My favorite water bottle is a beguiling olive drab in color with a white graphic on it. It has an orange top. I received this water bottle for completing an arduous event. I did not perform very well at the event. In fact, I suffered like a claustrophobic on the New York subway, but the simple fact of finishing made this water bottle, in that color, dear to me. See, the olive drab was the same color as the helmet of the OG GI Joe I had when I was 6 years old.
Rosebud, y’all. Rosebud.
It is pointless, if I am honest, to have a favorite water bottle and/or to imbue any such trivial object with meanings beyond its ability to ferry water from a flowing tap to my sloppy mouth. As the father of two boy children, I can’t have nice things, even something as simple as a water bottle. Because, let’s get real for a second, do I take the time and effort to sequester the water bottles I like from those I don’t care about? Am I that guy?
I’m not. But I sorta wish I was.
And so at some point that water bottle, that small token of my hard work and cycling self-abasement, went into “the cabinet,” which is the place that all the water bottles live, the ones from charity rides, the ones given out at each and every summer camp the boys have ever attended, the ones my wife gets from the spin studio, the nicer ones made by one of the bike companies that employed me, the big Gatorade ones the kids just had to have because all the other kids had just that one, not to mention the metal ones, the insulated ones, and the water bottle adjacent vessels like the reusable iced-coffee cups, the thermoses (thermosi?), the matching mustard and ketchup squirt bottles, the travel mugs, etc. ad infinitum, ad absurdem.
The “cabinet” is a swirling mass of portable and reusable containers, only some fraction of which are dishwasher safe.
For many years, the boys could not reach “the cabinet” without climbing up to it via a chair, and the organization of this space was haphazard due to the non-uniformity of shape of the jumbled mass of bottles and cups and squirty bottles. And so the kids would climb and root around for the bottle they wanted, leaving a booby-trap avalanche of plastic tumblers just waiting to tumble down on your head when you opened the cabinet door.
It was into this unholy space that my favorite water bottle was cast, and from that point forward, not only did I fail to use said bottle with any regularity ever again, I rather struggled to even catch sight of it.
A few things should be said now. First, as I’ve already mentioned, it’s ludicrous to value a piece of plastic in this way. This bottle was not particularly big, nor particularly small. In other words, it wasn’t distinguished in its talents as a water carrier. It was generic in its water bearing qualities. Also, I only had one, so it was not part of some nice, matchy-matchy pair, one for the seat tube, one for the down tube. I liked the color and appreciated being reminded of the event, and somehow this was enough to make it my favorite.
Ours was a love that couldn’t last.
The boys began not caring about which water bottle they took to school, or hockey, or soccer practice, or Joey’s birthday party at the park, or to day camp, summer camp, soccer camp, etc. They opened the cabinet, withdrew a bottle, filled it and left. More soldiers came back from Gallipoli than water bottles came back from those kid activities.
About a year after I acquired my favorite water bottle I spied it on the counter by the dishwasher. It had exchanged it’s orange cap for a white one. This jarred my fragile psyche, but I was somehow buoyed by the fact of the bottle still existing inside the walls of our home. The white top was smeared with mud, and when I removed the cap a smell not entirely organic escaped the bottle’s depths. I loaded it into the dishwasher, thinking to collect it on the other side, perhaps even to put it in some “special spot.”
Alas, there are no special spots in a house like mine.
The next time I saw it was jammed into the too-small side pocket of my younger son’s backpack in the early spring. This began a sort of Where’s Waldo? game between me and the bottle that stretched over the space of two years. Once or twice perhaps, I even pulled the bottle from “the cabinet,” filled it with water, dropped in some electrolyte tablet and took it on a ride, only to have it vanish again.
There it was, stuck in my older son’s face, at eighth grade Field Day. There it was bobbling around the trunk of my wife’s car, the white graphic by then an illegible smear. Still somehow the bottle embodied something noble in my cycling past. There was so little nobility in that particular back catalog, so perhaps that also inflated the value of my favorite water bottle.
Maybe I’m just an old softy with a predilection for chemical-smelling drinking receptacles.
At time of writing, I believe my favorite water bottle has left us. I can’t be sure, but the sheer number of bottles we own has been dramatically reduced. Suburban domesticity is attritional. Write that down. It’ll save you some heartbreak.
We own zero matched sets anymore. The ones that remain are among the shittiest, the small, chintzy ones bought in bulk by the town recreation department, or the ones in neon colors no one wants to carry around, basically the ones we all pass over when we dare to open “the cabinet.”
I was not alone at the event, lo those many years ago, and on occasion I see my bottle (except it’s their bottle) holstered in a friend’s cage, sweating casually. I think, “I’m gonna steal that,” and then I remember that I’m not a possession-obsessed lunatic. I chuckle softly to myself, shed a small tear. Forever Young plays on a tiny speaker in the back of my mind.
Like a first love, a favorite bottle is hard to get over. I’m loathe to become attached to another hydration aid now. I’m older. Wiser. And anyway, the coffee cup I got at Lil’s Cafe in Kittery Maine in 2017, the one with the record player on it, has filled the emotional hole left by my favorite water bottle. My kids don’t drink coffee, and my wife doesn’t seem to notice I never pour her coffee in that cup.
As it turns out, I am that guy.
For once I’m not going to ask you to subscribe to TCI here at the end of another fine piece of prose. Instead, I’m just going to ask you to share this or another (hopefully better) post with a cycling friend of yours, perhaps someone who doesn’t read enough high quality bicycle-related rambling. Spread the word. Invite someone else to the party. Go ahead. Cut. Paste. Send. Do it. It don’t cost a thing.