Guest Column: A treatise on NU’s bubblers

Maxwell Kuehn

I am a man who appreciates his water: I drink well over the recommended eight glasses a day. I swim every day. My home state of Minnesota is named after the Dakota word for “water.” I am a Pisces, which for those astrology-haters out there means I was born under the sign of not one, but two fish. I am regularly described by elderly members of the opposite sex as “a tall drink of water.” If there were a Water Aficionado magazine, I would be on the cover every month, gripping a frosty tumbler of cold, clear, H2O from a different exotic locale.

Thus, it is only natural that outside of word processors and flush toilets, my favorite convenience of modern living has got to be the drinking fountain. When I’m parched in public, a well-placed drinking fountain is like a shimmering chrome oasis in a desert of thirst. But there is a dark side to our society’s marvelous system of free water: the bad drinking fountain. There’s nothing worse than being in dire need of a drink and pouncing lustily on the nearest drinking fountain, only to go unsatisfied because of some flaw or shortcoming. It is in the interest of sparing my fellow students this experience that I offer the following list of the 5 worst drinking fountains on campus:

5. A 50-way tie between all the knee-high drinking fountains I always end up stooping to use because someone is using its more appropriately elevated counterpart to fill up a gallon jug or water their cactus: these things are ludicrously low to the floor. As a Relatively Tall American, I believe all the tall/short drinking fountain pairs should be altered to tall/even taller. Short people can use step stools or something.

4. Allison Hall, fourth floor, southern wing: This one bothers me not so much because of its current state, but because of what it used to be. When I first came to Northwestern, this drinking fountain was just down the hall. It offered a steady stream of ice-cold water, clear as a crystal, with a flavor like sunshine on a mountain spring morning. Life was good, for a time. But then, one night, some jerk-off – probably a thick-necked north campus goon here on an arm-wrestling scholarship – decided the best way to show off his masculinity was to unscrew the head of my beloved drinking fountain. We screwed it quickly back into place, but the damage had been done. The vital component or benevolent sprite that gave the fountain its magic was destroyed. To this day the once-great bubbler is a tepid, low-pressure and generally mediocre shadow of its former self.

3. Just past the registers at the Willy’s Food Court: The handle on the spigot attachment is broken and the water from the fountain is disturbingly cloudy, so every patron who doesn’t feel like washing down his overpriced food with a $3 orange juice is forced to spend 15 seconds awkwardly filling one of those shallow, flimsy cups with water thick with God knows what. I suspect foul play on this one. Profits were down at Willie’s, so some middle manager sabotaged the spigot and injected some clouding agent into the water supply to boost beverage sales. For shame, Willie’s Food Court, for shame.

1. A tie between two drinking fountains in Tech (I can never remember where they are, so it’s always an unpleasant surprise): These are the absolute worst. The water they offer is actually hot. It’s bad enough to drink hot, mineral-laden water when you see it coming-say, out of a bottle labeled “Hot, Mineral-Laden Water”-but getting a mouthful of the stuff when you’re expecting a cool, refreshing drink is enough to ruin your day. It’s like biting into a peanut butter and dirt sandwich or popping one of those M&M cookies into your mouth before you realize that the M&Ms are actually live cockroaches.