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Water Today Title December 11, 2017

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Updated 03/13/14

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May I have a glass of water, please?

Courtney Griffin

As a follow-up to an experiment done previously at Water Today, I bundled up to take on the challenge of asking for a free glass of water at restaurants in the Byward Market in Ottawa, Ontario. The quest was simple enough, though a little uncomfortable at times. I was typically greeted with, "Can I help you?" or "A table for one?" when I entered each restaurant, and I would always reply, "Actually I was wondering if I may have a glass of water, please?"

Responses to my question ranged from, "Yes, absolutely!" to "Uhm, sure...hang on..." but not once was I denied a glass of water. In total I visited 15 restaurants, many of which were the same as had been visited in the original experiment. Once I was given my glass of water, I divulged my undertaking and attempted to discuss the reasoning behind my presence. Some folks were keenly interested in the quest and asked how it was going, while others raised their eyebrows, tilted their heads and muttered an excuse to walk away.

Nevertheless, not one restaurant in the Byward Market refused a non-paying patron a glass of water. Zak's Diner was the most enthusiastic of the bunch, with a happy waitress rushing to fulfill my request. Others, such as Lonestar's, were less enthused but still handed me a glass. McDonald's did not have great water as it was dispensed from the same machine that runs Nestea, but it was liquid all the same. Subway was very generous, running the tap to ensure cold water, and even pointing out where I could get ice should I want some. One change of note since the last time this experiment was done is that Pizza Pizza now has cups and can provide water for non-paying patrons.

The employees at Pita Pit, once informed of my quest, were shocked to think that I may ever be denied access to a glass of water. Even when told that no business had said no to my request, they expressed that they would never consider saying no to anyone who asked for water. Similar sentiments were conveyed by the employees at the Empire Grill and Blue Cactus, both of whom indicated they would offer a glass of water to anyone - regardless of their economic status.

The restaurants who granted me a glass of water:

Bullet Pita Pit
Bullet Subway
Bullet McDonald's
Bullet Shafali's
Bullet Dunnís Deli
Bullet Lonestar
Bullet Zak's Diner
Bullet Beaver Tails
Bullet Tim Horton's
Bullet Stella Osteria
Bullet India Cafe
Bullet Blue Cactus
Bullet Empire Grill
Bullet Palais Imperial
Bullet Heart and Crown
Bullet Pizza Pizza

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