Monday, July 24, 2006

Straws are weird, but crazy straws are fun!

I was sitting with PDM in a diner on Saturday morning drinking orange juice with a straw, when suddenly this occurred to me: drinking with a straw is kind of weird. Why are we are sucking up liquid through a plastic tube, rather than just drinking it out of the glass? When did this get started? And why? (And no, I was not high or anything... my brain just works in strange ways at times.) When is it considered OK to drink with a straw? When is it not polite? If you go to a fancy restaurant and order a coke, they will most definitely NOT give you a straw. But if you go to a diner or fast food restaurant, you will always get one. Hmmm.

Now it is Sunday and because I'd rather do anything besides study for the ABR Exam, I decided to look into the whole "drinking from a straw" thing. I figured it was a fairly recent invention, but it turns out that straws have been used for a long time, and the whole thing got started because some Sumerians wanted a way to drink beer without consuming the solid by-products of fermentation. (And you thought cheap American beers were skanky? Sounds like the Sumerians had us beat. Beer with floating sludge. Yummy... not.)

People used rye grass as a straw until the modern drinking straw was invented in 1888 by Marvin Stone. The first "modern" straws were made of paper that had been wrapped around a pencil and glued. Once Stone figured out how to make a decent paper straw, he invented a machine to mechanically wind the straws. Electrical engineers found out about the machine about twenty years later and started using spiral wound tubes in all kinds of useful things, like motors and electronics and textiles. Hooray for the geeky engineers! But anyway... Later on, straws would be made out of plastic rather than paper.

I still remember drinking out of paper straws. (Yes, I am that old.) But the best kind of drinking straws are "crazy straws". I'm not sure when they came on the scene, but I had them as a kid and loved 'em. I'm sure they were a pain in the butt to keep clean, and probably kind of expensive, but kids don't care about that stuff. Straws were just fun, period. Even if a kid can't get hold of a crazy straw, they can make a projectile out of the paper cover on a regular straw (or make an expanding snake thingy), blow bubbles in their drink, and then make obnoxious slurping noises when they finish. Straws are definitely more fun for kids than for adults, unless they are being used to drink beer, and when was the last time you saw *that* happen? That's right - sometime in ancient Sumeria. Nowadays, you'd get your ass kicked for drinking beer with a straw.


trinamick said...

I know people who drink coffee with a straw to keep it from staining their teeth.

I quit drinking beer with a straw when they invented the funnel.

Terri said...

Elizabeth Taylor supposdly always drank everything through a straw so as not to ruin her lipstick.