CONCORD – I was sipping my favorite beverage from a brown paper bag on a bench near Walden Pond one recent day when a local sidled up to me with a question. I knew he was a local because he was wearing what everyone else in this town does — a pair of frayed khakis about one rinse cycle from total disintegration and a Peter Paul & Mary concert shirt.
“Jimmy Beam?” he asked desirously, pointing to my bag.
“Poland Spring,” I replied.
“Sicko,” he said, making a rapid escape.
And maybe I am. You see, I have a little problem. I love bottled water. Aquafina, Dasani, Belmont Springs. For very special occasions, like the last time the Red Sox won two games in a row, I unlock the cabinet and break out the Fiji.
So what better place to rid myself of this suddenly unspeakable addiction than Concord, birthplace of the American Revolution and now the launchpad for an anti-bottled water movement that will spill from sea to shining sea. For the uninitiated, the residents here banned the sale of bottled water, so come January, you’d better learn to carry one of those stainless steel canisters preferred by persnickety colleagues in a cubicle near you.
And I wasn’t going to spend just a day here. No ma’am. Make it a week, maybe a month. If Concord had put the time and effort into banning bottled water, it was a fair bet it must be the healthiest place with the most virtuous people on Planet Earth, the Canyon Ranch of municipalities.
First stop: Nine Acre Farm Convenience, a popular little shop whose organic section, I was certain, would be to die for.
But just as I was about to ask where a thirsty environmentalist could get a decent cup of juniper tea, I nearly knocked over the Hostess rack that faced the door. Mmm, Ding Dongs. Twinkies. Chocolate Donettes. Why don’t I give my vices a few more minutes before we take drastic action.
The freezer section, for anyone wondering, had a nice supply of Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk, with a mere 20 grams of fat per serving. I took a blissful stroll down the Frito-Lay aisle. The checkout counter felt crowded, what with the rambling cigarette displays and the tins of chewing tobacco. And then, of course, there were the lottery machines and scratch card dispensers.
So in terms of review, I could buy a tin of Skoal in Concord, a carton of Marlboros, and a package of Suzy-Q’s, all while scraping $10 instant game tickets to my heart’s desire. But soon enough, the long arm of local government will bar me from buying a bottle of cold, crisp spring water to wash it all down.
Which is when I called Jean Hill, the driving force behind the Concord bottled water ban, to read her the riot act. Hill got on the phone and she was, of course, delightful, smart, and personable. Why does this always happen to me? She is 84 years old, going on 50, and she told me about how plastic bottles are wreaking havoc on the environment and threatening wildlife. She talked about recycling bins that are empty and landfills that are jammed.
“Bottled water is a scam,” Hill said. “Anyone with a brain in their head knows that.” I took a sip of Poland Spring and agreed.
“I have six grandchildren, and I don’t want them to live in a world full of trash,” she added.
Mrs. Hill, you’re selling yourself short. Anyone who can take on the bottling industry and convince an entire town to ban the one healthy item in any convenience store has a future on a much larger stage. The entire state of Massachusetts needs you to focus your immense talents on combating child obesity and tobacco, and then maybe the federal deficit.
But while you’re at it, if you would, could you please leave my bottled water alone?
Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.