Oh, what a day to find myself without a tall glass of iced water. Something so simple should be easy to come by and yet, there I sat at my desk at work, ice-less, with only a cup of warm, lifeless, and very boring water by my side.
The sun is blazing. Wildfires are burning to the north and south of me. The last time I checked the weather, it was 75 and rising -- a scorcher for Alaskans. Don't laugh. No, really. Stop it. I've lived in Florida, Mississippi, and Utah. I know whereof I speak. I realize how ludicrous it is to say that a 70-degree day is a scorcher but it's all relative, people! You spend a month or two in sub-zero temperatures and tell me if you don't think 70 or 80 degrees feels like an oven by comparison. My friend Angie had 95 degrees on the thermometer at her house last night. I had 80 degrees. All I can say is thank god for cool, clean, crisp white cotton sheets and silently spinning ceiling fans.
At my office, I've discovered there are two different types of people: there are the ice people and there are the non-ice people. The former doesn't think twice about filling their glass to the top with ice cubes -- it's just automatic, this emptying and filling of the ice trays. Why wouldn't you? The latter fails to understand (and never will understand) why we need four ice trays in the communal freezer. Ice-people such as myself wonder why they even have to ask. For heaven's sake, there must be 50 people sharing that freezer! Is four trays enough? Should we send someone out for more?
In the morning, I like nothing better than a steaming, piping hot Americano with a tall glass of iced water on the side. The combination of hot and cold is divine. Throughout the day, I drink tons more water if it's iced.
Here's one thing I've learned: having ice in one's glass -- even if only drinking water -- is a regional thing. I've made a study of it, having lived in and traveled to so many of different parts of the country. I've found that, much like co-workers, there are two types of places -- you have your ice places and your non-ice places, and where you grow up tends to determine how you feel about ice for the rest of your life. Whenever I find someone in the breakroom bitching and pissing and moaning because there's no room for their frozen entree in the freezer and they're lashing out at the space taken up by my beloved ice trays (never mind those people who insist on cramming an entire's week's worth of frozen entrees into the communal freezer), I like to ask the bitcher/pisser/moaner where they grew up.
Because if someone proclaims that there's no need for ice trays because the water in the water cooler is cold enough already, I know I have a Yankee on my hands. For sure, that person grew up in Michigan or Oregon or perhaps Idaho. Because if they'd grown up in more tropical climes, as I did, the words, "What's with all the ice?" would never cross their lips.
When I look at a map of the US, I can draw lines of demarcation between ice states and no-ice states. I know exactly which regions I have to follow up my order for iced tea or Diet Coke by saying: "Oh, and can I have that with extra ice?... Lots of ice ... Seriously. Don't be shy about it. A couple fistfuls oughta do." Because otherwise, what you get is a tepid and very sad excuse for a cold beverage with only a few rapidly melting, lonely ice cubes bobbing on the surface. Why even bother? That scant amount of ice isn't enough to cool anything off. It's just going to melt immediately. Might as well just pour a little water in there.
It makes me feel a little queasy just thinking about it.
For those struggling to wrap their minds around this obsession with ice cubes, perhaps a bit of history will help. I spent my elementary school years in Biloxi, Mississippi, in a school too poor to afford air conditioning. Which means I can tell you a thing or two about heat and humidity. This was back before the days of bottled water, so we didn't even have that to tote along with us to class. The only water to be found on store shelves was sold in short supply in one gallon milk jugs, and whenever a hurricane was bearing down on us those jugs got snapped up in a hurry. There was no Evian, Arrowhead, etc, etc. If you wanted to store up water for the storm ahead, you had to be quick about scrubbing out the bathtub and filling it with water.
At school we were forcefully dehydrated on a daily basis. We kids would come in from recess after lunch having spent an hour running around like maniacs in the full sun on the playground. We were hot. We were sticky. We were a little muddy (dust + sticky skin = mud) and we were thirsty. The problem was there were only two water fountains for every eight classes of 20 to 25 kids. You do the math. Our teachers knew if they let each of us drink our fill, we'd be there all afternoon. So they stationed a kid at each water fountain to serve as a monitor, counting to ten, and after you drank for 10 (all too short) seconds you had to stop and let the next kid have a turn or risk being forcefully pried away from the fountain by the little water nazis.
We took our water fountains seriously at that school. Each fountain had its own character. Some had better water pressure than others which meant you got more water for your ten seconds. Some kept their contents colder. If you were lucky, you'd be towards the front of the line because the water that had been sitting in the fountain was nice and cold. My mouth still waters at the thought of that front-of-the-line water... the cool condensation building up on the stainless steel spout. Hands pressed against the cool metal sides... good lord, that felt good.
After the water train was over, we'd go lay our heads on our desks, the lights off, the backs of our legs sticking to our wooden seats, head throbbing, box fans whirring, trying to cool off before getting back to the books. I used to dream of water fountains that could pump out Kool-Aid, lemonade, Coke, all icy cold. I used to dream of becoming a teacher one day and mercifully showing up every day with a cooler full of ice and a stack of paper cups for my thirsty students. I'd let them fill their cups at the fountain as often as they wanted. Between trips to the fountain and the restroom, I'm pretty sure my students have been one child after another left behind.
All of this to explain why it was the wrong day to have half-frozen ice trays all day long in the communal freezer. Each time I checked them the cubes would be half-frozen, half-liquid. We ice people were part of the problem, I'm sure. Opening the freezer door too often and standing there poking our fingers forlornly into the shards of the half-frozen ice, letting all the cold air pour out of the freezer and thereby prolonging our ice-free state.
All of this to explain why I rarely dignify my co-worker's question with a response when they ask, "What's with all the ice trays?" They don't understand and they probably never will. To me, ice is both a delicacy and a necessity. It's a luxury too simple to go without. I want it. I need it. I cannot be denied. Because I'm a grown-up now and I can drink as much water with as much ice as I want and there's no one standing over me counting to ten.