Observations and arguments.

Jobs I Have Held: Water Conservation Advocate

Well perhaps advocate is an overstatement. Representative? Mouthpiece?

The local water agency had a table at the annual county fair, to encourage visitors to conserve. Because they wanted cheap labor, they sought out high school students. Because they wanted articulate cheap labor that knew how to wear ties in hot weather, they recruited from my high school’s award-winning speech and debate club.

This was the same summer I worked at the movie theater, and the days I had to work both jobs were both exhausting and to my young mind lucrative.

We handed out flyers and a free kit* for conserving water in your toilet. There were always two of us, on a rotating schedule, so from day to day you’d be working with another friend, either the morning-afternoon or the afternoon-evening shift. There were others, not from my high school, who worked the table, but the staffing was rigged pretty well.

The primary “attraction” in the booth was an electric-powered shower simulator. Sitting on the table it looked like a vertically-oriented fish tank, split into two chambers. In each half was a shower head, one conventional, the other a low-flow water-conserving model. Flip the switch, and you can see in ten seconds the radical difference in the amount of water in use with each shower head.

We were told to encourage anyone who had actually stopped for the demonstration to place their hand under the low-flow shower head, to feel that the water pressure, was indeed, adequate for taking a comfortable shower.

What the designers of this particular device failed to do was to cover the chamber containing the conventional shower head.

So without fail, everyone who stuck in their hand to feel the low-flow pressure also placed their hand under the water-wasting shower, and stated “I like that one better.”

No matter what level of rhetorical brilliance we displayed, we could not prevent people from testing the water pressure in both chambers.

Because by design the device was intended to communicate a comparison between the two shower heads. Covering both chambers might have been effective, restricting the demonstration to the topic of how much water is used. But then a visitor might connect it to memories of poor water pressure at an ex-boyfriend’s apartment and dismiss any thought of “low-flow.” So the ability to feel the water pressure does seem important.

I do believe it would have been possible to have covered the conventional shower head without sowing too much distrust. The high school smartasses could have taken it from there.

But of course how many people stop at a water conservation table at the annual county fair?

We got paid for hanging out. Shooting the shit, in ties, in the waning days of summer before our senior year.

Not a bad job after all.

*A plastic baggie with a twist tie. Fill the baggie with water, close it with the twist tie, place it in your toilet tank. How we got away with calling it a “kit” escaped me, even then.


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