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The Old Scout
It is Never Too Late to Change Your Mind
September 25, 2007

I am sorry, Evian and San Pellegrino and Dasani and all the other bottled waters out there — Aqua Velva, Wells Fargo, Muddy Waters, Joan Rivers, Jerry Springer, whatever — but the current campaign against paying good money for bottled water when tap water is perfectly good (and very likely purer) is so sensible on the face of it that I am now done with you. Fini. Kaput. Ausgeschlossen. No more designer water. Water is water. If you want lemon flavoring, add a slice of lemon. You want bubbles, stick a straw in it and blow.

My father, a true conservative, would have smiled on this. All his life he resisted the attempts of big corporations to gouge him by selling him stuff he didn't need and so he was not a consumer of high-priced water, anymore than he would've purchased bottles of French air or Italian soil. No, San Pellegrino and Perrier got rich off the pretensions of liberal wastrels like moi who thought it set us apart from the unlettered masses. We ordered it in restaurants for the same reason we read books we don't like and go to operas we don't understand — we say to the waiter, "Perrier," to give a continental touch to our macaroni and cheese.

Enough. Man is capable of reform once presented with the facts, and the fact is that bottling water and shipping it is a big waste of fuel, so stop already. The water that comes to your house through a pipe is good enough, and maybe better.

So now I wonder, "What else am I doing that is too dumb for words?" A woman leaned over to me the other night and said, "You'd look so much better with your eyebrows trimmed." This is just the sort of advice a man yearns for — you don't want to be walking around with eyebrows the size of sparrows for the rest of your life. Thanks for the tip, doll. What else? Maybe there are words I mispronounce, like "harbinger" or "inchoate." I'd be happy to be set straight.

I was in Berkeley the other day and drove past a Lutheran church and then a Baptist: perhaps some stereotypes have leaks in them. And when I was in Berkeley, a man told me in as kind a way as possible that my grasp of economics is fragile and I should not write about it in this column. Probably right.

I knew a boy in the fourth grade who insisted that it was the Chinese who had bombed Pearl Harbor, though fourth grade is sort of late to be thinking such a thing, and when our teacher showed him pictures in a book that pinned the infamous deed on the Japanese, he was sort of relieved to be able to give up his idea and not have people yell at him, "You're crazy." He reformed.

I gave up watching television twenty-five years ago because I liked it so much even though I couldn't remember what I had watched the day before and could see that if I went on as a viewer my life would become a blank. And now I refuse the iPod because it is an audio bubble that shuts you off from the world, which is where good ideas come from.

Reform feels good, take it from me. To correct course and avoid the reef and find clear sailing is the great tonic of life. A man grows a beard for the pleasure of cutting it off. And now I have the pleasure of boycotting bottled water for tap.

There is much we do not understand — power cords in the briefcase, for example: you set them in neatly and a few hours later they are completely entangled with each other, and who knows why? — but the stupidity of buying bottled water in America is easily grasped by even the dullest.

And now, if liberals can cut consumption of foreign water, then maybe conservatives can start to face up to the disaster they visited on this country with the election of the Current Occupant. None of the current Republican hopefuls can quite bring himself to do this. Face it. When you push an incompetent frat boy on the country, what you get is what has happened. Republicans prize loyalty above all things, so the Republican Congress carried the White House water for years, not bothering with any sort of oversight, but loyalty to the Occupant now is like marriage to a drunk, a very iffy proposition. If they can't get a grasp on this, the Republicans can't win in 2008.

© 2007 by Garrison Keillor. All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Media Services, INC.



From the Desk of Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor
Photo by Cheryl Walsh Bellville


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