A Quest for Water

By May 13, 2014September 28th, 2014Humor, Personal Stories

Photo by Matt Refghi

Photo by Matt Refghi

It’s not exactly uncommon for me to roam the city of Montreal on my bike, as I enjoy a fitness-oriented life. Like most, I’ve been awaiting the arrival of summer with enthusiasm; spring being an appreciated intro. Today, I set out to do my usual routine: 20km, with no specific plan, trajectory-wise. I tend to vary the paths that I take, and I don’t usually know what I’m doing until I decide in the moment; however, there are certain trends that can be observed. My most frequent location, for example, is Parc Jean Drapeau, a local park that hosts the yearly Grand Prix races. Parc Jean Drapeau is fairly accessible, and it has a nice balance of greenery and asphalt, where the latter culminates with one major feature: the Gilles Villeneuve racing circuit. The significance here lies in the racetrack’s availability to cyclists – as long as the track’s not being used for an event, and the weather’s appropriate, it’s open to all.

Usually, after zipping around the racetrack a few times, I take a moment to lay in the grass, where I read a book, and also catch up on social media. Today, I sat down to do just this, and realized I was thirsty. As usual, I opened my bag to find my water bottle, only to realize that I had forgotten it… many miles away, in my fridge. It occurred to me, at that moment, that I wasn’t sure where I could find water fountains at the Parc. I remembered that they put up signs promoting their social media presence, and my brain came up with an interesting question: if I tweeted my location to the Parc’s Twitter account, would they actually help me find the closest water fountain? From previous interactions, I knew they would be responsive… but would they be so good as to respond to my miniature moment of distress? As a social media consumer and consultant, I was really curious to see what would unfold. So, I sent a tweet their way:

Of course, I was completely aware that my request was coated with a certain amount of ridiculousness. (You know, in case the Thor reference didn’t give it away.) In the spectrum of thirst, it’s not like I was so desperate that I was considering drinking puddle water, or was looking for droplets on leaves. I was just slightly thirsty, and if I had decided to use my adult brain to locate water, I was sure I could figure something out. I’d check around buildings first, and if that failed, I’d just ask random humans or, worse case, head home. But, being me, I thought why not? Let’s see if they reply. Let’s see if they’re that cool.

Photo by Matt Refghi

After waiting about 35 minutes, I didn’t receive a reply… and considering the timing, I felt that perhaps they had finished work for the day. So, rather than continue waiting, I figured I’d just, you know, use my brain. So I started biking towards a major building that I suspected might have water fountains, and accidentally rode up the wrong path, which lead up to an entrance. An employee of the Parc was there, and he asked me if he could help me find anything. I mentioned water fountains, and he explained how to get to an area where there were bathrooms and a fountain, through the gardens and under a bridge. I thanked him and moved in that direction.

Sure enough, it was at that location that I found the water fountain. Reflecting on the tweet I had sent, and my journey to water, I found myself amused with how silly it was for me to wait for help, rather than just head out and use my own intelligence to find a solution. To poke fun at myself and the situation, I thought that it would be entertaining to write a dramatic series of tweets about the adventure. So, I did that.

While writing these tweets, the Parc Jean Drapeau account replied to my original tweet with the water fountain location, which is totally awesome in terms of service. It really showed their devotion to having an active social media presence. Because of their reply, I decided to keep my dramatic story short, though I could have honestly kept it going for quite a while, exaggerating everything. Even in its brevity, I felt it had just the right amount of drama, considering how incredibly insignificant the entire situation was (universally-speaking). To further highlight the ridiculousness, I knew I had to end with something really silly, so I figured I’d, I don’t know, take a selfie with the water fountain.

I had a choice of three photos, and this one looked the most ridiculous. My expression communicated a certain… slightly-crazed excitement about what I’d found, but yet, my actual problem remained so undramatic. It was a perfect match. It also put me in an incredibly awkward public situation, which amused me further.

So, at the end of the day, Parc Jean Drapeau’s Twitter presence really came through. If they hadn’t replied to me, I would have found my water source, but it would have been a cold, one-sided experience. While social media can sometimes be judged to be socially damaging, I would argue otherwise… it’s there as an additional way of connecting – an option, to be used or not. From a support perspective, there’s something quite satisfying about the quick responses one can get on Twitter, and similar services. I’ve seen this with other companies as well, in the past: Netflix and Buffer, mainly. When I communicate with either of them about an issue, they reply really quickly, and that response time plus their tone/delivery shows me that they care. Buffer, in particular, really believes in this: they speak regularly of customer happiness, and it closely relates to their social media presence. So even though I could clearly summon the mental capabilities to solve my own problem, I appreciated the assistance. It was quick, and it was social.