In 2013, hundreds of thousands of people around the country tuned in to watch Senator Marco Rubio deliver the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. It was a fairly standard Republican response in that it leaned heavily into the “the world is a better place when America is in charge” pablum. That is, until something peculiar began to happen: Roughly 13 minutes into his speech, Rubio, clearly nervous and sweaty, rubbed his fingers against the side of his lips the way you do when your throat is dry and your lips, in an act of betrayal, begin to overcompensate by dispensing dry crud onto its edges.
Rubio was thirsty — nay, Rubio had what every stoner dreads, a devastating case of cottonmouth. And so, with his eyes noticeably panicked, he lunged toward a small water bottle, located somewhere off screen, to abet his thirst. While maintaining uncomfortable eye contact with the camera, he then licked his lips, puckered them tightly and took a quick but violent sip of water.
The event became known as Marco Rubio’s water-bottle moment, and every few years, I think back fondly on this absurd bit of political history. Why? Because drinking out of a water bottle is one of those things that, like breathing, that you never really contemplate until you watch someone struggle to do it.
Strangely, there is more than one way to drink out of a water bottle. At least, that’s what I recently came to realize after witnessing a friend of mine wrap his lips around the mouth of a water bottle as though it were a snorkel. It appeared like he was trying to inhale the water along the lines of someone who, having never smoked a bong, wraps their lips around the whole mouth of the glass opening. Terrifying, I know. But there are enough folks out there drinking water from a bottle like him — lips firmly wrapped around the opening — that it became the subject of a 2018 Quora inquiry: Why do some people drink bottles with their entire mouth around the end, instead of drinking like you would from a glass (the obviously more practical method)?
The answer, to my surprise, isn’t that these people are absolutely deserving of a straightjacket — instead, the entire-mouth-around-the-opening method is often used to protect their lipstick from being smeared.
Still, that’s not why everyone does it. Others noted that they glomb onto the entire rim of the water bottle so as to not spill a drop. This, however, is misguided. As one Quora user noted, “Covering the entire opening with my lips creates a vacuum in the bottle that prevents the liquid from coming out.” Hence the reason why, in their article on how to chug water (which isn’t the best way to hydrate yourself, by the way), WikiHow suggests that it’s important to “make sure you can breathe” when drinking from a water bottle. “If you are drinking from a bottle, leave a small gap between your upper lip and the top of the mouth of the bottle,” per their report. “This will allow air to flow past the mouth of the bottle. If you have an air source other than the inside of the bottle, then you won’t need to pull the water source away from your mouth to take a breath.”
Watching someone wrap their entire mouth around the opening of the water bottle to avoid any water leaking out, then, is very much like watching Rubio making any kind of public address: It’s not a question of if they’ll choke, but when.