diamond geezer

 Friday, March 17, 2017

I don't buy drinks.

Don't get me wrong. If we're down the pub getting rounds in, I pay my way.

But when I'm by myself, which is most of the time, I don't buy drinks. This may not be normal.

What I drink at home, most of the time, is water and tea. Water's free, obviously, apart from the fact it's metered and so technically does cost something negligible. And tea is just boiling water with leaves in, so technically does cost something, mainly the boiling and the teabag and the splash of milk, but it's not a lot. Me, I drink drinks that come ultimately from my tap, because I'm fine with tap water, and hence I don't buy drinks.

So when I go down to the supermarket, I don't buy drinks. I buy tea bags, obviously, but they're not drinks in themselves. I buy milk, but only to pour onto and into things, and generally not to drink. But I don't buy any other drinks. I wouldn't dream of buying bottled water to drink at home, because that's insane in my book. I don't buy juices and flavoured fruit drinks, because they're mostly sugar. I never ever buy fizzy drinks, because they're totally sugar. I never buy sugar-free fizzy drinks, because what's the point? I do occasionally buy what you might term 'squash', but I only have one bottle of dilutable fruit syrup at home at present, and its sell-by-date is March 2016, and it's not yet half empty, so that hardly counts. The one aisle in the supermarket I never walk down is the one that's stacked solely with drinks. It makes walking home a lot easier.

And no, I don't walk down the alcohol aisle either. I don't mind an alcoholic drink, and if you meet me in a pub you'll see I'm capable of drinking several. But I don't buy alcoholic drinks to drink at home. I don't have a stash of cans of lager in the fridge, or a rack of wine ready to be uncorked. I don't have a bottle of vodka on the go, ditto gin, indeed I have absolutely nothing even vaguely resembling a drinks cabinet. You might imagine that coming round to mine is therefore a dull and dry experience, but people tend not to come round to mine, so what I don't buy is for my own personal non-consumption. Admittedly I do occasionally buy a 12 pack of bottles of Becks in case I do ever feel the need to break my habit, but I tend to drink on average less than one bottle a month, so that 12 pack lasts me well over a year. Water and tea, That's what I'm having instead.

If I'm at work, I don't buy drinks. The company supplies its employees with a drinks machine, for free, because this keeps them tied to their desk, and because squirting liquid down a tube into a paper cup isn't exactly expensive. They also provide a branded coffee bar, because they've worked out that employees want something a bit better than granules in almost boiling water, and this again prevents them from leaving the premises. In all my time in the office I have never bought myself a drink from the coffee bar, partly because I don't like coffee, but mainly because I can dunk a tea bag in boiling water better and hugely cheaper than they can. Or I simply go to the water cooler and get a cup of water, several times a day. I look with some bemusement at people who walk into meetings clutching water they have paid for.

Likewise if I'm in the office canteen, I'll be the one with the plastic cup of water filled from the dispenser. I see other people dithering over the smoothies and cans and organic ionised slightly-flavoured cordials, and they always seem to end up paying a good 25% more than me at the till. I sit there particularly open-mouthed when I see colleagues with a can of non-diet Coke on their tray every day, because I've trained myself to think of such drinks as tooth-destroying marketing bluster, and this makes it much easier to never ever want to buy one.

If I'm out and about, I never ever pop into a coffee shop for a drink. Part of this is down to not liking coffee, even the frothy sweet swirly coffees upon which the modern coffee economy thrives. I don't care whether it's a grande latte or a venti cappuccino or a flat white or a double shot with syrup, I'm not buying. You may be perfectly happy handing over two quid for faffed-up beans, and that's fine, but these premises are not for me. Ditto I do like a good hot chocolate, but I am not going to walk in off the street and order one, then sit down and watch the world go by or open up my laptop or read a book. I could, but I don't, because I don't buy drinks.

Likewise if I'm out and about, I never pop into a shop and walk out with a can or bottle for refreshment. I know some people who can't go two hours without feeling the need to hydrate themselves with £1.20's worth of bottled liquid, but if they're out with me, I just let them get on with it. I can go for a considerable length of time without purchasing refreshment, which I put down to inner resilience rather than having the constitution of a camel. If I go out for a nice walk I don't want to have spent a fiver by the end of it on liquids which probably cost 5p to make. I have been known to take a drink with me, and invariably that's either water or tea, but every time I get my flask out for the latter I do worry I'm getting old before my time.

I think it's the scale of the mark-up which really puts me off. As soon as I stop to consider the gaping chasm between what a drink costs to make and how much someone's attempting to flog it to me for, I am perfectly capable of resisting purchase. I have not fallen for The Great Drinks Conspiracy.

But all that's when I'm by myself. What I've noticed is that whenever anybody else turns up, life suddenly starts to revolve around the purchase of drinks.

The pub's the obvious one. A group of people often needs a place to go, and a pub is an obvious place, and suddenly the entire evening revolves around the purchase of drinks. Or it could be a bar, which means pretty much the same thing, only with everything at a slightly higher price. Or it could be a meal, because this too always seems to involve the purchase of some unnecessarily expensive drinks. I'll always nudge for tap water rather than a bottle of sparkling in such a situation, but all that frugality is utterly lost as soon as someone utters the words "hey, shall we order some wine?" A significant proportion of the cost of any restaurant meal is drinks, and the restaurateur knows it.

Or it could be me and someone else in a cafe. As I've hinted, I don't go to cafes by myself, but the minute I'm out with someone else there's invariably a Let's Pop In Here And Sit Down And Have A Cup Of Tea moment. It's nice to have a rest and chat, isn't it, even if all the cafe did was fill a pot with boiling water or dunk a tea bag in a mug and point you towards the stirrers. I wouldn't normally have stopped at all, but I always capitulate when somebody else turns up, because I recognise that not stopping for a hot drink is abnormal behaviour. I know this because every museum, shopping arcade and country park seems to have a cafe, and they always seem to be full of normal people, but I only ever go accompanied, and never solo.

Or it could be me and someone else in a shop. Companions on a journey usually pop into a shop at some point along the way to buy a drink of some kind, and look at me strangely when I tell them honestly no, I really don't want one. They'll even attempt to share their bottle with me once they've bought it, because they can't believe I'm not as parched as they are, but I always politely turn them down. I'll even unnerve assistants trying to flog me a Meal Deal by telling them I don't want the drink even if it is only an extra 20p on top of what I've paid for the other items. It strikes me that the UK economy might collapse if everyone was like me and didn't buy drinks, but thankfully they're not, and we survive.

In summary, I appear to be internally hardwired not to buy drinks, and very successful in not doing so. But whenever I'm with other people I cave in and buy drinks, because buying drinks is what you do when you're with other people. Perhaps that is normal.

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