Water Bottles and Cost Benefit Calculations

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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
ipod
$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.

Countryside path in Blagdon with Daffodils in bloom and Blagdon Lake in the background. Where my fancy water bottle will spend its early retirement.
Countryside path in Blagdon with Daffodils in bloom and Blagdon Lake in the background. Where my fancy water bottle is enjoying its early retirement.

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”.

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  1. 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.
  2. This is a common feeling for me on my shopping expeditions and tends to also extend to anyone who accompanies me.
  3. Grandmas worry no matter how old you are. I find this an incredibly endearing fact about grandmas. 
  4. Rookie.

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Hello. I’m Alasdair.

Hello. I’m Alasdair.

I believe that being aware of who I am and mindful of who I am becoming is the best investment I can make in my life —and that when we focus our efforts within, the rewards naturally flow outward to those we love and through the communities we belong to.