Dumbfounded, File This Under

Hi Readers! Here’s a note from a North Carolina farm mom/ EMT-technician-in-training Stevie Taylor who blogs at ruffledfeathersandspilledmilk.com. She’s taking night school classes with the leaders of tomorrow. Such as they are. –L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: I was pleased to teach one of the college kids in class a lesson last week.  He was asking fellow students for money to buy bottled water (which is $1.25 out of the vending machine!!!).  I pointed to the sink that is in the classroom — we are in a medical class together — and the plastic cups that were stacked on top of the paper towel dispenser next tot he sink.  “Why don’t you just get some water from the sink?”

“Out of the tap?!”  he exclaimed, “I thought that was just for washing our hands.”

“Yes,” I assured him, “But it is all city water and you can drink it, too.”

“Well,” he worried, “no one said we could drink that water.  Do you think it’s allowed?”

To answer him, I got up, got myself a cup out of the stack, filled it at the sink, sat down at my desk, and drank it.  I didn’t get arrested and no alarms went off.  So he got a cup of water and ever since then, more people in the class have been drinking tap water in cups instead of buying bottled water from the vending machine.  Imagine a 24-year-old that has no concept of drinking water unless it’s packaged in plastic, and afraid to use a sink in a public classroom as if it were undrinkable or off-limits (even with cups stacked next to it!).  This is what becomes of the kids that are not raised Free-Range!!!! — Stevie

57 Responses

  1. I figure, as a parent, it’s my duty to raise leaders. Leaders need followers. Helicopter parents are bringing up the future minions of my kids. Thanks.

    I encourage my kids to push the limits of known rules (even my own rules) and assume that if no rules are evident (or standard), then there is no rule and they should do what they think is right. [My job is to make them understand what is “right”].

    Stevie should point her classmates towards http://storyofstuff.org/bottledwater/ for more info on why not to use bottled water.

  2. “I figure, as a parent, it’s my duty to raise leaders. Leaders need followers. Helicopter parents are bringing up the future minions of my kids. Thanks.”
    Thanks for this Aaron, it made me laugh out loud!

  3. So, depending on the classroom, his hesitation might not be that out-of-line…it sounds like they may have been in some sort of a lab. All the sinks in my college lab rooms had signs above them saying “Not Potable Water”. Now, the plastic cups stacked by the sink maybe should have been a giveaway, but even today (some years after college) I generally don’t drink from lab room sinks, even though they aren’t marked as “not potable”. (I teach at community college, so I do come across such sinks regularly) Had it been a drinking fountain, the kid would deserve our ridicule. In this instance, his hesitation and questions about drinkability may be reasonable.

  4. I have to agree with Jen, here. I don’t think he literally didn’t know you could drink from a tap. I think he was more concerned about the tap in that room and that situation. I’ve seen signs in labs that say “not for drinking” because the water is from a tank, or well, or some other place that wouldn’t be good for drinking. His hesitation, while it makes for a good story, is probably reasonable.

  5. “Drink water? You mean like from a toilet?”
    — Frito

    (Follow my link if you need help getting the reference.)

  6. Steve,

    HAHAHA! That was my first thought, too! Straight out of “Idiocracy!”

    Those poor kids.

  7. I used to be a lab tech. If this was a lab, the doubt was very reasonable, as the rule in most labs, to avoid cross-contamination of the food/drink is no food or drink in the lab, bottled or otherwise.

  8. A 24 year old should be able to access this risk, though.

    usually, all water will be from the same line of pipes – only rarely it will make sense to install an extra set for non-drinking water and tainted pipes need to get removed from the installation anyway.

    That said, I can understand if he never drank from the tap. American tap water is often heavily chlorinated – natives probably don’t register this anymore, but to my German taste buds New York or L.A. or Vegas water smells and tastes like from a swimming pool.

  9. I have to admit that I do hesitate whenever I drink from a public placed fountain. Not because of the potability (if water’s not drinkable, they usually say so), but more out of hygenic considerations.
    Paradoxically enough, I don’t hesitate as much when it comes to my children drinking from them. After all the gross things I’ve seen them doing (and surviving unscathed), I’m not as worried for their health as much as for mine.
    @Aaron: My thoughts exactly. I actually used that line last time a teacher reprimanded ME when my 4 yo stepped out of line when his class headed for the dining hall (cafeteria for you, I guess). I hate it when they think I am responsible for everything that goes through my children’s heads. They have thoughts of their own, you know…

  10. I have, in the past, also been hesitant to drink water out of lab taps, as some of them don’t have potable water. Yes, the cups should have been a reassuring give-away, but overall I’m not sure his concern was unreasonable.

