As I left the supermarket on an unseasonably hot afternoon in Bend, Oregon, I spied this motley collection of water and soft drink vending machines. I was suddenly reminded of an old episode of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone, where a shy and reluctant Nevada casino visitor is magically spoken to by a brightly-colored one-armed bandit, which first implores, and then demands the guest to feed more and more shiny coins into its hungry slot. The mousy man, seduced by its voice to pull the handle, slowly transforms into a compulsive lunatic and proceeds to lose his life savings.
After having just resisted purchasing a lot of useless, non-nutritional crap in the market, I was hardly tempted by these allegedly thirst-quenching charlatans to give them even one thin dime, even though they had succeeded in reminding me that I could possibly want a drink of something. By clicking and enlarging this photo, you can read the text on the bottles on the face of the machine and try to decipher what is being sold. Much has been written about the bottled water controversy and is best described in Elizabeth Royte's Bottlemania: Big Business, Local Springs and the Battle over America's Drinking Water. It is a complicated issue. In any case, rather than becoming dizzy and faint on the spot from the stress of temptation, I jumped in my car, drove home and turned on the tap. I have to admit that it is convenient to carry water, and have bought it in the past by the box. Yet I felt my municipal home-brew left a good taste in my mouth and quenched something greater in me than thirst.