Last week my boyfriend and I escaped work a few hours early on a Friday and caught a nice easterly breeze out to San Antonio for a weekend getaway. We entered our home for the next three days at a beautiful hotel and everything appeared to be perfect, not least of all the severe discount I was able to get us. There were plush pillows, reams of terry-cloth towels, little shampoos, and even hot face wraps. But something was missing; we had built up quite a thirst from driving and chatting on the car ride from Houston and needed some water. Both of the bottled waters I had packed were laying bone dry in the back seat of Paul’s car next to a crinkled up bag of cheetos.
Paul looked around the room and found a liter of bottled water with a sign saying “As a courtesy to our guests, we have provided this water. If you wish to use it, please note that your room will be charged $6.00.” Some courtesy. Even Paul was taken aback at the outright robbery. Sure, we were on vacation and intended to do our share of splurging (as much as any respectable frugalite can). But had we saved on small profit margins for the last several months to splurge on water? We didn’t think so. I closed the bottled water behind cupboard doors for the rest of our stay.
Paul filled a complimentary glass with faucet water, taking the liquid down in one satisfying gulp. I attempted the same, but could not get past the residue of slimy chlorine. We ordered room service, hoping that after spending so much money on food, the water would be an abundant afterthought. You can imagine our dismay when one 8-oz. cup of water was brought up for each of us to accommodate our feast. Apparently, water was a rare commodity at this hotel, but one we were not willing to pay for.
On Saturday morning we jetted out of the hotel room to the Alamo. It was almost as if our thirst was a portal taking us back into time as we walked over desert-like sand, took photos next to water-starved cacti, and toured around what used to be the confines for a large group of Texans who undoubtedly must have had their supplies (including water) cut off sometime during their battle. For lunch we followed the promise of free-flowing water down to the Riverwalk and ate at a barbecue restaurant that, among other things, replenished our glasses whenever they emptied (sans surcharge). It was pure heaven. At the end of the meal, my thoughts raced around whether or not we could doggy-bag our water. I was almost delirious at that point.
By Sunday morning we wizened up and found a grocery store nearby. For a six-pack bottled of water, four liters in total, the cost was just $1.99. Incredible.
After we got home, I decided to shed some perspective on the issue and research the cost of other liquid products. The gasoline we used to travel to San Antonio was only $0.46 per liter. A liter of coke— containing ingredients such as sugar, corn syrup, caffeine, color dyes, and yes, even water (further value-added with carbonation)—is just 1/10th the cost of that bottled water at $0.69 a liter. On the other side of the spectrum, you could pay as little as $10.00 for one liter of extra virgin olive oil, but not before the olives are grown, harvested, ground into a paste, and filtered.
As far as rare commodities go, I am willing to pay a premium. After all, things that are rare often by nature are high in quality, in short supply, and possibly onerous to transport. But water has never been more than a leaky faucet away, and while it remains that way, my precious dollars will chase other precious commodities.