  11. @Peter
    I’m a born-and-raised-in-the-USA girl, and the tap water pretty much everywhere tastes like swimming pool to me, too. I can smell the chlorine long before it hits my lips. That being said, I don’t buy bottled water. I have a filtering pitcher, and I can smell the varying levels of chlorine. It’s like they dose it at regular intervals or something. So, sometimes I’ll drink from the tap, chlorine and all, sometimes I’ll run it through my filter. But bottled? Heck no. I already pay for my water. Why pay someone to put it in a bottle for me? After sucking it out of my lake, in another part of the state, and then trucking it to me? And I believe the stats are something on the order of, for every 1 liter bottle of water, the bottle itself takes 4 liters to manufacture. Ummmm… wars are fought over access to water. Why the hell do we want to use up our potable water making plastic shells in which to place water to make people feel somehow safer?

  12. I agree that it might have been a reasonable concern. Also, if he’s lived in certan other countries, he may have the idea that different taps have different water supplies, many/most not recommended for drinking. I have a friend from a developing country who, after 20 years here, still can’t psych herself into drinking water from the bathroom tap.

    But on the other hand, there are people who are being raised in the USA to believe that tap water isn’t good enough for them. I shudder to think how much money they will spend on water bottles over a lifetime.

  13. Thanks for a good laugh to start off a busy day! Who needs fiction when real life offers so much comic relief?

  14. “Is that allowed?”

    Tell him, whatever is not prohibited, is permitted.

  15. Unfortunately, some kids have grown up with a fear of tap water. I remember the day my son’s pediatrician told me not to use tap water when making his baby food, etc.. because it would give him diarrhea! Now, 10 years later, he lives off the tap.. water, of course!

  16. My tap water smells bad and contains black gunk. Yes, I filter it. I don’t buy bottled water, however, unless I on a long road trip, in which case I’ll grab a bottle at a store when I fill the gas tank up.

  17. Steve & Mary you stole my idea!! LMAO

  18. Okay, Kim, obviously your tap water is not safe for human consumption. Also, ew.

  19. Is this an actual lab, where the class does experiments? If experiments are being done then this is certainly understandable. You’re not supposed to eat or drink in labs. The water supply in many labs are not for consumption especially if it is a lab where eating/drinking is prohibited.

  20. ha ha ha!!! Idiocracy was my first thought too. Love that movie. I can’t believe that actually happened! A kid didn’t understand drinking tap water… CRAZY!

  21. Yeah, I know…our tap water is gross. The scary thing is, it’s city water…we don’t have a well or anything. Annoys the crap out of me…city says it’s fine. Black gunk from the tap is not fine! And you should see our toilets! I scrub them and they still don’t look clean due to the black gunk. Neighbors have the same problem. And sometimes it smells like sulfur. I don’t get it.

  22. Slay the dragon ‘thou shalt’ grasshoppa.

  23. Since when is a 24 year old (the age specified by the author) a kid?

    What is our world coming to when the age at which our parents were expected to functioning adults (mostly with young children) will still be considered childhood for our children?

    I tell my kids pretty much every day that when they go off to college, my wife and I are moving into a one bedroom apartment.

  24. I think as a 21 year old, it’s my duty to stick up for my generation, here. Because we definitely aren’t all like that. At my school (which, given, is an art school where limits are always being pushed) I see it rarely: however, at my job it pops up quite frequently. But not just from people in my age range! I see it a lot from people who are older than me and already have kids of their own (which goes to say, what on earth are they passing on?). I work at an alternative furniture store, and people come in all the time asking, “Can you sit on this? Can you sleep on this? Could I put this in my bedroom?”

    To which I always reply: “You can do whatever you want with it. The sky is the limit.”

    I sort of mean it about the furniture, but I mostly mean it about the rest of their lives.

  25. Most bottled water is from municipal water sources (i.e. tap water) anyway.

    As for the lab setting it’s possible that the water genuinely isn’t potable, but I doubt it. In my old high school, the “Not Potable” stickers that hung over every sink (and one sarky kid stuck one over a drinking fountain) were a gift from…Dasani.

  26. ROTFL!! And these are the youths that suppose to be our future? Scary. I wonder where they learned that idea of tap water not being allowed as drinking water? Hmmmm.

    @Aaron: I like your frame of mind.🙂

    @ JenW: Just wondering if it’s out of fear that you are still hesitant to drink out of tap water from a lab.

