Content advisory 16+ Back in the days when bottled water first appeared en masse in America, I recall that a lot of people just shook their heads and mused: "What will be next? They'll start selling us air?" And everyone would nod in amusement at such a preposterous notion.
Well, muse and smile and nod no more. IT'S HERE !! So, today, as a follow-up to my blog posted Friday about the aqua-in-plastic phenomenon, I certainly believe that equal time should be devoted to the topic of BOTTLED AIR. So here goes...
I admit that during my long tenure in Moscow I never saw anyone gulping oxygen out of a ziplocked bag or sucking blasts of fresh O2 straight from the Canadian hills and forests of Edmonton from recycled Red Bull and Jaguar containers, but then again Russia has always been a bit slow to embrace the latest Western Trends, such as trans-gender toilets. Even concepts like customer service and freedom from censorship can draw puzzled expressions at times...
But it will be in Russian cities before long.
It started with a couple of Canadian guys from out west who decided, as a joke, to send some bottled fresh air to their friends -- as a kind of novelty or "party-piece" -- "Look at this, a bottle of fresh air !! How cool !!! What'll they think of next?"
But then, to their apparent astonishment, the idea struck a nerve, and the next thing you know, orders for more started coming in. Immediately the ears of the two would-be entrepreneurs, Troy Paquette and Moses Lam pricked up. "Uh...maybe we''re onto something here." their thoughts resonated simultaneously.
By the way, there is a lot of material on the internet about this, so I will give you a link to one of the best articles, published in "The Guardian" (UK).
Having boned up on the subject, I can tell you that Paquette seems to be the one with something of a social conscience, while the other guy, Lam, comes across as more of a huckster and greasy opportunist. But read the article...
Anyway, they call their product "Vitality Air" and by now there are others rapidly entering the market. And the real blitz is not that the air is being sold as a fad, rather it is being shipped in bulk to places like China and India where in the big cities pollution levels are becoming extreme. As they say in America, "It's selling like hotcakes."
In Beijing, the atmosphere got so bad recently that the government had to issue a "red alert", even going to far as to close the schools. And in New Delhi it is so infernal that the smog has been nearly 30 times what the World Health Organization considers safe -- it's like smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. Flights have been canceled, car crashes due to poor visibility have increased -- it is even difficult to tell which color the traffic lights are showing. The schools were closed not long ago when children were spotted vomiting out the windows of school buses.
Delhi State's Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, has likened the situation to "living in a gas chamber."
Some of the wealthier citizens use air purifiers in their homes and don gas masks in the streets (in fact, more and more-- what else do we need to know about the human race? -- these gas masks are becoming a fashion statement, being sold in all sorts of lovely and seductive colors and styles). Alas, they are not cheap, and so, predictably, poor people in New Delhi (most of the population in other words) cannot afford them. So evidently these gas masks are becoming, well...an aphrodisiac to the well-heeled crowd.
I could regale you with plenty of horror stories, but surely the illustrations accompanying this blog will suffice. And if you are of the mentality that always says, "Well, why not??" -- to things like selling air to people -- be sobered by the fact that virtually all health authorities dismiss the idea that a few belts of bottled air will do you any lasting good at all. No matter if it ‘blows’ in from Canada or even the English countryside, where yet another clever 'entrepreneur', one Leo De Watt, has been engaging in what he blithely calls "air farming", thus generating airs traps which he sells for 80 quid (British sterling) to cities such as Shanghai and Beijing where people are gasping and gagging for a taste of real oxygen.
It is a gimmick, the health authorities say.
But it makes sense in a way, doesn't it? And, though I am not an authority, common sense tells me that if a guy is having a respiratory failure in his traffic-jammed car during rush hour or some kid with asthma is about to croak on a smog-riddled school bus, maybe chug-a-lugging a can of clean air might be enough to get him to a hospital. I am not qualified to say otherwise.
The sad thing, I guess, is the question: how have we come to this? And if that isn't bad enough, consider the vulgarity and crassness (but the world of mass production does not validate these terms anymore, does it?), of people trying (successfully) to cash in on the situation. For me, THAT'S the real dagger in the ass...this inexhaustible capacity that human beings have for building a HELL on earth and then finding ways to make money out of it.
Молодец, Mr. Homo Sapien.
So Moscow, prepare yourself. Soon you will be one of the crowd.
Alas, when I am not laughing my usual sarcastic guffaw, I despair.
As Yeats the poet wrote:
"We have fallen in the dreams the ever-living
breathe on the tarnished mirror of the world,
and then smooth out with ivory hands and sigh."
So goes the modern Man, the modern Woman, of the megapolis. Maybe some readers will take me for a crotchety old butt-scratcher whose time is over, standing on a hillside somewhere and snorting grumpily down on the people who are really MAKING IT HAPPEN.
Perhaps. Meanwhile, there goes the wired-in, plugged-in man through the soot-sagging streets, clinging desperately to his notebook and his ever-present smartphone so as not to miss out on any updated posts on Instagram nor any of the indispensable INFORMATION that obsesses his life. There he goes, bottle of water in one hand, bottle of air in the other, while the horns of a million cars are blaring and, as the poet Robert Lowell wrote, "a savage servility slides by on grease."
There he goes inside his gas chamber.
===Eric Richard Leroy===