Midweek Rant #1: Water Bottles

February 18, 2009

In addition to my Monday posts, I’m going to start posting a Midweek Rant.  Here’s installment number one:

“The Tyranny of Madison Square Garden”

I’d like to talk about water bottles 

Occasionally I’m in a situation where if I don’t buy bottled water then I will get really dehydrated.  So I buy it, and keep the bottle, so I can reuse it as much as possible. 

Yes, yes, chemicals will leach out of the bottle over time and give me cancer.  What doesn’t these days?  I’m hoping to convert one day to an actual water bottle made from something friendly, but until I can find a way to make it cost effective given how easy it is to lose them, I’m sticking with my reused Aquafina.

I was at Madison Square Garden last year going to a Rangers game.  I had my backpack on, which I always had with me in Manhattan as I lived way back in Jersey City.  I was told at the security check that I couldn’t bring in any “liquids” to the game, referring to my plastic water bottle that was half full.  As I was early to the game, I told them I would go back out and drink it, and then come back in. 

I had done this several times before at airport security.  I always joke with the guards that it was a good thing I had gone to college, hoping to ease the tension as I pound twenty ounces of water, having stepped aside to let the irritated person behind me go past (is the person behind you always impatient, too?).  You end up with an empty bottle that, despite it’s cancer-inducing capabilities, will not be of much use in a terrorist attempt.

So I walked back up to the security check at Madison Square Garden, this time being guided to a different security guard.  He took the bottle out and told me I couldn’t bring it in, much in the same way as the other guard, using the word “liquids”. 

“Oh, it’s empty” I assured him.

“Yeah, but you can’t bring it in.”

“Oh.  Wait, why?”

“It just looks bad.”

This was the most fantastic response I’ve ever heard.  Sometimes I can’t even talk about such things because it makes my head feel like it’s going to explode.  It looks bad?  To who?  The guy sitting behind me?  What’s that goomba doing with an Aquafina bottle?  I don’t like the looks ‘o that. 

Does it look bad to his boss?  Like they’re doing a bad job and not checking bags properly?  This was perhaps the case, so I thought I could make things better by offering the solution.

“Can I see your supervisor?”

Holy crap!  I don’t think I’ve ever said that before.  Maybe once I asked to speak to a supervisor on the phone, but shit, this was a big security guard that didn’t look too happy at my request.

I asked with very innocuous intention; if the big boss says it’s Ok then nobody’s going to get in trouble.  But apparently I was being difficult.  I don’t normally like be difficult, but buying a 16 ounce bottle of water for more than the cost of a McDonald’s #1 Value Meal is a major problem.

The supervisor came over and I stated my case.  It was an empty bottle.  He actually jumped right away to my suspicion: “They want you to buy the water in there.”

Ha!  As much as this was pissing me off, I appreciated the blunt honesty.  I told him that I knew that, but that I was broke and wanted to bring this in and fill it up at a water fountain (he was honest with me after all).

“There’s no water fountains in there” he responded in his think Brooklyn accent.  This inevitably turned on my own New York-ese:

“You kiddin’ me?  They don’t got one water fountain in all of Madison Square Garden?”

“Not one, kid.”

“Well then I won’t be able to fill it up, so what’s da problem?”

“Cuz it looks bad kid!”

“To who?”

“It just looks bad.”

“To the people sellin’ water, I know.  Here ya go, do me a favor and at least recycle it.”

I walked by satisfied with my exchange.  At least this guy knew the motivation behind the “no liquids” policy.  Some would assume it had to do with security, but in fact, it was a “no food or beverages” policy.  You ever hear coca-cola referred to as a “liquid” before September 11th. 

Shame on Madison Square Garden for training their security to use this terminology.  And mad props to this guy for being all blunt about it.  It only took me one lap to find the water fountain.  I bought a bottle of water for 4 dollars 50 cents, and planned to fill it up at least six times, commenting loudly on how convenient the water fountain was. 

“We can’t give you the cap, is this OK?”

My jaw was on the counter as I nodded.  They beat me again.  I had a 16 ounce capless bottle of water. 

My only solace was fantasizing about the next time I would come to the Garden.  This time I wouldn’t have a water bottle, I’d only have a cap.  I’m pretty sure I could get through security with it, and then when I was buying a bottle of water and they said “we can’t give you the cap, is this OK?” I could respond with a big smile, holding up my own cap:

“That’s OK, I brought my own.”