    Even though it doesn’t say “DON’T DRINK”. Logic and common sense would dictate that in a place of higher learning, where it’s being funded and any trouble in the institution can cause such funding to disappear, that they would never endanger their students lives. So to not visibly identify non-drinkable water would be a clear violation, and susceptible to lawsuits. That if you see paper cups stacked beside a sink away from any lab equipment, it would indicate that it’s there for drinking if you so chose to. It’s really us thinking for ourselves, rather than letting others think for us, by controlling our fears and manipulating us to base our decision from them.

    I use Brita. I drink from tap water when I have to, but I do notice the difference in taste. I prefer Brita. I don’t buy bottled water if I don’t need to.

  27. Well… I don’t agree that this is a free-range issue. It is a modern society is creating imbeciles issue, but I know a lot of generally cool people that drink bottled water. It is just one of those things they genuinely did not think to question: how could they sell water if you can get it for free? It must not be free!

    We don’t even use a water filter, though I’ve considered getting one because of the hormones and chemicals that don’t get filtered out by municipalities, the kinds excreted by people on different kinds of drugs.

    But those can also be present in bottled water!!!

  28. I stopped buying bottled water about a year ago as a cost cutting measure. Now we have a water filter. The Boy was playing with a kid outside one day and the kid asked for some water. He expected a bottle, instead he got a cup. He looked at it like it was the most disgusting thing ever and asked if I had any bottled water. I told him that if he wanted bottled water, maybe he should run and quench his thirst at home. LOL Thing is, quite a few brands just bottle local water. Dasani, Aquafina…its purified municipal water, so why pay extra for water you can get out of your tap anyway?

  29. If there’s paper cups there’s then it’s pretty sure to be okay to drink. Otherwise, though, I think he had a point – in many homes here in the UK, drinking water is only through the taps in the kitchen and others may not be for drinking. At my last school, the water in one block was BROWN (we filled a bottle with it and left it and it filled up with brown sludge at the bottom and the rest stayed a yellowish colour). There was nothing, other than the foul colour, to indicate that this wasn’t drinking water.

    Also, in a lab, it’s quite likely that there’s chemicals and things around. That’s definitely one place I’d hesitate to drink water out of the tap (though I think the cups make it pretty clear that it’s okay to drink).

  30. At our last apartment the water tasted fine, but the toilet had to be scrubbed regularly to cut down on the algae that would grow in the bowl. The same went for the shower. We still drank from the tap but we used a filter on it. Never got sick without the filter though.

  31. The water coming from the bubblers in my school tastes awful. I used to put up with it, and flavor it. Then a long-time staffer in the main office caught me doing that, and warned me – seriously – not to drink it. Did I know how infrequently those bubblers were maintained? And how dirty they get inside?

    I teach children from age 3 through 7. If we want to teach them to drink tap water, we need to provide tap water that’s drinkable. ARE YOU LISTENING, STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS?

  32. Yeah, come to think of it, I’ve been in US hotels where there have been signs advising against drinking the tap water. They provided complementary water bottles instead.

    I know nobody’s tap water is perfect, but if it’s passing the minimum standards, I’ll drink it and have my kids drink it, because I’d rather their systems are able to handle tap water. If we’re traveling or whatnot (within the USA), I don’t want to be fussing about water bottles and such. If my kids are not used to what normally lives in tap water, then they might get sick if they start drinking it when we’re away from home.

    Besides, those filters get disgusting and take up too much space.

    Maybe I could be talked into a filter if I heard enough bad things about the city water. I am not thrilled with the idea of hormones from birth control pills, etc., in the drinking water. However, I wonder how much that has been exaggerated, like most “dangers” in the USA.

  33. Wow, this story is beyond the level I imagined things had gotten to. In a college class no less. For 18 years or more he’s never drunk water from a faucet. Not just him but many.

  34. We’re definitely not allowed to drink from any of the taps in our bio or chem labs, even though they don’t have signs indicated you can’t. There is a high risk of contamination with some of the chemicals and species (especially yeasts) used in the labs, and ingesting *anything* is a little risky in that setting. Even if there aren’t any such risks associated with this particular classroom, as a med student he is probably more familiar with undergrad bio/chem set ups and just acting out of instinct. Although the paper cups should have been a clue.

    That said, it’s not like this is an isolated incident. It seems like a lot of people are terrified to do anything they haven’t been expressly ordered to. Even my mother gets like this; she tends to think that hiking paths less-traveled are off limits, for example, and has to be convinced every time that if they were, there would be a sign where they diverge from the more used trail. Just as an example.

