Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Finding Relevance in Silliness

A certain small person I know, like many other persons both large and small (myself included), very much enjoys blowing the paper wrappers off of straws. Unfortunately, the drinking straw manufacturers may have decided that this activity is potentially hazardous and are intent on discouraging such behavior. The perforations often found at the ends of the wrappers seem designed specifically to make this activity impossible.

My ploy is generally to see first if another person at the table will be successful in blowing off the wrapper. If they are not, I usually decide it is not worth the effort to try myself. On a recent foray into the land of fast food, the scene played out just has it had many times before... only this time with a bit of a twist.

Soon after the small person discovered the paper wrapper on his drinking straw was going nowhere, we all settled down to eat. Ever watchful of his surroundings (I'm going to have to learn to be this much more observant myself), small person calls out - "Hey, I saw someone shoot a wrapper!"

I've learned not to question the observations of this small person. He's nearly always right. In this case, I have no idea if he was correct or not; it turns out to be completely irrelevant.

Hearing, though, that someone else was successful where we had not been, caused my mind to race. If there was a way to make it work, what would it be? Then it hit me.

"I bet I can shoot a wrapper at you," I challenged. "But if I do it, you have to promise to let me tell you what's more important than how I did it."

It took me two tries, but ultimately I made it work. Even with a perforated wrapper, I was able to blow it off the straw, just like the old days.

The secret, I explained, was in first believing it was possible. Holding that bias meant that I did not give up until I had discovered the solution. My mistake in the past had always been that because I had seen other attempts fail, I had made the erroneous assumption that what I wanted was not possible.

What perhaps surprised me the most was how quickly I discovered a solution once I was certain one had to exist.

For anyone curious about how it was done, it turns out that sliding the wrapper partway off so that you have room to make a gentle twist or two that cuts off airflow through the perforations is one way that works pretty well. There may be others.

Do you have proof that drinking straw manufacturers are trying to eliminate good clean silly fun or do you have other counter-seriousness measures you care to share? Send them to me at so we can encourage more humor in life.

What if the challenge in front of you is not as impossible as it may seem?