I wrote something earlier in the week to which my friend Lisa commented: “Is this essay going to be part of your application to replace Andy Rooney?” Well, no that one wasn’t, Lisa, but your comment gave me inspiration and because of it, I present this:
Jamie Todd Rubin: On Straws
There was a time when a straw came easily out of its wrapper. You simply jolted it against a flat surface a time or two and the end of the straw would pierce through the wrapping, making it easy to extract the straw and move on to more important things. Like using it to drink.
I miss those times. These days, it seems, whenever I get a straw it takes more effort to get the straw out the wrapper than it should. Jolting it a few times on the counter top does nothing. The paper in which the straw is wrapped is stronger these days. Instinctively, this forces you to wrap it harder on the counter. Bad move. This often results in bending the straw somewhere in the middle. The bend causes a slight tear in the straw itself, so that when you do finally extract it from its encasement, you find it difficult to suck through because there is no longer a complete vacuum. The tear in the straw means you are drawing in air as well as your liquid. This results in a kind of gurling, slurping noise when you try to take in your beverage, not the normally smooth solid pull you get from an undamaged straw.
I don’t know why the paper used for wrapping straws has grown stronger over the years. I suspect it is a response to the hypochondriacs among us worried about their straw being contaminated by germs. It’s funny because you never hear those hypochondriacs complaining about the inside of the cups. The cups with which our beverages are filled are not wrapped in plastic. They sit in dispensers, one cup stacked in another. I can’t imagine they are nearly as hygienic as our straws. Someone in a straw factory realized one day that you could use stronger paper to make a straw wrapper for the same price and it was seen as an improvement. I have a hard time imagining the idea being tested. Can you imagine a room full of people representing a cross-section of the straw-using community, trying to extract straws from wrappers of different strengths? I can’t either.
Maybe this would all be easier if we had reusable straws, the way that we have Tupperware, or reusable coffee mugs. If we carried our own reusable straw around with us, there would be no need to fight a battle with a straw wrapper. It might even be good for the environment. Of course, then we’d have to spend time washing our straws. The thought of how disgusting the inside of my straw might ultimately become really turns off the hypochondriac in me.