  35. on a similar note, I once had a coworker protest that the plant on someone’s desk was not “approved.”

  36. I should have posted earlier, but this was NOT a lab. Not even close. Just a classroom with tables, chairs, and a sink with a mirror, paper towel dispenser and Dixie cup dispenser on the wall. It’s actually the exact same set up as the one in my child’s kindergarten classroom (a county contract, perhaps??) It’s an evening class and people actually eat dinner sitting at the tables a lot of the time.

    I really do think it’s a free range issue because I think we are seeing children who are told exactly what can and can’t be done and supervised all the time growing up to be young adults who cannot properly interpret their surroundings or feel comfortable making a decision without someone in charge to direct them.

    Keep in mind the students in this class are learning emergency medical care including things like making splints out of rolled magazines or converting a nasal cannula to an eye rinse by attaching it to a saline bag if needed. But they can’t figure out if it’s safe to drink water from a sink with a cup dispenser next to it?! It doesn’t bode well for the next generation……

  37. I literally couldn’t drink from any tap for about 4 years after I moved away from my parents until I’d adjusted to the chlorination and chemical taste. I’d always had rain water from a tank until I was about 19 and tap water burned! It literally burned my mouth and tongue though most people don’t notice and our water is generally pretty good.

    I can drink it now and have a water filter connected up to make it better, but I also installed rain water tanks after buying my house. For most of the year I am enjoying delicious fresh rain water from my own tanks again. Most people are shocked I would want it connected to the house and think rain water should only be used on the garden 0_0

  38. I don’t know about the tap water where the original poster was, but where I live, I’m very very suspicious of it unless it is specifically filtered. It is from the Mississippi River. The same river that is basically a DUMP for companies from Minnesota to Louisiana. I know they treat it, etc., before it comes into my house. But I am still very suspicious of it. Our water board is not exactly… well, I don’t really trust them. Does my own filtering make it that much better? I don’t know. But with if I can filter out a little more “crap,” I will. When I’m not around a filtering situation – i’m happy to drink bottled.

  39. @ Metanoia…
    The main reason I don’t drink our rain water is because before it goes into the barrel (where it meets an anti-mosquito-egg pesticide) it first runs down the aging asphalt shingles on our roof, then through the gutters which are lined with anti-wood-rot chemicals, and last through a long downspout which (to my knowledge) has never been cleaned, no matter what kind of insects and vermin have gotten into it.

    But in theory, yes – drinking pure rain water – I hear you.

  40. “Do you think it’s allowed?” he asked, eying the cups stacked conspicuously next to the sink.

    The next sound you hear will be my palm hitting my forehead.

  41. I can’t tell you how many students I see at the college I go to shell out $1.25 or even $1.50 for bottled water when there is a perfectly good FILTERED water tap on the fountain next to all the soda. I bring my metal bottle with me and fill it up several times a day.

    I even told someone once when I saw them waiting to pay for a bottle of water that they could get water for 11 cents (they charge for the cup), and they looked at me like I had two heads. Now I just shake my head and keep my mouth shut.

  42. Yeah, I know…our tap water is gross. The scary thing is, it’s city water…we don’t have a well or anything. Annoys the crap out of me…city says it’s fine. Black gunk from the tap is not fine! And you should see our toilets! I scrub them and they still don’t look clean due to the black gunk. Neighbors have the same problem. And sometimes it smells like sulfur. I don’t get it.

    Neighbors on the same block?

    Is it possible that the problem is not with the municipal water supply, but just your local main? Has that been specifically checked out by the city recently? (Is this a stupid question? I’m never sure, sadly.)

  43. I’m taking classes with kids much younger than myself, and I’m often astounded by their inability to take care of themselves. These are nursing prerequisites, and we’re often provided study guides and whatnot, and they always whine that they “don’t know what is going to be on the test.” They claim to study for hours and hours, but they text, chat and talk about studying for most of that time. They don’t seem to understand that you need to prepare before class, and study what you’ve learned after class. If they don’t get the grade they want, the test was too hard and the questions weren’t fair, and the teacher is mean. The teacher is only good so long as they are getting a good grade. Oh, and they miss important material because they are texting, getting coffee during a two minute break and coming back late (ergo, missing part of class). Teachers have actually had to start saying “if your mom calls, we can’t talk to her, so don’t bother.”

