A Tantalizing Twosome

Why, on the table next to the lush burgundy brocade reading chair in my room at the Hilton, are there two different bottles, each claiming to be “the world’s best-tasting spring water?” The neck collars they wear tout their excellence in the field of recreational beverages of the non-intoxicating kind. The highway robbery price of $3.95 a bottle is displayed boldly lest the inattentive guest think this treat is complementary.

I suppose if you can stay at the Hilton you don’t deny yourself liquid refreshment for the sake of a few easily-replaced bucks. Both are mineral waters from Italy. Both are packaged in unusually attractive glass bottles.The green glass bottle contains 25.3 fl.oz while the equally comely clear bottle contains 33.8 fl. oz. Who would go for the green one, I think, before noticing that the premium is paid for the sparkle that characterizes one bottle and not the other. Sort of a sparkle tax. Effervescence is a valuable commodity. It was what apparently gave me the edge at cheerleading try-outs.

But I must admit I am not really a person who stays at the Hilton; I can’t help feeling like an imposter as I wheel my Wal-Mart suitcase into the gleaming brass elevator, for I am merely a teacher at a conference. In fact, I am the frugal sort who brings food in a cooler so I can spare myself the expense and unpleasantness of rushed and greasy meals between seminars. So it will come as no surprise that I have laid in a supply of my own cheap bottled water.I reach for a bottle and turn my attention to the label so as to discern why my water cost $3.65 cents less per bottle than those beckoning to me from alongside of my chair. Had I not begun to ponder the mysteries of extravagant waters I would never have noticed that what I’d assumed was simply water was a veritable cocktail of other substances. Why the sodium bicarbonate? calcium citrate? sodium chloride and magnesium oxide. Ah, I see it. The fine print says that this mosaic of minerals is “added for taste.” It pays to read labels. I would have thought that staying at the Hilton would have been a sign of good taste. Now I see that drinking cheap bottled water filled with a myriad of chemical enhancements was sufficient.

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