Friday, February 20, 2009

Water Squirters

By Bub

Today I volunteered at the Big Day Out festival in Adelaide. It was as hot as Death Valley ever gets, and still a great Horde of people came to watch The Prodigy and pay $10 a can for canned bourbon & cola. What Australians lack in republican democracy they make up for with sheer grit. 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade would send most Americans to the mental institution. But it’s been 110 degrees for a week straight. We have had to completely change our lifestyle because of the unbearable heat and the lack of an air conditioner. Mary and Iris spent over 8 hours yesterday at the local mall, until the power blew out there from everyone over-exerting the electrical grid with their home air-conditioners. I spent the entire day outside, but was ready at any moment to fall dead from heat stroke. I didn’t feel ill or anything I just accepted the consequences of my actions. Just like soldiers are ready to die on the battlefield, or the way that Heidegger says that everyone should ‘live with death’ at every moment, I was no hero. I was a mortal, on a mortal’s playing field; swallowing the harsh impermanence of existence while at the same time existing imperviously. And I may not have made it if not for a strange phenomena – The Water Squirters.

The simple definition of a Water Squirter is a person that squirts water at other people at outdoor concerts or festivals. No other description can be accurately attributed to every member of this disparate group. As I have come to discover over the course of the day, Water Squirters have differing motivations, music tastes, modes of squirt, and philosophical principles. They represent humankind with their embodiment of the duality of good and evil within themselves. I encountered Water Squirters that were as benevolent as the Natural Force that first nourished a human body with the chemical compound that is one part oxygen and two parts hydrogen. I encountered Water Squirters that if you threw some makeup on them they would give a remarkably accurate portrayal of The Joker through their wanton disregard for other people’s humanity. Water Squirters get off on relieving other people’s distress but they also enjoy making others suffer for their own amusement. They are Hero of the Day, Kierkegaardian Aesthete and Fundamentalist Terrorist all in one.

I talked to four Water Squirters to get a sense of the essence of Water Squirting. This is what I discovered:

The first Water Squirter I encountered was at a performance by Brisbanite Indie Rockers, The Grates. When I asked his name I could not get a committal answer. We settled on ‘Bar Shu’ but there’s no way that could possibly be right. He had a swarthy complexion and a very fleeting grasp of English. He is not a native Australian but I was unable to determine his country of origin. Each unsuccessful attempt at asking him ‘What country are you from?’ was met with ‘I don’t know’. Bar Shu had been flinging water from his water bottle indiscriminately across the crowd. When I first asked him why he had done this, pointing to his water bottle, he offered it to me without saying anything in response. I said, “No no. You (pointing at him), this (motion indicating water flinging), WHY?”

Oh.” Bar Shu understood. “It’s HOT”.

The next Water Squirter was named Robert. He is 27 years old. I ran into him leaving a performance by Rap Artist Lupe Fiasco. During the performance I noticed him squirting people with a water gun. From my vantage point it looked like Robert was actively searching out people that were visibly hot. It also seemed like Robert did not have an ulterior Water Squirting motivation such as sexual gratification because he chose to squirt people of all sexes and ages and only in the back. This was in stark contrast to a Water Squirter I had seen earlier on the promenade who laid in wait for young women in light-colored tops only to squirt them remorselessly in the chest as they passed by. And in contrast to Bar Shu, Robert’s acts did not seem to represent an outburst of the id, ‘IT’S HOT, THROW WATER!’ rather it seemed like a manifestation of Robert’s super-ego. I asked Robert about this and he confirmed my hypothesis. “Yea, I just wanted to help people have fun”.

Alex is 22. He squirted me in the face with water as he told me this. I had already observed Alex squirting many other people in the face so I was prepared for it. I laughed to indicate that I was in on his joke – the joke where it’s amusing to cause annoyance in other people. Alex was at the main stage watching The Arctic Monkeys. When one of his spray victims would become perturbed by his invasion of their personal space, Alex would only prolong the assault. He seemed to feed off of dirty looks and draw encouragement from obscene gestures. He was palid and wiry. There was no empathy in his eyes. When I asked him why he was a Water Squirter, he replied only “Cuz it’s fuckin’ fun!” and squirted me again.

Last there was Rodney. Rodney isn’t his actual name, I just never asked because he looked so sullen. Rodney was old, maybe not in life, but definitely for an all day concert event. I noticed Rodney standing next to me in the crowd during Neil Young. This was the final main stage performance of the event. It had gotten dark out by now and cooled off. A salty breeze wafted in from the Gulf (or from other people’s sweat, I can’t say with certainty). Rodney had his water gun by his side. He was watching the concert attentively and squirting nobody. When I got a chance to ask him between songs why he wasn’t squirting anyone he answered fittingly, “It’s too late to spray”. And it was.

Water Squirters come from all walks of life – rich and poor, immigrant and native, young and old – and from different races and creeds. The only missing demographic is women. I think the absence of female Water Squirters may have something to do with the penetrative nature of Water Squirting. This could provide an interpretive schema all its own. Water Squirting as sexual performance – animalistic, selfless, selfish, and impotent. But Water Squirters defy any simplistic analytic interpretation. They transcend all the labels that you put on them as much as any of us are not defined by any single characteristic we possess. In the end it may be best to view Water Squirting as some sagely Water Squirter Philosopher-king might put it, ‘It’s not about being a Water Squirter. It is about Being.”

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