As a reasonably environmentally-conscious individual who enjoys being hydrated, I have taken to bringing a reusable water bottle with me to work. Unfortunately, the water fountains in the Dungeon of the Dental Tower of Shands produce a fluid that looks like water but tastes like dirty plastic. I suspect this is part of an ongoing experiment in slowly crushing the human psyche, combined with the lack of windows, interminable construction, abysmal cell phone reception and inconsistent temperature regulation. But I digress.
The lack of consumable drinking water was a mild inconvenience that I simply accepted as part of life: bring water from home or drink ass-water. This changed completely a few months ago, when renovations surrounding the more public, high-traffic areas of Shands resulted in the installment of a fancy-shmancy filtered water fountain, complete with a water bottle refill station.
This has proven to be a minor revolution in my day-to-day routine, which now involves one or two trips through the underbelly of the sprawling Shands complex to reach this singular oasis of relatively drinkable water. And I am not alone. I see them more and more; individuals just like me, striding purposely through the halls, water bottles in hand. Occasionally we catch each others eye and exchange a knowing glance and a nod. There is a shared sense of purpose between us. We will no longer be forced to drink the ass-water. There is a better way, and we lucky few have found it.
Which is preposterous, really. We are strangers who happen to use the same water fountain. We don't even talk to each other. But the fact that we share that similarity makes us feel more connected. It's the same feeling you get when you go to a midnight movie premiere or a renaissance fair or a Doctor Who convention: 'These are my people.'
I'm used to this feeling in the context of nerd culture. In fact, I revel in it. 'Zomg, you like comic books TOO? Please be my friend!' I am totally one of those people. Sharing mutual interests facilitates conversation and interpersonal connection, and brings people together who might otherwise never have met. It rocks. Experiencing this kind of spontaneous connection with strangers in the context of such a mundane task is new, though. I don't think I would ever follow up on this mutual connection to strike up a conversation like I would at a Con. Cons have different social rules, and outside of that environment it could be seen as creepy. However, it made me realize how easy it can be to form connections with the people around you. Me and my Water Bottle Peeps, polite social acquaintances to the end.