Alan and I are not bottled-water people. In fact, in general, I disapprove of the product. I think it’s a perfect example of an American willingness to buy anything, really, that comes with smart marketing.
A glass of water — Mom’s hard-hearted counter-suggestion for when you begged for a Coke, lest you die of thirst — is one of the America’s great nickel bargains. No, penny bargains, and maybe not even that much. You get a glass and open the tap. If you want it colder, add ice cubes. If you need to take water somewhere, fill a bottle. Technology has given us Lexan, a true miracle plastic that’s glass, but better — doesn’t break, doesn’t transfer plastic taste. A glance at the selection at Target reveals you get your choice of color, size and mouth styles.
I will stipulate a few things that may affect your desire for bottled water: One, that municipal water supplies vary widely in quality. My sister’s house in the suburbs of Columbus dispenses the worst water ever, reeking of sulfur and general ickiness. They got into the Brita thing for a while, which requires special equipment and diligence in terms of monitoring the filter quality and buying more. Two, that the world is a hotter place these days, especially in summer, and people may be thirstier as a result. But. I also want you to stipulate something for me.
That is, that bottled-water plants are a real environmental issue here in Michigan. Ice Mountain set up a plant in a depressed area up north to tap and bottle the groundwater. Local politicians love them because they bring their favorite campaign issue (jobs, even at crappy wages). Of course northern Michigan has abundant groundwater close to the surface why? Because it’s frequently swampy, which means that when you start taking a lot out you lower the level of the aquifer, which affects everything from stream quality to, ultimately, the Great Lakes. We’re all connected after all. But there I go, sounding like a wooly-headed environmentalist again.
We can all agree that hydration is important, can’t we? Sure we can. Stipulated. And one more thing: I buy about a case of the stuff a year. It comes in handy when we have people out on the boat, and we get thirsty. Guests don’t want to share our Lexan bottles. We always offer beer first, but some fuddy-duddies don’t like to start drinking at noon. And Alan insists we buy Dasani or Aquafina, which are bottled by Coke and Pepsi, and generally come from municipal supplies.
But all that said, I still think that bottled water is a big fat shuck. Of course it’s important to stay hydrated, at which point I’ll point you toward the kitchen tap. But really, do we all need to carry water with us at all times? Did our parents do that? Were they dropping like flies of dehydration? No. Reread the scene in “Gone With the Wind” where Melanie has her baby during the siege of Atlanta, on a blistering hot Georgia summer day. You can learn so much about how people coped before air conditioning. The room is kept shaded and Scarlett spends lots of time fanning Melly as she labors. She also wrings out a cloth and places it on her forehead, occasionally sending a slave out to the pump for more water. I’m sure she drank some, too, but at no point did she say, “Melly, you have to drink something. It’s important to stay hydrated.”
Here’s sometimes Alan says, usually when he’s reading a “helpful” newspaper article that, like so many of them these days, assumes its readers are total morons:
“Where would we be without newspapers to remind people to wear sunscreen?”
I ask you: Where would we be without newspapers to remind people to drink water?
Today’s Freep lets us know that school sports practices are starting up, and yes, it’s important to stay hydrated:
But how do you tell if you’re drinking enough? What should you drink? What are the signs of a heat-related illness? We asked local experts. Here’s what they had to say.
Can you guess what they had to say? Of course you can. Drink lots of water. Don’t overdo. Listen to your body. And stay away from salt tablets.
The stories always say this; apparently gobbling salt tablets was considered a remedy for thirst and dehydration back in the Gilded Age. I guess the idea was that sweat was salty and a person needed to replace lost salts. An old reporter at the Journal Gazette once said the newsroom air conditioning system consisted of a drinking fountain and a bottle of salt tablets. But I will confess, I have never seen a bottle of salt tablets in my life. Have you? Where do you buy them? What are the brand names? In what section of the local CVS do they reside? Now there’s a story: Hang out next to the salt tablets for a day and see who buys them. Then warn customers of their dangers!
(I should ask Professor Google before I write this stuff. I guess you can find them somewhere.)
Today it’s supposed to be beautiful, a break from the heat and humidity, a rare day below 80. A glance outside informs me the weatherman did not lie. I plan to go out and enjoy it. I will carry a bottle of water. Because it’s important to stay hydrated.