Water, Logged

A recession/depression can make honest people out of us--for example, it brings you face to face with the fact that that you simply can't afford to buy those dress shoes this month, maybe not for a while. Uncertain times have forced impulsive consumers like me (a vanishing breed these days) to admit that a beer budget won't support even the occasional champagne taste.

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But lean times can also hone denial. Not about the big stuff. I've let go of the shoe expectations with relative ease, along with the expectation of buying anything that's not marked down 75 percent or more. I eat lunch at home. Pricey items like a new roof aren't even on my radar.

Why, then, can't I let go of my water delivery?

My husband has been on my case to cancel it for months. We're talking about $25 a month for something that we can absolutely live without. Even if there wasn't a recession on, there are lots of good, well-documented reasons to jettison the service: the environmental disaster created by all the plastic that contains all the water (true, I get the recycled containers that go on top of a dispenser, not the individual bottles, but still); the fact that tap water is much more regulated and at least as safe, if not safer, than the bottled stuff; the acknowledgement that water is increasingly a precious global resource that shouldn't really be considered a lifestyle accessory in any country. I know all this. I've known it a long time.

I suppose it's emotional for me. Ever since I moved out of my parent's house and got my first apartment 25 years ago, I've had Sparkletts or Arrowhead. Along with newspaper delivery, having my own water service was one of those suburban niceties that made me immediately feel like a grownup. But it also made the transition to adulthood and independence less scary. Getting a bottle on my doorstep every two weeks was reassuring, like getting milk or bread delivery in another age; the delivery man didn't wear a bow tie or ask after my family, but I often waved to him as he climbed back into his truck. Water delivery was good for my self-reliance: I had to learn how to hoist those big five-gallon bottles up onto the dispenser by myself (these were the days before the three-gallon bottles were a common option). I also took pleasure in offering friends who came over to my modest apartment a drink. I didn't have a bar and almost never drank alcohol, so being able to offer a quality drink of water from a cooler I rented for that express purpose made me feel like a good and thoughtful host.

And then there's the civility that the water delivery still stands for, maybe now more than ever. In my Inglewood neighborhood, the housing foreclosures and stagnant job scene have eroded a sense of community that's been under assault for a long time. The regular appearance of the water man (and newspaper delivery guy) is like the appearance of a gallant knight who, with his easy smile and goods balanced on one shoulder like Santa Claus, strikes a blow against social entropy.

I've finally told my husband he'll have to cancel the water himself. He hasn't gotten around to it yet.

The image associated with this post was taken by Flickr user Philippe Giboulot. It was used under Creative Commons license.

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