Friday, February 25, 2011

Still Life with Robin: Didja Ever Wonder Why...?

by Peggy Robin

I have no far-reaching, meaningful theme this week. Just some random, Andy-Rooney*esque ramblings on silly little things.

Like: Why do bread makers use those little square tabs to close the end of the plastic wrapper? Those tabs are like socks in the dryer -- they just seem to vanish into thin air. Would it really be so hard to put the bread into some sort of self-sealing baggie?

Same question for the bag that holds the dry cereal inside a cereal box. Once you open the bag, why don’t they give you some way to close it securely? A simple Ziplock slider would be just the thing to keep the cereal from going stale. Yet not a single cereal manufacturer has thought of this.

Have you ever gone to a big restaurant when it was virtually empty, but the hostess still led your party to the table right next to the only other party in the house? Not even putting you one table over for breathing room? Sure, you can understand it's more efficient for the server not to have to cover a large territory, but what’s the logic in putting you cheek by jowl of the only other patrons in the place?  And they always look mystified when you request a bit of distance. This happens to us so often that we even have a term for it: "herding."

A relative of mine alphabetizes the spices on her spice rack. This makes absolutely no sense to me because it means that the certain spices that belong together are in fact shelved apart.  The peppers, for example:  whole black peppercorns, red pepper, powdered chili pepper.  I suggested that she relabel the spices, “Pepper, black,” “Pepper, Red” and “Pepper, powdered chili) but she said, "That would be cheating!"

I understand why some stores won’t let you bring a wet umbrella inside but make you to park it in an umbrella stand at the front. I say any store with this policy should have some kind of reminder system in place so that their absentminded customers won’t leave without their umbrellas, if, in the time they’re shopping, the rain stops. Either that, or they should have a big warning sign upon entry that says, “If you’re the type to forget your umbrella, don’t come in here on a rainy day!”

Since so many people lose umbrellas, wouldn’t it be great if umbrellas had a small convenient but standard place for an ID tag? Maybe for once in my life I would be able to retrieve my forgotten umbrella back. Even if I did from now on, I’d still in the loss column by dozens of umbrellas left various places over the years. I think they all end up in that same cosmic black hole in some other dimension that sucks up single socks from the dryer.

I have trouble with the timing of recipes. They have this way of throwing me a curve, just when I think I’m following along and doing everything just right. Here’s a typical case: I’ve diced and chopped and assembled the various pieces just as the recipe directs, and then I come to that instruction that says, “Now prepare the pastry according to the directions for pastry on page 249.” When I turn to that page, I find I was supposed to have mixed up some dough, kneaded it multiple times, refrigerated it overnight, and taken it out at least an hour ago to have it warmed up to room temperature for use at this juncture.  Please don't tell me that I should have reviewed the entire recipe before I started.  If I were that well organized, I'd never have lost all the umbrellas I mentioned in the preceding item.

It’s indisputable that the most commonplace lie is the statement, “I have read and agreed to the terms of this license” that you must click before you can update any computer program. This lie has by far overtaken the previous lie-leader, “The check is in the mail,” just as digital communications have overtaken the paper form.

When it comes to environmentally sound practices, I have the sneaking suspicion that the amount of hot water I waste washing out food containers to make them clean enough to go in the recycling bin cancels out whatever environmental benefit may come from reuse of the plastic or glass.

On the other hand, I waste so much hot water pre-washing my dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, that the amount wasted on cleaning recyclables is just a drop in the bucket. Still, I can’t just put the unrinsed dishes straight into the dishwasher. I already know my dishwasher is too wimpy to clean them properly. Yes, the solution is to get a better dishwasher. I keep thinking, as soon as something major goes wrong with this one, that’s just what I’ll do. But unfortunately, this old appliance shows no sign of slowing down or giving out any time soon. It just keeps on working….that is, if you can call it “working” when it does the dishes so poorly that they need to be hand-washed first.

I just counted our coffee mugs. We have 29 of them, in all shapes, sizes, colors, handle styles, and thicknesses. I really like only three of them and use those three in rotating order. My husband, Bill, likes just two. Why don’t we get rid of the other 24? They may have no utility for drinking coffee, but each one was acquired someplace special, or imprinted with a logo or photo or has something else about it to give it some sentimental value. We should use them all as pencil cups and clear out the space in our cupboard. But somehow I doubt that will ever happen.

Speaking of things that take up space: We have bins upon bins of broken crayons, dried-out colored markers, coagulated glues and pastes, jars of rock-hard Play-doh and Sculpy, and untold numbers of dessicated paint pots.  All of these art supplies were acquired when our kids were small and heavily involved in making grade-school dioramas and art projects. This stuff has zero donation value. I don’t want to contemplate the amount of space taken up in the landfill if I were to dump it all. Yet, dedicated as I am to recycling, I’m not about to spend hours-- no weeks! --trying to clean out the jars and pots and containers and bins. So I just do nothing. Actually, I do have a secret plan for clearing it all out one day. My kids are now young adults, but I'm waiting for the day when they are on their own, each with a house or apartment. I will go over to the new home, bringing along bagloads of old, useless art supplies, and say, “I believe these things are yours….”

*About that Andy Rooney reference: Just Google him, kids. He's before your time.

1 comment:

  1. I don't have many suggestions for you. I actually do put address labels on my umbrellas. Sorry to say I have had 3 stolen from places I left them, including one at Politcs and Prose. I miss that one - it was a large rainbow one that I had acquired in Indonesia, veteran of monsoon downpours and pinched off my stroller which I had left out back - without the baby.

    But you can recycle crayons though it will cost you: