Scout came home recently with a swath of hair stained red from a cooperative artistic venture gone awry. I dug it though, it was kinda punk. But with an unprecedented city-wide boil water advisory in effect, the best effort we could muster in doing away with it was Kerry squeezing Scout between her legs and wiping her with a damp cloth. Our child guzzles bathwater with a quickness – like any opportune almost-two-year-old does – and her nightly bath ritual was suddenly a no-splash zone.
Now in the advisory's third stupefying day, a cavalier attitude I inherited as a kid regarding water quality – combined with a disdain for the cultural and generational shift that effectively bubble-wraps children – has my childhood definition of common sense butting heads with 21st-century common sense.
I ate snow. I sucked on icicles plucked from back-alley garages. I drank from the garden hose. I dipped my metal cup in and glugged tea-toned water from rivers in the Whiteshell (only swift-moving water; no bogs or lakes with motorboats). Tumbling mountain streams were fair game during a family vacation to the Rockies, despite the posted warning signs. I'd seen enough beer commercials in my time to know that if cold, crisp, glacier-fed water was good enough for Labatt Ice or Old Vienna, it was gonna be good enough for a growing boy.
As the popular saying goes, I turned out all right.
In 2007 Kerry and I set out on a road trip that touched on four of the five Great Lakes, and during a muggy day-hike we came upon a pristine, postcard-worthy stretch of Lake Superior coastline (see photo above). I splashed my face with the cold, clear water. Then I chugged it. Kerry was aghast, but it just looked so good. Beer commercial good. I recall my defense: I wouldn't do this in any of the other Great Lakes. There's no science behind my decision-making, mostly gut instinct. So long as my gut doesn't rot from lake pollution or cryptosporidium, my gut is usually right.
I know our water's OK. You know it, too. You know it. I know you know it. (Breaking news: the City knows it too, as of 3:30PM CST.) But I'm a parent now, and I need all the arms of Vishnu from keeping Scout from tasting that sweet, tepid bathwater. Young children know not what they do, E. coli is a bitch and fortunately enough, boiling water has only become easier in this high-tech day and age. So yes, I did boil up some mighty pots of water. But I also gulped from the tap after brushing my teeth.
I guess what I'm trying to say is: If you're gonna drink straight from a Great Lake, make sure it's Lake Superior, and you'll be golden. Probably.