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SOAPBOX: How a missing Hydro Flask led to a clean slate

On KJZZ's SOAPBOX, The Show turns over the the mic to listeners. In our latest series, listeners tell their own true stories on the theme of Missing. 

Jan. 10, 2024, is the last day I saw my beloved Hydro Flask.

For five years, I carried a lavender water bottle with me everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE. That thing was by my side at concerts, brunches, farmers markets and movie theaters. It was a magnet for stickers, which made it feel like a representation of who I was and what I liked. There was a handful of stickers from local bands, a blue foam finger announcing KJZZ’s status as Arizona’s number one news station, a woman with purple hair holding three cats proclaiming MY status as a cat lady. … You get the idea.

It was a warm Wednesday evening when I realized I left my companion behind. We were filming a Tiny Desert Concert that day, and I was so tired that I didn’t realize it wasn’t in my backpack until I walked all the way home. I figured the dog walkers and skateboarders out at that hour would pass it without a second thought. But by the time I made my way back to the alleyway behind the Churchill, it was gone.

I wasn’t too worried at first. Once I had to track down my friend’s friend’s dad’s friend’s daughter in order to get that Hydro Flask back.

This time I had no leads — but I was determined.

So I printed out 25 flyers advertising a $35 reward. Armed with a staple gun and a roll of packing tape, I plastered telephone poles and street lights around the scene of the crime.

“MISSING HYDRO FLASK,” the flyers read in big purple letters. Underneath there were three pictures of the subject, including one of me kissing it. That was from the last time it went missing. I added the message, “Please help me find her. I’m so sad.”

I included my Instagram handle because it seemed safer than my phone number or my email address.

The next morning, I received a direct message from someone called Burger. He said he’d been drinking wine out of my Hydro Flask, but was happy to return it.

I was so excited that my plan actually worked.

For two days, Burger sidestepped my DM requests for a photo of the missing Hydro Flask, citing a roommate with uncontrollable seizures and a jealous baby mama. In the end, Burger claimed his baby mama sold it online.

I should’ve known better than to trust someone with a hand drawn cheeseburger as a profile picture.

“It’s a tough city, Amber,” he told me in our final exchange. “You might need to move to Scottsdale.”

Ouch.

Over the next few weeks I received a number of messages. Some seemed genuinely concerned, others were after the $35 reward. Amused onlookers and a couple of local photographers posted pictures of the flyers on social media. Tired of my newfound, unwanted fame, I tore down as many flyers as I could find.

I had already caved and bought a new water bottle eight days after my Hydro Flask went missing. I felt like I was cheating on it. We had been through so much together, but to be honest, it was time. The stickers were peeling and it leaked. A lot.

My new plain white, leakproof Owala water bottle feels like a clean slate.

It only took me a month to lose this new water bottle. I designed another missing poster in my head as I rushed back to the last place I saw it. Thankfully, I wouldn’t have to print any more flyers. My water bottle was still sitting in the grass where I’d left it.

→  Hear more SOAPBOX essays

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Amber Victoria Singer is a producer for KJZZ's The Show. Singer is a graduate of the Water Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.