Today we met in an isolated portion of the park, C.W. and I, for he insisted on assuming the shape of a Bedouin Tribesmen and I refused to be seen in public with him. He sat cross-legged on an elevated ledge overlooking the Arkansas River. I sat beside him and waited.
He turned and, as he did, the numerous necklaces he wore made a rather pleasant tinkling sound. “I see your people doing many strange things,” he said.
This from a man dressed like a desert nomad near downtown Little Rock, Arkansas. I didn’t respond.
“Tell me about these devices they carry with them everywhere.”
“Devices?” I asked.
“From what I can tell, they are suspended noxious chemical compounds formed into a container for your hydration source, how do you say … Dihydrogen Oxide?”
“We just call it H2O,” I said. “Yes they carry water.” I was a little peeved since he was assuming an accent today, something he did rarely and, I guessed, when he did it was to jack me around.
“May I ask why?” He was as polite as an insurance salesman on Valium.
“Maybe they’re thirsty,” I said.
“All the time?”
“Maybe not all the time.”
“Do not they have sources of hydration in their homes?”
“Yes, they all do.”
“I read in a recent magazine article that 46 percent of the people on your planet do not have such indoor sources.”
“Probably true,” I said, wondering where he was going.
“Aren’t they the ones who should be hydrating from containers?”
“Well, yes.” That made sense to me.
“So does this containerized hydration provide some other health benefit?”
“What do you mean?”
“Does it keep the liquid safer?”
“Uh, no, quite the contrary. Water from public sources is highly regulated whereas the water purchased in containers is, well, it is not regulated at all.”
“Totally unregulated?” he asked. “Even as to the source?”
“Even as to the source.”
“So it could come from this river?”
“It just seems to be a fad that started several years ago and caught on. It’s one of those things Americans do that has no logical basis whatsoever.”
“It is free?”
“Oh no, one must pay extra for it.”
He said nothing, just watched the river roll by for what seemed like hours. Finally he spoke, as much to the river as to me.
“I suppose it is a harmless extravagance given the fact that they re-use those poisonous containers and don’t release them into the environment when they are empty.
I didn’t say a word.