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Are we all wet?

Food for Thought

I remember being told I was “all wet” when I was completely mistaken about something– as when I was positive that there was, somewhere down there around Tennessee or Arkansas, a state named Dixie. People talked about it as if it were a state; there were even songs about it. It took a lot of proof to convince me that I was totally wrong. I’m not sure where the expression “all wet” came from, but my dictionary includes “badly mistaken” as a distinct and specific use of the term. Perhaps it’s related to the expression “wet behind the ears,” meaning that someone is as innocent (uninformed) as a newborn baby.
It has been estimated that Americans spend about 12 billion dollars a year on bottled water. About half of that water is tap water (granted, it has been purified but it’s still tap water.) Purified water, by definition, is tasteless and while people claim they choose it because of its taste (or lack thereof?) most people can’t tell the difference between bottled water and the water that comes out of their own faucets when subjected to a blind taste test.
We are accustomed to having hot and cold running water in our homes; we take it for granted; we waste a lot of it; we wash our clothes, our cars, and ourselves with it and let the faucet run while we brush our teeth. We cook with it, keep our lawns and gardens green with it, swim and play in it. And some of us actually drink it; and wonder why others spend all that money just to have it served up in plastic bottles to the tune of 12 billion dollars a year. What few times I’ve been given bottled water, I’ve detected a faint but definite “plastic” aroma or taste in the water. Some of you may argue that that’s impossible and it is only my imagination. Maybe, but I’d argue right back that your conviction that bottled water tastes better than tap water may be only your imagination, so we are at an impasse.
Aside from the taste issue, and the news that bottled water is no healthier than tap water from properly managed municipal water plants, we have the matter of that 12 billion dollars. How does the cost of the bottled water stack up against the cost of an equal amount of tap water? The amount of water we each drink in a year must certainly be a very small percentage of our total water use, considering all the other things we do with it.
Most of the cost of that bottled water has to be in the bottling, shipping and merchandising of it. The actual water itself surely can’t be very costly. I suppose that, if everybody suddenly quit buying bottled water, a lot of jobs would be lost; from the people who purify and bottle the stuff, to the ones who truck it from the plants to the stores, and the retail employees who take your check and the carry-out boys who put it in your car for you. And then there’s the plastics plant that manufactures the bottles and the printers who make the labels, and the agencies that handle the advertising. A lot of jobs seem to be involved, but I suspect a lot of those people (probably most of them) buy bottled water themselves, but if they didn’t, maybe they wouldn’t need those jobs in the first place.
I can think of a few circumstances where I might buy bottled water, not because I think it is somehow better than tap water, but because of its convenience. It would come in handy during emergencies or disasters such as storms, fires, earthquakes or other things that cut off my supply of safe tap water. It would be a convenience when traveling, camping, or venturing into territory where safe tap water might not be available. But rather than the expense of bottled water, I could fill my own containers with water from my kitchen faucet before setting out, and have the luxury of the water I am accustomed to, like the taste of, and that I know is safe to drink.
A long time ago, we bought distilled water for specific things, such as those newfangled steam irons that came on the marked in the late 1940s. Distilled water has nothing going for it except pure hydrogen and oxygen– no flavor, no health benefits. Unlike some of the bottled waters of the past, like Vichy water and other mineral waters that were touted as having nearly magical qualities to heal everything from acne to hemorrhoids, they were often unpleasant in both taste and odor. Some of the less objectionable ones became quite popular and, through innovative advertising and sheer audacity, took on the cloak of luxury and exclusivity. Several years ago, someone pointed out to me that the name of a certain bottled water from France spelled “naive” when read backwards. I guess that says it all.