Tapping the pretension in H20
So I’m down in Santa Fe this week.And, yes, to go sideways for a moment here, I know it’s a little weird that I started that opening sentence with the word “so.” Why didn’t I just say, “I’m down in Santa Fe …”?Well, sticking that “so” in there makes it sound “conversational.” And writing coaches say “conversational” is a good thing. But that’s not why I did it.I started with “so” because a while ago I entered one of my columns in a journalism contest. The column began, “I had a bad dream the other night …” and the judge wrote a snippy little comment on it, saying, “I didn’t think I’d ever give an award to a column that started with the word ‘I.'”Well, I certainly didn’t much care for that. I thought about writing that judge a nasty reply, pointing out that his own snotty comment started with “I.” I also thought about pointing out that Martin Luther King seemed to do OK with his “I have a dream.”But I realized it’s never going to be a good idea to compare myself to Martin Luther King in any category … writing skills, common human decency, strength of character or table manners. You never come out ahead, comparing yourself to the great men of our time. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Roy Rogers … just don’t do it. They’re heroes; you’re not.I knew Martha Stewart was losing control when she compared herself to Nelson Mandela. She said going to jail wouldn’t destroy her life. OK. She said lots of good people go to jail. So far, so good. Then she said, “Nelson Mandela went to jail.” Oh, dear. Poor Martha’s lost it.Well, I suppose she was right – although I don’t seem to recall Mr. Mandela being charged with anything even remotely connected to stock fraud. OK, so, like, anyway (to get really conversational) … I’m down in Santa Fe this week, and last night I went out and treated myself to a fancy dinner. And as I sat there in that fancy joint, the waiter came over and asked if I wanted bottled water or “Santa Fe tap water.”That caught my attention because I had thought Aspen was the only place that had that particular little bit of ritzy-snitzy pretentiousness.”Evian, Fiji, San Pelligrino or Aspen tap water?” our Aspen waiters just love to ask.I mean, really – since when do we have to tell people what city the tap water comes from? Tap water is the water that, you know, comes out of the tap. Aspen has Aspen tap water. Santa Fe has Santa Fe tap water. Cleveland has … well, you get the idea. Does anyone suspect there are enormous tank cars of tap water being transported hither and thither across the nation?Do you think we are heading for a world where waiters say, “We have some lovely Cleveland tap water tonight, sir. And a delightful Minneapolis-St. Paul tap water. Or perhaps you’d like to try our special, a nice glass of Brownsville, Texas, tap.” Uh-uh. Ain’t gonna happen. (There’s that conversational tone again.)It’s only self-conscious places like Aspen and Santa Fe that do that. Believe me, I’ve never had a Manhattan waiter ask me if I want a glass of “New York City tap water.” (“New York, New York – the water so nice you taste it twice!”)On the other hand, it does occur to me that this tap-water business may just be part of the current obsession for giving the origin of everything that a restaurant puts on your table.I was out in California this summer, and we ate at a famous restaurant where the menu gave the names of the ranches that raised the beef, the pork and the chicken. They gave the name of the guy who caught the fish and the name of the farmer who grew the lettuce – and why they didn’t list the name of the fellow who picked the lettuce, I just don’t know.I was expecting the waiter to give us the names of the actual animals we were eating.”Tonight’s rack of lamb comes from an adorable young animal named Daisy, who …”So, in a world like that, is it really surprising that waiters feel the need to add a touch of class to the water they pour out of the pitcher they fill at the kitchen sink?I guess not. In fact, the only thing that’s surprising is that they still don’t charge us for it.At least, not yet.Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is email@example.com
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For those of you who follow my monthly missives, and occasionally read between the lines, you may have noticed a trend toward a bit of cognitive dissonance and some internal conflict on my part.