Monday, May 14, 2012

Some fountains aren't for drinking

The drinking fountain is the only water-bearing fountain specifically constructed to allow for human consumption. It is also the most poorly engineered fountain in existence.

This is my testimony:

The majority of drinking fountains are incorrectly pressurized. Shouldn't that be one of the major checkpoints on the factory worker's list? Low water pressure is perhaps most common. There is something immensely frustrating about being very thirsty but not being able to take in the desired volume per gulp. It reminds me of a particular moment from my childhood, of enthusiastically puncturing a Capri Sun with a tiny yellow straw, only to be thwarted by immense sucking but maddeningly tiny squirts of liquid. A face-full of Pacific Cooler caused by rage-driven pouch squeezing is a landmark moment of my youth. Besides all that, there is often barely enough pressure to even force the water into a drinkable arch. This requires one to get dangerously close to the spout (the second any part of that thing touches your face it's game over), as well as to make a face similar to that of someone attempting to kiss a duck.

Over-pressurized fountains cause a very different problem. Again, I'm reminded of my childhood, this time of playing with the backyard hose and its various attachments. I loved to spray things (anything, including neighboring cats or any unsuspecting siblings), but I could never quite figure out the attachment with the stream-type feature. I still don't understand why "mist" was even an option. What good is "mist" when you are trying to spray a flock of geese flying 50 feet overhead? Anyways, I am pretty sure the drinking fountain factory workers also have not mastered this skill, and have put some fountains on the "mist" setting permanently. They should be on "streamline." If I wanted a face wash, I'd do so in the sink.

You never know what you're going to get when you bend over to indulge in an unfamiliar drinking fountain. If and when you happen upon unfortunate water pressure, you will most likely either get squirted in the face or make the ducky drinking face at an inappropriate height. If you are experienced, you know to push the button first, assess the situation, then go in for a drink.

Even then, the temperature of the water cannot be predicted until it's too late to turn back. There's something about warm water from a drinking fountain that is much more revolting than warm water from a cup. I can't help but imagine it's the splash-back from the last person that has somehow fallen back into the spout.

I also have qualms with the way some drinking fountains are installed. I understand that children get thirsty, but they need to learn they can't always have everything they want. That was a joke (kind of), but it is based on something serious - is it really necessary to install drinking fountains 4 feet up from the ground? I don't think I've ever seen these being used, by adults or children. In fact, I remember one instance of a parent actually lifting their kid up to drink from the higher one - what a waste.

I also don't understand why drinking fountains are often installed what seems like inches apart from each other. What is the purpose of this? Why not have a little buffer zone? I feel like I'm at a watering hole in a drought-stricken Savannah, being forced to drink dangerously close to animals of other species, perhaps even predators who want to eat me. Ok that one's a little weird, but I think I've made my point.

You may think spending so much effort analyzing the engineering flaws of drinking fountains is a waste of time. It is. However, by doing so, I have managed to learn how to pick out fountains to avoid just by looking at them. How about that for a skill. Today is your lucky day, because I am going to share a couple of the warning signs.

Firstly, button placement. Any fountain that's button is located directly on top of its spout is questionable. These are the fountains that look as if they were constructed and installed in 1963, and they usually have disastrously low water pressure and lukewarm water at best. I can only assume they are filled with mold. Avoid them. Opt for fountains with buttons on the front or sides.

Also, a loud fountain is usually a good fountain. The decibel level of a fountain is negatively correlated with its water temperature. This is science. A fountain that seems to be churning, even rumbling, will provide fresh, ice cold product, usually at a manageable water pressure. I can't explain it, I'm not an engineer. All I know is, find a good fountain by following the noise. 

Following these two rules, but mainly paying attention to each drinking experience, will lend you the skills necessary to avoid the many flaws of drinking fountains.

"The more satisfying your public drinking life, the better life is in general."
                   -Anonymous blogger   


  1. So, so, so true! And what about white ceramic versus stainless steel? Gotta go, I'm thirsty!

    1. Oh yes, the white ceramic...but those always have buttons on top so you know to stay away.

  2. I laughed out loud at the "splash-back that found its way back into the spout." I have actually thought that but that is the first time anyone else has EVER said that. And why are there always two next to each other?! This brought a well-needed laugh on my end.

    1. Yeah, the splash back thought has haunted me for awhile. I find myself wanting to run the water a good 15 seconds before drinking...