Tuesday, June 2, 2009


A Symbol Of The Fat Generation

I hate bottled water. My wife loves it.
To me, only a wasteful society would buy for dollars what they can get out of any tap for cents. And I never have, except in the desert or some hot tourist haunt where the beads on the side of a cold bottle of water is the nectar of the gods.
You don't have to remember the lingering fallout of the Great Depression to cringe at the spectacle of cases of bottled water piled in a supermarket. Especially when there is scientific proof that the water out of the tap of major cities, especially Toronto, is better than the bottled water, unless you are in the Third World.
I remember my anger when some jerk working for the Toronto Board of Health, who loved to be called Dr. when he actually had a Third World doctorate, said carelessly that pregnant Torontonians should not drink Toronto tap water. Bad for baby! There was angry denials, but I thought it insufficient. So I went to the chairman of the big regional Metro council, Paul Godfrey, and argued he had to do much more than just grumble a few words. He paid little attention, until I reminded him that he was a chemical engineer out of U. of T., and proud of it, and the head of the water division was also an engineer, and action could be taken stripping them of being engineers if it was felt that they presided over an unfit water supply.
Well, that did it.
Godfrey and council commissioned an independent laboratory report costing around $135,000 that studied Toronto tap water and compared it to eight of the most famous bottled waters in the world. Turned out Toronto tap water was far superior.
That was almost thirty years ago, and that Toronto study has often been mentioned. Other independent labs have confirmed the results in the decades since. The councillors, to their credit, have worked hard recently to spread the good news about Toronto tap water. I am often a critic of what the council majority does but when they moved to ban bottled water from city turf, I thought it was a great idea even if it horrified some retailers.
After all, the bottled water sold in this area by Coke under a contrived name is nothing more than Toronto tap water given a special scrubbing with filters. And it bothered me that in a city which can barely pay its bills, they were having public meetings where free beverages from coffee to juice to bottled water was provided.
Of course the public health advocates, who are so activist they often are a pain best soothed by Preparation H, now grumble there is too much lead in Toronto tap water. If you live in an older house, it is smart to run the water for a few minutes in the morning or if you have been away, but the risk is minimal.
I suspect these health pundits are the same ones who helped screw up the consumption of salmon, which is so vital to life as a major source of omega 3. They argued there was too much mercury and trace pollutants in farmed salmon. True, but the value of eating salmon is so great, that drawback is dwarfed.
I remember talking to the official who was in charge of all the drinking water brought to Canada for the visiting dignitaries to Expo 67 so that queens and premiers didn't get an upset tummy from Canadian tap water. So each country sent along big bottles of their water, which were carefully stored in a locked storeroom. After a month or so, the official told me that you could actually see specks growing in the water. Yet it was poured out carefully for the dignitaries during the big banquets. Gee, I would take lead over specks of crap any day.
The oil companies are watched like hawks as they fool around with the price of gasoline, but the irony is that few people notice that the designer waters sold in chi chi stores and in the latest hot restaurants often cost far more than what we routinely pay in the qouging at the pumps. And for what? A name made familiar through ads and some liquid that may well have come from a picturesque stream that bubbled out of the ground (let's forget the pollution in most water just under the surface) or from some glacier, or from the tap in the back room.
Yet my wife Mary will read all this and announce that I'm just being a tedious jerk. At worst, she's paying a quarter for a bottle, she says, and she often has just filled up a bottle from the tap to carry with her.
Which is another thing that bugs me. People swilling from bottles as if the nearest fountain or water cooler is in another country. They're like babies sucking soothers. And what gives with water coolers anyway? That really is in-your-face conspicuous consumption when water fountains should be common in public buildings.
I suspect that now that we are climbing out of a depression caused by incompetent car companies and criminal banks and stupid financial houses that the amount of bottled water being drunk has fallen sharply. Good!
But I worry about the next fad, which may well be bottled air. Watch for it. Compressed air tanks on your belt, oxygen stations on every office floor as if they were a hospital, waiters wheeling up a cart with the appetizers and asking what tube you want to suck first.
Just another scam like bottled water with fancy names which is often nothing more than municipal water run by a special light.
Why I saw a jogger the other day that had four bottles of water on a special belt. Maybe she could have included a bandolier with more bottles and really completed the look of a pastel porcupine with boils.
She looked silly and you could tell as she preened at the stoplight that she though she was pretty special. Not to my taste. I like my water straight, without the hype of some mysterious nothingness, because water doesn't - and shouldn't - have any taste

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