Three decades later we have caught up with the Americans and those once ambiguous appliances have become a “must have” item for every household.
Growing up in the 80s, I recall watching my share of US sitcoms and always having something of a fascination with the prevalence of water coolers in America.
This may sound like a bit of a strange thing to fixate on but considering the time, place and political context that were the formative years for South Africa’s Gen Xs, strange fixations were the order of the day, viewed as a welcome alternative to asking relevant questions like why the domestic worker used to sit on the floor with me if she wanted to follow the latest antics of Tony Maselli, Cliff Huxtable or Murphy Brown.
It never made sense to me why anyone would spend money on something so common that the flip of a switch, or in this case, the turn of a tap, had it flowing, well, like water.
Stranger still was how ordinary this unnatural distribution of a natural resource was made to appear.
Not only were those Yanks paying a premium to drink rebranded H20 but they were doing so in such volumes that satisfying this need was an industry on its own, providing a valued service while creating jobs and putting food on the table. It was just weird.
It didn’t seem so back then but those were strange times and for many subsequent years I thought that I must have missed something.
Maybe this was special, magic water that had been decanted and doctored to ensure that the home of the brave remained the revered superpower, fighting for freedom and justice for all, as that proprietary of propaganda that is Hollywood had masterfully led many to believe.
Maybe, GI Joe and Co were simply so superior to us on the dark continent that they even rehydrated better than us.
The truth is that “Team America” is not just a figment of someone’s imagination, proudly brought to you by the creators of South Park. It is an ideology that predates the storming of the beaches at Normandy.
Considering my frame of reference at the time, reasoning that the contents of these containers was in fact a public performance enhancer for the perfect population seemed plausible, albeit too neatly packaged to be completely accurate.
Still, a little voice inside kept pointing out that maybe the perceived personification of what a nation should aspire to be didn’t come down to the water.
In fact, to the contrary, these hydration hubs were a symptom of a civilization so preoccupied with pushing a capitalist agenda and the unnatural pursuit of excessive personal wealth accumulation, that health, hygiene, happiness or even the pursuit thereof became someone else’s concern.
Those were the dark days in our country’s history as it was a time when opinion, belief, conviction and values were but a residue, left by half truths and false news, than they are today.
It was a time when a flawed regime, on the tip of the dark continent, defied the reprimands of a self-proclaimed saviour of the world.
Some saviours turn water into wine but this one made waste and by the mid-80s the water that flowed from their taps was already not fit for human consumption.
Now, three decades later, give or take, we have caught up with the Americans and those once ambiguous appliances have become a “must have” item for every household.
In the 80s, my age wasn’t even in the double digits. At the time, I was blissfully, ignorant, naive, mislead and juvenile so why then has a problem that was clear to someone hardly out of nappies been inevitable for nearly a third of a century without resolution?