The Waterboy

I have absolutely no idea what this means, but it comes from the Wikipedia page for 'water', so I guess it's relevant.

I hate it when people get to talking about what kind of water is the best water. Mind you, not ‘SmartWater’ or ‘LifeWater’ or whatever other sugary de-carbonated diet soda gym people are drinking these days; I mean actual, regular water. I can’t tell you how many shoots I’ve been on where someone is bitching about how Dasani is inferior to Aquafina, or office conversations I’ve overherad where everybody is singing the praises of their hometown’s tapwater over LA tapwater.

It’s ridiculous that people even discuss this nonsense. Because clearly Dasani is the best bottled water and the best tapwater in the world comes from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Case closed.

I am a self loathing water snob. It’s one of my deepest, darkest shames. I mean, here I am, dedicated to keeping my ridiculously cushy white middle class college educated American life in perspective and staying as down to Earth as possible, but I buy my drinking water in gallon jugs at Ralphs for $1.89 apiece. Yeah, that’s right – I will only drink water that costs as much as gasoline in 1998.

This has nothing to do with safety concerns – public water supplies are pretty much the only thing left in America that is tightly and properly regulated by the government. Gallon for gallon, there’s less cancer in our tapwater than there is in literally anything else in this country, save for perhaps chemotherapy drugs, which I am just as happy to not have piped into my home.

Drinking bottled water is, by all accounts, far worse in everyway for both me and the environment. Bottled water is 10,000 times as expensive as tapwater, it’s largely unregulated and untested for bacteria like tapwater, and the oil-based bottles require three times as much water to produce as they do to fill – and only 20% of them get recycled. I may as well just run over a manatee in a Hummer made out of dolphin corpses.

I’ve known all of that for years, but I continue to buy bottled water here in LA because LA tapwater tastes really bad. Yes, even through a Brita filter.

So, for the record: When faced with a choice between drinking overpriced, unsustainable, and potentially harmful water from a bottle or a glass of the safest tapwater in the world that I find to taste slightly off-putting, I will immediately forego all of my eco-friendly liberal tendencies in favor of a beverage that tastes simply ‘neutral’ as opposed to ‘kind of bad.’

When I lived in LA two summers ago between my junior and senior year of college, I didn’t buy water at the store – I just resigned myself to sack up and try to get used to the taste of the tapwater in my apartment. Since the water was unpleasant to drink, I wound up just not drinking a whole lot of water that summer, which is a powerfully bad health decision when you live in a city that’s in a desert.

When I came back for this new, more permanent stay, I knew that something had to change – either the city would find a new water supply that tasted more ‘Portlandy’, I would die of dehydration, or I’d develop Fremen-style water discipline to carefully trap and reclaim all the moisture that left my body. Barring any of those, I could just buy jugs of bottled water at the store.

While buying gallons of water instead of just drinking the (basically) free shit the city pipes into my house has been bad for the environment and my pocketbook, it’s been doing wonders for my health. I’m drinking more water now than I ever have before, because I’ve always got a jug of it sitting at my desk. I drank an entire gallon in one remarkably humid evening – a fact that would probably be more impressive if it was milk or some other substance that doctors don’t encourage you to consume as much as possible.

Maybe there’s something more alluring about having the water right at my desk, so close that I don’t even have to go to the trouble of going to the faucet and getting a cup. Or maybe the same part of me that goads me into finishing all my French fries even when I’m completely stuffed is telling me to drink up because I paid for the damn stuff, it’s mine, and I ought to make the most of it.

It’s very depressing for me to realize that the only way that I’ll give my body an ample supply of the one substance it absolutely needs to survive is if it tastes good and it’s within arm’s reach. Walking to the faucet six paces away for less-good tasting water is simply not an option: It has to have minerals added for taste, and I have to be able to grab it without having to take off my ear buds and interrupt my episode of Frasier.

I don’t want to say that we humans are devolving, but I sure wouldn’t say we’ve been getting any more adept at survival as the years go by. I think we hit our high point with Ryan Gosling and Alison Brie, and now we’re evolving our way down the other side of the mountain, slowly getting fatter, lazier, more complacent, and generally less willing to survive than our ancestors who would walk across miles of savannah for one sip of water from a muddy puddle that a tiger crapped in.

For what it’s worth, though, when the last human dies of starvation because the last vending machine is out of Cooler Ranch Doritos and he doesn’t want to eat Nacho Cheesier, he will at least have the most impeccably honed taste of any creature in the universe.

Truman Capps drank half a gallon of water while writing this update.