Like most experimental art, the Night Seltzer started with a sharp sensation and a yearning for something better. We all understand the glass of water by the bed. It comforts. It stands guard. It serves a need that may or may not arise. It recalls apples on the teacher’s desk, dripping faucets, roasted chestnuts and other quaint accouterments from Donald Duck cartoons.
But what — “Stay with me here,” the Night Seltzer begs you — if that water were zingy? Carbonated? Mandarin and orange? Canadian and dry? Where the water by the side of the bed merely comforted, the Night Seltzer would intrigue. Where the water brought succor to a need, the Night Seltzer would bring pleasure to a desire. The desire, of course, for seltzer. At night.
It’s a bold vision, but one that, tragically, the Night Seltzer fails to fully realize. It might be a matter of execution, and perhaps future Night Seltzers will succeed where this one failed. But after experiencing this Night Seltzer, I must say the concept itself seems flawed beyond redemption.
For one, the glass of water by the bed is more theoretical comfort than real. Sure, it is possible to get thirsty at night, but it is more likely to spend most of the night unconscious. That is, after all, the objective of retiring to bed. And while consciousness is not a necessary condition for drinking water, the drinking somnambulist takes no pleasure in it.
And so the glass of water is a failure. At worst, it is a downside hedge against an awful night. At best, the sleeper is blissfully unaware it exists.
Raising the stakes by swapping the water for Canada Dry Mandarin Orange Sparkling Seltzer Water sends good beverage after bad, compounding the errors of the original and making entirely new ones.
For even if the glass of water by the bed serves a need that is best if it is absent, the seltzer by the bed offers an unwelcome enjoyment that might only seem desirable in the wobbly moments right before sleep.
Because for another, bed at night is the worst place and time to drink seltzer. The angle of the neck is all wrong. The throat cannot accept and return the gasses of effervescence to the atmosphere, catching them instead uncomfortably in the larynx. The acidity without balance or complement does not support the somnolent disposition, and the citrus upon carbonic acid does it no favors.
Furthermore, you forgot you were wearing a retainer and can’t drink it anyway.
Still, all of this pales beside the heinous collapse that is the beverage’s third act: Next Morning Seltzer, which, muck like the Donald Duck cartoons that originally inspired it, leaves our protagonist a disgusted, enraged, empty, bitter disappointment to himself. The zing is gone. The sweetness was never there.
It is merely bad water.
In the end, Night Seltzer may have come from an inventive, imaginative place, but it falls flat on all levels both empirical and artistic. It is not even satisfying enough to rise to the level of self-indulgence. Quarantine deserves better. Zero stars.