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Kent Bernhardt: Stir straws and spare tires

Kent Bernhardt


I’m pretty sure modern civilization started to crumble the day stir straws replaced spoons. Well, it may not have been that exact day, but the birth of the stir straw wasn’t our finest hour.

I’m not sure how the fast food industry went from a totally useful item called the spoon to a completely useless item called the stir straw. I know, it’s kinder to the environment. But I think we can be kind to the environment in ways that don’t affect my coffee.

Yes, plastic spoons, forks, and knives create waste that can’t be recycled, and we should all do our part to minimize waste. But if I promise to wash my plastic spoons and reuse them, can I have them back?

Besides, it’s not really helping the environment when I have to ask for three stir straws to do the same job one spoon used to do. I could churn my coffee into butter before that stir straw would even begin to distribute the sugar throughout the cup.

I did some research on stir straws – well, it’s winter and I have more time on my hands – and I discovered one stir straw costs about a third of a penny to manufacture. I’m not sure what it costs to wrap them in that annoying plastic that never wants to open.

Since money makes the world go ‘round, I’m sure that was the main barometer the fast food industry used in making the decision to switch to these tiny plastic splinters.

I hope the boat manufacturing industry never decides to go this route. “Congratulations sir, here’s your brand new row boat. Now, you’ll need something to propel and steer it, so here’s a tongue depressor.”

Between you and me, I cheat. I keep some plastic spoons in my glove compartment and McDonalds can keep their stir straws.

And while I’m on the subject of the downfall of modern civilization, what happened to the spare tire that used to live in the back of my car? About a third of new cars today have ditched them, presumably to lessen vehicle weight and improve gas mileage.

In their place, you may find a compressor and sealant kit to temporarily “fix” a flat tire. I should warn you they have little effect on a tire that completely blew apart on the highway.

My father taught me to change a flat tire. It was sort of a rite of passage when I was growing up, something a dad was supposed to pass down to his children.

I passed my tire changing skills to my daughter as well, along with the secret language of muttered obscenities necessary to complete the task.

My father, his father, and probably his father before him knew and used this special tire changing dialect fluently. It is also quite useful in traffic jams.

But thanks to the miracles of modern technology and general laziness, the skill of changing a flat tire has become all but obsolete. It’s easier to whip out your phone, open an app, and wait for someone else to do it.

So here we are at the dawn of a new decade, sitting by the side of the road, waiting on a repair service to change our flat tire while we stir our cold coffee with a tiny twig.

Mankind has finally arrived.

Kent Bernhardt was born and raised in Rowan County, and in fact still  lives here.


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