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24 August 2011

A Drinking Problem

One of the best things about running in Manhattan is that you are never far from a (working) drinking fountain. I hate carrying a bottle of water with me when I run and it's really handy to be able to stop briefly to rehydrate one or two times mid-session. London doesn't do so well; at least not in the parks in which I usually run: Regent's Park and Hyde Park. This helpful website does map most of the fountains in the city and lets you know if they are broken but doesn't usually account for problems like, "we're holding a music festival and the fountain isn't accessible unless you have a ticket," which happens pretty often in Hyde Park.

Photo by  Ambernectar 13
Still, Hyde Park does at least have the beautiful, shiny, spherical fountain designed by David Harber, which has multiple spouts and options for filling a bottle as well as drinking directly from the fountain. Even better, it's almost always working, even in winter, which means that it doesn't matter so much when the other two drinking fountains in Hyde Park are broken and/or unavailable.

Regent's Park is another story. There's this fountain, near the boating lake, but that's been out of action for months now. Then there's the very grand Sir Cowasjee Jehangir Fountain, which is over 140 years old. It's very impressive but somewhat unpredictable in terms of when it will dispense water and when it won't. It's reasonable enough to turn off the fountains in the winter months but this one also seemed to be off for long periods during the summer, much to my annoyance. With no obvious levers or buttons, I tried various combinations of standing on the blocks at its base, hitting the spouts and chanting, "open sesame!" Nothing worked. I knew there must have been a good reason to read Harry Potter!

Photo by stephengg
On Monday, though, as I jogged up to the fountain, I noticed that one of the spouts appeared to be working but by the time I arrived, it had stopped. I had water with me so it wasn't such a big deal but today we wanted to investigate further. And indeed, when I held my hand under the spout today, magically, the water appeared. It turns out that there is a tiny, near-invisible motion sensor tucked just inside each spout; once activated, the flow is on a timer. The sensors must be new as on previous occasions when the fountain was working, we'd never seen the water stop flowing. But finally, the mystery is solved.

Of course, once the weather starts getting nippy again, the powers that be will probably turn off the water supply. Until then, I plan to take advantage of the fountain as much as I can.


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