  44. There was a factory where I worked back in the 1960’s that used reclaimed water for various industrial processes. One of the employes who worked in a shop with a sink connected to the reclaimed water supply used to fill a cup or glass at this sink and drink the water when he got thirsty. One day the plant manager observed him filling his cup and just about “had a cow”. “Don’t you know that’s reclaimed water from the Sanitary District plant? You’re not supposed to be DRINKING it!” And the worker said, “Chief, I’ve been drinking that stuff since I was assigned to this job six months ago. Never felt better in my life!”

  45. ooooooooh my. So sad.

  46. This is a bit of a puzzler. I drink tap water all the time (exception: my college bio lab, where the faucets say quite clearly that you’re not supposed to drink the stuff).

    But still, why not pack a metal water bottle? Or re-use a plastic one.

  47. My tiny town in Italy just put out a water kiosk where normal water is free and you can get refrigerated or room temperature, you’re allowed to bring home 9 litres a day, fizzy water costs 5 cents per 1,5 litre bottles! And it’s all city water.

    We drink tap water, but my family prefers mineral water with bubbles so we were buying before this kiosk was put up a few 100 metres from our house!

  48. @Uly

    It could be our local line, as it happens to the entire block. It’s a fairly new development, which, until 10 years ago, was a cow pasture. When we first moved in and complained about the water, we were told that it was due to construction and when construction stopped the problem would go away. Sadly, due to nobody buying houses anymore, there hasn’t been construction in a few years and our water is still disgusting.

  49. I can totally see a hesitation to drink city tap water.
    More often than not, when I attempt to drink “city water” from a tap the reek of chlorine turns my stomach. Knowing that most cities add fluoride to drinking water is a turn off for me too. I don’t have an issue with topical fluoride, but the last time I checked, ingesting wasn’t all that great for you.

    My kids are just coming from a house where the well was frequently tested above limit for choliform. So we didn’t have them drink straight from the tap. They drank from the filtered tap. They’ll probably carry the “not straight from the tap” message with them.

    We don’t buy bottled water. We use stainless steel bottles and filter our water.

    This belief that “all US tap water is fine and dandy” and people are silly, naive, or whatever because they don’t freely drink it isn’t really based in reality.
    Of course, that’s just my opinion. I don’t think it’s wise or appropriate to blindly believe all tap water in the US is healthy and/or free of contaminants.

  50. I haven’t had a chance to read all the responses so forgive me if this is a repeat:
    If it were a medical lab and your couldn’t eat or drink in the lab, there would be a huge sign on the door saying No food or drink along with signs explaining the hazards (bio, rad, chemicals, etc). On top of that there would not be cups by the sink or anywhere else in the room unless they specifically were labeled “not for human use”.

    Most people don’t read regs for fun, so this is probably trivia of the week or something, LOL.

  51. Be thankful for your city water, even when its sub par. I never realized what a privilage it was to have it until I moved to Mexico. Some days you can’t even use the water to wash with, it smells so bad, like sewage. And forget about a shower on those days! No one, including locals, drinks it, ever. We have 5 gal jugs of filtered water, from the local water shop. Its 50 cents per refill and is used for everything. I have a reverse osmosis filter too, but have no idea when it was last serviced so I don’t trust it.

    The kid knew he could drink in the room, as he was trying to buy a bottle of water!!! He just didn’t know if it was allowed, which is pathetic. Even if it wasn’t, what was really going to happen?????

  52. “I can totally see a hesitation to drink city tap water.”

    Yes, but this was a hesitation about whether it was “allowed,” not whether it was desirable.

    The facts are: the kid (and yes, if he’s acting like this he’s a kid even if he’s 24) was in a non-lab classroom with a sink with cups next to it, and wasn’t sure he could drink the water if he hadn’t been told he was.

    This is not about the quality of the water, of being in a contaminated environment, or anything else. This is about a 24 year old who doesn’t know he’s allowed to drink from a place where *drinking cups are provided* because no one told him he could.

  53. wow.. amazing

  54. The responses are alternately as funny, sad, or unbelievable as the original post.

    *sigh*

  55. With that kind of stupidity it would have only been justice if that 24 year old adult child had somehow drowned.

    Drinking the illegal tap water.

    Any chances of doing more stories about the now or nearly adult helicopter children? I work in a college town and the level of cluelessness is breath taking.

  56. You guys realize that quite a few bottled water companies use filtered tap water? Aquafina uses NY filtered tap water.

  57. I would like to say as a very young mom (young enough that I should be in College right now) that I was raised on tap water, never ever bought bottled in my life, but would also be wary of drinking in the classroom, teachers sometimes have crazy rules, and it’s just easier not to get in trouble sometimes!

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