Thursday, May 10, 2018

Bottled Water

Why do people buy so much bottled water?

Bottled water is a funny thing.  When I was a kid, it simply didn't exist.  Oh, sure, maybe there was one or two snooty restaurants in New York City who would open a bottle of Perrier for you, but that was about it.   The local grocery didn't sell it, and they certainly didn't have cases of it, shrink-wrapped, for you to carry out.

What changed?

Well, at first, it was a yuppie thing.  The traditions of Europe are always admired in America, and over there, serving bottled water at a restaurant was a thing.   In America, we served tap water, loaded with ice - whether you ordered it or not - which appalled our foreign visitors.  "I didn't order water!  Take this away!"

But America has some of the cleanest drinking water on the planet, and we took it for granted that what came out of our taps was safe and clean.   Why pay for bottled water when water is free?   I still remember those days - in the 1970's when the bottled water thing started - where most folks would scratch their heads and say, "That's just stupid!  Paying for water!  What's next?  Paying for air?"

That was the attitude at the time.  Attitudes change - and are often guided.   And at first, it was the sparkling water people, Perrier for the most part, who introduced us to this idea of paying for water.   And people bought into it.  After all, it wasn't just water, but sparkling water, which is sort of like soda pop, right?   And if you put a lime in it, it's flavored, right?   So it's OK to pay for that.   But that was the nose in the camel's tent.  Or something like that, anyway.

Ordinary, flat, non-carbonated water was next.   And part of this was the "fitness craze" of the 1970's which is still with us today.   Believe it or not, no one, other than children or professional athletes, actually ran back in the 1960's.  And the concept of "jogging" simply didn't exist.   Even walking was frowned upon.   The only people walking were bums or folks whose car broke down.   Whaddya you, some kind of Communist or something?   This is America buddy, we drive everywhere, even across the street!

Of course, today, we merely pretend to be fitness buffs, and still drive everywhere - even to the gym, where we scarf down an "energy drink" (the follow-on to bottled water) while watching television on a fitness cycle.   But I digress.

While bottled water started out as a status thing, then a fitness thing, it finally trickled down (no pun intended) to Mr. and Mrs. Everyman.  People started buying cases of bottled water for everyday consumption.   I know we did, at least for a while.  In the recession of 2008, bottled water was one of the first things to go from our shopping list - at least for everyday consumption.  I used to buy it for my office, until I got tired of half-finished bottles of water laying around everywhere.

Over the years, the price came down.  The bottles got thinner and the prices got cheaper.   For about $4 a case of 36, you can buy a lot of bottled water for cheap.   But beware - there is bottled "spring water" and bottled "purified water."   If you are buying bottled water to avoid ingesting bacteria, then the spring water might not be a good idea, particularly in Mexico.   Look for "Auga Purificada."  Oh, and by the way, if you order a bottled water in Mexico, make sure it is brought to the table unopened, and don't let the waiter open it.  Yes, they will re-fill the bottles with tap water and re-cap them, hoping you don't notice.   It has happened to me during our journey through Mexico by RV - which today would be akin to a suicide trip.   But I digress again.

Bottled water is controversial for a number of reasons - some real, some made-up.   It is true that all that plastic isn't good for the environment, particularly if it ends up in the ocean.   And there have been concerns about some chemicals in plastic "leaching" into the bottled water over time.  But the idea that Nestle is pumping the world dry to sell you bottled water is just union propaganda.   For some reason they spread rumors that Nestle has somehow taken unfair advantage of the world by purchasing water for cheap.   But the local union-staffed brewery or factory - which might use twice as much water, and pays the same price per gallon, is OK!

Like I said, attitudes change - which is how we got into the habit of drinking bottled water in the first place.   And attitudes can be directed, which is why this Nestle-hate is so prominent on the Internet - it is orchestrated by some far-left Wobblies and whatnot.  But I digress again.

Should you buy bottled water?  That depends.  If you have a good source of tap water, why bother?  We try to drink a lot of tap water during the day (and even overnight), using insulated Tervis-type tumblers.   Having an ice machine helps, although I suppose you could use refrigerator ice.  Those water filters are helpful, but the one built-in to the refrigerator costs like $75 apiece, and they recommend replacing it monthly!  I put in the bypass plug that came with the refrigerator, about a year ago, but Mark still prefers to use the "filtered" water from the fridge over ordinary tap (I haven't had the heart to tell him).

When traveling by RV, we tend to buy bottled water.  Why?  Because foreign bacteria can cause stomach upset while traveling.   It is not that your local water is bacteria-free and out-of-state tap is loaded with it.  Rather, your system isn't used to the bacteria in some other location, and it takes a while to get used to it.  If you are traveling a lot, that's a boatload of different bacteria to handle.  So we get cheap cases of purified water at Wal-Mart for the camper.  I used tap for making coffee or tea, though.   Problem is, if you make ice on the road, and use tap water, you are right back where you started.  The same problem is true with Mexican ice.

Bottled water has other uses while traveling by RV - or even picnicking at home.  Throw a few bottles in your freezer.  They will freeze solid overnight. And no, the bottles don't crack.  You can then put them in your cooler as an "ice pack" for a picnic - an ice pack that you can consume later on as it melts.   They also are handy to have in the RV refrigerator if the pilot light goes out while going down the road - or to keep things cold in a 12V cooler when it is unplugged.   "Frozen waters" as we call them, can be handy.  Better than bag ice, and cheaper than those frozen packs or gel-packs (and if they leak, it is no big deal!).

But buying bottled water for everyday drinking?   Unless you are living in Flint Michigan (and ask yourself, "Dear God, Why?") there really is no need for it, even if bottled water seems "cheap" these days.