A few years ago, there was a news story about a guy who started selling bottled water for dogs. I told my friends that dogs loved it because the water probably came from his toilet.
They say man is the only animal that can laugh. I say man is the only animal that won’t drink out of a toilet, unless that man is pledging a fraternity.
Actually, the only animals I know for sure that like to drink from toilets are cats and dogs, but I’m sure it goes for lots of animals. And lots of pledges. Now we find out that most of the billions of dollars we humans spent on bottled water last year was for plain, old tap water that we could have gotten free from the kitchen sink.
Apparently a lot of people find tap water tastes better after they put it in a plastic bottle, put a picture of a mountain on it, fly it half way across the world and charge you a $1.29 for it. It’s not plain, old tap water then. It’s imported, stickered tap water. You know it’s good because it comes from a country where they can’t drink the tap water. They’re water connoisseurs.
“This bottle is a marvelous blend of hydrogen and oxygen – is that calcium I smell? Perhaps a bouquet of minerals? Robert Parker rates it a 92.”
I was surprised to find out that most bottled water doesn’t come from a pristine, babbling mountain brook. It doesn’t come from a picturesque stream flowing through a beautiful meadow but from the municipal water system.
Then I remembered why.
Long ago, while planning a camping trip in Montana, one of our major discussions was how to purify any water we might need. It was decided that we’d be pretty safe drinking water from the Missouri River if we boiled it, filtered it, boiled it again and then dropped a few iodine tablets into it. Yummy. The day I saw a bloated, dead porcupine float down river was the day I decided even iodine wasn’t going to get the taste of corpse out of my mouth. I hydrated myself with gin and rainwater for the rest of the trip and haven’t been camping since I discovered I’m more of a luxury-cruise person than a camper.
For years after that, when I heard a brewery brag that their beer was made with “crystal-clear mountain-stream water,” all I could think about was the dead porcupine and all the other murky stuff that’s in crystal-clear mountain-stream water.
Still think it’s crystal clear? Let me ask you – where do you think frogs go when they die? Right into that crystal-clear mountain stream along with fish eggs, otter hair and a cornucopia of insects, dead and alive. Crystal-clear streams are where deer go to wash the mud off their hooves. Crystal-clear streams are what Canadian geese, ducks and fish and some campers use as a toilet.
So why would you say your beer is made with mountain-stream water? Because it sounds healthy. It’s not calorie-laden, alcohol-filled beer – it’s healthy, good-for-you mountain water! I think I’d rather drink a beer that bragged it was made with tap water than from a mountain stream.
What really puzzles me is how did we go from almost never drinking bottled water to drinking billions of dollars worth of it in 30 or so years?
I could understand it if water was bad for us, if it was unhealthy, if it caused cancer, if it dehydrated you, if it stunted your growth, if it made you act like a lunatic. You’d expect something like that to sell like hot cakes. But something that’s actually good for you? That’s a tough sell.
Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2007, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.