The straw that broke

When I was young, drinking straws were sturdy enough that you could separate one from its paper wrapper with one firm stab at the McDonald's counter, the coffee shop condiments table, or your own forehead. It took no thought or strategy. The form factor of the straw and the wrapper had taken this use case into account, that amongst the straw's other features, it must be openable with one hand.

This is, sadly, no longer the case. And this is not one of those growing older things where the past is all rosy and the present is the time of shit. This is also not one of those pieces of nostalgia, such as the apparent size of Coke bottles and breasts, whose reality has more to do how our perceptions change as our relative size increases.

I have grown old in a time when the finger of the culture is pointed accusingly at our parents and their parents for their awful crimes of cliche and non-cynicism. We of my generation tiptoe through our mid-lives sifting and resifting our own emotions and observations, fearing to see hints of the same naiveté and bullshit that we have spent a lifetime condemning in our parents.

Instead of guarding against injustice or ignorance, I only fear triteness and hypocrisy, and this has honed my perceptions into a thin glass blade through which I see the world almost as clearly as I see my own histrionic pretentiousness.

So I promise you, I make this observation as a rational, cynical scientist of our age: straws now are bullshit, and we as a fast food nation deserve, if not redress, then at least acknowledgement from Big Straw that an order-of-magnitude change in the design and manufacturing of our favorite drink delivery conduit has been undertaken, secretly, out of the public's eye, probably behind big oaken doors and in a haze of cigar smoke and hubris.

This change was clearly made unfettered by any kind of first-hand testing or field research. Clearly the change was seen to have been unimpactful on the end result of straw usage, the actual drinking process, and so the cost-savings from replacing solid matter in straws with flimsy, waif-like nancy-boys of polymer sheets was seen as a complete win.

These straw people have begun to resemble their product: strictly about inputs and outputs, only concerned with final destinations, and completely divorced from the genuine human experience of preparing to suck on things.

But take heart. Lest you feel we have been completely abandoned to place our lips on rims like perverted animals, know that a resistance is forming. A small cadre of national companies have said, "No more!" to this momentum of careless crumpling of plastic tubes. I cannot reveal all of their names, but I can tell you that among our group is Starbucks, yes, that green Melvillian roaster from the American temperate rainforests. Bolstered by liquid bravery of their own making, they now provide to their patrons the Honest Straw, a malachite spine of rebellion that stands proud within the fist as it bursts its top-paper. Thank you, Starbucks, you are Liberty.

Because maybe you don't know this, Big Straw, but the straw is America. And you and your restaurant supply buddies are making decisions that make us weak, at a time when the hermetic straw-paper shield of oppression covers us and would keep us contained.

Break free, America. Break free and drink.

Our annual Halloween poem: "Picture a Corpse"

The forgotten life of Mark Twain Senior