The glass is always full to the brim, many ice cubes floating in the clear water. I don’t care where I go in this country, every restaurant assumes I want ice water – no matter the temperature or the climate.

In frigid Detroit these days, it still amazes me that restaurants assume I want cold, cold water. My family are predispositioned toward ice water, and the black sheep in me has never signed on. 

In fact, even in sultry Bali last spring, the water did not have to be cold to soothe. It was the thirst-quenching I looked for, not the absolute temperature.

When did we graduate from personal choice to blanket assumptions?

It’s one thing for a restaurateur to create a menu from his/her talent and taste. You can take it or leave it, choose to eat there or not.

It’s another thing to walk in the door, be ushered to a table, graciously welcomed, and everything set out for you … with the assumption that it is very cold water every single patron desires.

I think we all can accept by now that we are utterly different, even as we are similar. Each individual has his/her own inclinations and proclivities. The universal truth is not cold water; it is nurturing and acceptance, warmth and welcome.

Letting every person know that he/she is loved. And by love, I sign on to the definition of universal identification, not personal preference.

That you can identify with another person, feel that they are you and you are they, that is love. What you would do or say to them, you would do for yourself. Plain and simple.

So the ice water thing is strange. We make allowances for gluten intolerance and peanut allergy and dairy aversion. We don’t assume everyone seeks caffeine. It’s not one-sandwich-fits-all.

Why the absolutely cold water?

You realize how much it would simplify our tasks to not make ice, to serve a simple glass of refreshing water to our guests and if they ask, plunk a few ice cubes in. Or maybe that’s too much extra work, to do the dance of will-they-or-won’t-they.

So we make a blanket assumption and my guess is that most of America never glances at the cubes in the glass. Whether they’re already freezing because of the breeze outside or not, they drink it down and don’t consider the depths of the coldness.

Maybe it’s just me, already cold in the winter, wanting a simple glass of water to quench my thirst. I’ve become THAT customer: when the glass of water comes to the table filled with ice, I kindly ask for a glass of water without ice. They of course have to take it back and pour it out and give me another glass.

In some parts of the world, we’d deem that extremely wasteful.

Maybe the answer is to not automatically bring water for everyone but to do so when asked for it, and simply clarify, “With ice or without?” Is it asking too much? Am I nitpicking just a bit?


Let’s call it a draw and ponder the question just for a quick minute. Ice? No ice? Does it even matter?

In my humble opinion, I think it does just a little.

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