There are so many things to write about this week: Rittenhouse, the Conference of Catholic Bishops, Steve Bannon, the climate conference, inflation — I could go on.
So, naturally, I’m writing about how much fun you can have with plastic straws.
It all started with a celebration of an important milestone for the family of one of my daughters. I was there, along with my daughter, her husband and their five children, as well as the other grandparents, who are wonderful people.
We went to a nearby family-style diner, where the staff pushed some tables together in a side room for larger groups. We’d arrived between the morning and lunch rush, and the diner was almost empty.
There were 10 of us — five adults and five teenagers. We sat down, scanned the menus and placed our orders.
The waiter departed, the teenagers looked at each other for a moment and then, you guessed it, out came the cellphones.
Their heads dropped and their fingers flew. In less than a minute, they transformed themselves from actual children into what I’d call virtual teenagers, which means, like everything else in the virtual world, they appear to be real, but in a two-dimensional kind of way.
Away they tapped. Sure, it was quiet, and the grownups were chatting pleasantly, but the whole scene felt off. It wasn’t like what you and I might call — oh, I don’t know — life.
The other grandfather at the table noticed it as well. He’s the kind of older guy who looks pretty stern at first, until you spot the constant twinkle in his eye.
He quietly took two plastic straws out of their paper wrapping. Then, he pinched the bottom of one of the straws, so that he could insert it into the other.
I should mention these weren’t just straight straws. They were what you’d call flexi-straws. Bendable.
So now he had two straws stuck together, bendable in two places. He molded them into a sort of jaggedy lightning bolt shape. Then he put one end into his glass, the other into his mouth and slurped with just enough volume to be noticed.
The eyes of the five teenagers instantly came up. You’d have thought Zac Efron had just walked into the room. Though not a word was spoken, I could read their inner conversations as easily as you’re reading this column.
Look what Grandpa did!
He’s old. Is he even allowed to do that?
Who cares? That’s what I want to do. Right now!
The phones were instantly dropped, instantly forgotten. The pile of straws in the middle of the table vanished. Paper wrappers flew. More straws were procured. And the kids were off to the races.
The goal was to see how many straws you could string together, followed quickly by seeing who could come up with the craziest shape.
But that was nothing compared to discovering who had sufficient sucking power to pull water through three or four straws into your mouth without leaking. Game on.
But they were still just warming up. The next test was to hold your extended straw in your mouth and without hands guide your straw into the glass of the person sitting next to you. All of which, I have to admit, was pretty hilarious to watch.
Then Mom got into fun. As two kids guided their straws into her water glass, she dropped her hand over the top and said, “OK, now blow!”
And blow they did. No witch’s cauldron ever bubbled with more intensity.
I raised my own water glass to my grandfatherly counterpart and said, “You, sir, are an insurrectionist. Well done.”
In time, the food arrived and, thanks to the teenagers, promptly vanished. There were no more straw games, but there were also no more cellphones. A major victory.
I think that sometimes we let our kids bamboozle us, and even themselves, about the mega-importance of their cellphones and other electronic what-not. Sure, the tech is important, but it’s no match for sticking three straws together and blowing bubbles into glasses of water.
With all the lousy things going on in the world, I just thought this might be worth mentioning.
Chris Huston is an author and award-winning columnist living in southern Idaho. Connect with Chris on both Facebook and Instagram at Chris Huston-Finding My Way and at chrishustonauthor.com.