Plastic straws are the new cigarettes — except there’s no area outside buildings where people sip from cups with plastic tubes, looking indifferent to your disapproval.
Straws probably will be banned before they’re relegated to Designated Sipping Areas. And then what? How will you get fluids from cup to maw?
Don’t worry. Canny entrepreneurs are already selling permanent straws. The top-quality ones are segmented, jointed metal tubes that fold up for storage and presumably have to be hand-washed with spring water, their hinges oiled with bee sweat or something equally artisanal. All they need now is a fancy name — let’s say Personal Liquid Elevation Devices, or PLEDs.
PLEDs sell for the same price as 2,000 disposable straws at Target. As soon as they went on sale, scammers started selling cheap knockoffs on Amazon.
This is not surprising. A while ago I was shopping for electric razors, because there are mornings when I have no interest in seeing my face in the mirror. I bought a razor that was highly rated and reasonably priced.
When the device arrived, it was identical to a name-brand item, except for the name and the brand.
The box said something like: “For the Best Sweet, the Shaver to a Face of Life!” I went back to look at the web page where I had found it, and the reviews were all gushing:
“This is the best razor of the whisker time.”
“For the mowing of the chin grass to be sure? Top game!”
“I have owned more electronic razor in the hand than I would count on any day, and this is best to all.”
OK, so maybe I should have read a little closer before placing my order. But for now it works fine, and I am having the best sweet, I guess.
But reports about the knockoff PLEDs suggest that they break right away, so I’m warning you: Check the instruction manual that comes with your PLED. If it says, “For the Up sucking, big arrangement! Click apart to demonstrate wetter end, use other top for mouth place. Swallow with the good times,” it’s cheapo. Send it back.
You know what you call a straw that’s useless after a few sips? A paper straw.
When I was a simple youth, we had to make do with paper straws, which failed halfway through the job. I still remember our lamentations down at the Fargo Soda Counter:
“Dang the luck, my straw is sodden. I cannot draw sugared water through it.”
“If only the petrochemical industry would invent a disposable alternative that maintained structural integrity from start to finish,” my friend said, banging his fist on the counter.
“I hear tell of plastic straws,” I said, “but they can be had only by the top-hat crowd on the South Side of town.”
“One day,” said Tiny — so named for his enormous girth, just as I was named Stretch and the hairy guy was called Congenitally Bald — “I’m going to be an astronomer, and I’ll be able to afford a plastic straw.”
“Oh, look who’s putting on airs!” we jeered. “You’re North Side to the bone. You’ll be sucking pop through a spit-soaked straw as long as you live, crushing them like Pixy Stix.”
We were a cruel lot.
As you can probably guess, Tiny was the most successful of our group, which is why we let the air out of his tires at the 30th high school reunion. Last I heard, he’s into bitcoin.
Anyway, the introduction of bendable plastic straws changed everything. Now you could angle the straw and sip as you pleased; we were able to enjoy our drinks while keeping our heads level, never looking up. This is why there are no notable astronomers from North Dakota.
The best part about plastic straws? Spitballs. You could really shoot a sputum-soaked wad through a plastic straw. The junior high class bully developed something more sinister, though: the PinDart. It was a straight pin wrapped with Scotch tape to create a cone on one end. Shooting through a plastic straw, he could nail a nerd at 15 paces.
Eventually he switched to a Bic pen barrel with the ink and point removed, which gave him greater dependability and aim. I mention this only because an empty Bic barrel makes an excellent straw, if you’ve forgotten your portable folding straw at home.
Which you will. Don’t worry, it’s not lost. It’s right where you left your reusable grocery bags.
firstname.lastname@example.org • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks