would and paused before before adding “it’s only a water bottle”.
- At the time I had a foam roller which had lay dormant in my closet for 2 years and I can count the number of times I’ve used a thermos on one hand.
- This is a common feeling for me on my shopping expeditions and tends to also extend to anyone who accompanies me.
- Grandmas worry no matter how old you are. I find this an incredibly endearing fact about grandmas.