Drinking From a Firehouse is a Bad Way to Get Hydration

This race sucked!  It was my 13th half marathon, and it was quite possibly the most miserable I’d been running, ever (unlucky 13).  First, my friend and I didn’t get into town until late the night before, so only got a few hours of sleep (not to mention a few beers at dinner).  It had rained hard overnight and everything was wet.  The temperature was 80 degrees F (26.6 degrees C) at race start with near 100% humidity and no breeze.  And finally, portions of the course were gravel so mud and bits of rocks were getting in my shoes.  But, I showed up and was going to finish!

At mile 10 I was getting really low on water and hoping for an aid station that could refill me.  As I came around a corner, a nice spectator was out on the road with his hose, spraying cold water on the runners.  It was truly a thoughtful gesture on a difficult day.

As the runner in front of me stopped I could see she asked for a drink.  I also noticed the nozzle at the end of the garden hose looked like the kind fireman use (only a lot smaller).  The runner opened her mouth and the good Samaritan turned the hose on full.  The water came out so fast the she started gagging and making choking sounds.  Oddly enough, the person didn’t shut the hose off until the runner turned her head and backed away!  I don’t think she swallowed any water!  As I got up to him, I asked for my water bottle to be refilled vs. drinking from the hose.  Slowly drinking from the water bottle seemed to make more sense.

How many times at work do we hear “I’m drinking from the fire hose!”  I’ve heard it a lot in my years and probably said it a few times too.  Especially when starting a new job, it can feel like we’re drinking from a hose.

So let’s look at what it means to drink from a fire hose.

The person on the receiving end of the hose: First of all, have you SEEN videos of water coming out of fire hoses!!??  It’d take your head off.  Even the garden hose had a lot of pressure.  All this pressure gets put on you so fast, it’s hard to swallow anything.  You feel choked.  You probably want to puke.  Quickly, you realize this is no fun and you turn and run away.  You may have gotten some hydration, but probably not enough.

The best approach is to start taking the hydration, or whatever you’re trying to consume, slowly.  Then over time, increase the pressure but not to a level that’ll knock you down.  Don’t be afraid to say “Hey, this sucks!  Slow it down!”  Ask questions too.  The goal is to hydrate, not drown.

The person with the hose: First of all, don’t be stupid.  If you see someone is choking, both literally and figuratively, stop!  At work, if we keep dumping on people, they’ll eventually hit a limit and turn away, either by not completing anything or quitting.  If you think it’s funny to keep dumping on people (and I’ve met people who do), you’re an asshole.

Be aware of the people you serve.  Ask how they’re doing.  Find out if they have the right amount of work to be efficient and effective or they have too much and are drowning.  Get them help when they need it.  For new employees, help ease them into their role vs. showing them a desk and dropping a pile of work on it.

Beware drinking from the fire hose.  Trying to take too much, too fast, can cause you to choke and possibly quit.  If you’re the one pushing the water out, be aware of how much and if the person on the receiving end is choking.  Fire (and sometime garden) hoses are not always the best way to get hydration.

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