Saturday, July 31, 2010

As Open Letter to Maxwell House Coffee

Dear Max:

I appreciate your efforts to provide the freshest possible coffee in the most number of flavors and strengths that you can.  Snobs may turn up their noses at you in favor of Sumatra beans they roast themselves, but I am not a snob and I take great pleasure in the two cups a day I drink of your coffee (or whatever brand is on sale).

I was especially delighted when, shopping at CVS this morning for hair dye and other accoutrements that are the bare minimum of catching a man, I discovered a two-for-the-price-of-one on you 11-ounce can.  I snatched them up, was bossed shamelessly around  by the new self-service check out CVS has installed (I only needed a human clerk to bail me out once), and came home to empty both cans into the big Chockful-o'-Nuts can that was running dangerously low.

Thankfully, that CoN can was so big that, for once, I could knock out all the coffee that usually get sticks under the protruding rim of the opening that, by the end of the year, wastes at least one cup of joe and earns Kraft some million extra dollars.

[Mental note: Keep the CoN can when I run out of coffee the next time.]

Upon finishing this task, however, I was faced with an unsolvable dilemma.

I had already placed the tin "vacuum tops" and the plastic lids in the recycling bag for metal, glass and plastic, but I was stuck with two containers, the sides and bottom of which are made of cardboard.  However, your heavy waxed cardboard is reinforced by a steel band at the top (with the wasteful lip) and the bottom.

Do these containers belong in the metal/plastic/glass recycling or in the paper recycling?  If I go by mass, I believe the heavier steel would dictate that the containers follow their lids, but if I approach the problem by area, then clearly they belong with the toilet paper rolls and Steuben Glass catalogues -- or the oatmeal container I had also just emptied into its bigger parent box.

Having, by serendipity, stored both coffee and oats in one five-minute period, I am led to wonder if you have taken a look at Pepsi's traditional packaging of Quaker Oats?  They, too, come in a cylindrical cardboard box, although less enforced against the flavor-sucking humidity of CVS's air conditioned shelves.  However, instead of having steel reinforcing rims that rob the consumer of one bowl of porridge a year, Quaker and other generic store brands trust that their oats will not fly apart in the hands of the consumer or stick together in the way they might if we, the consumers, lived in, say, Saigon.

As Kermit-the-Frog said so eloquently, "It ain't easy being green," but, by following the Pepsi Company's lead, it could be less time-consuming.  The lid and the sealed top go into the glass/plastic/metal recycling and the container into the paper recycling.  No thought is required.

I know that asking you to change your packaging concept is probably futile, but could you at least provide wording on your containers regarding which recycling bin they belong in?  I've got the wasted grounds covered but have now lost twenty minutes of valuable farming time (the cherries are ripe on Farm Town!) to pondering this question.

Yours sincerely,

Frances Kuffel

Friday, July 30, 2010

In Which I Become Professor Kuffel

I had an incomplete fantasy that I would never have to work for The Man again. 

We all have to work for The Man.  The only question is whether we can keep The Man at arm's length.

I could see my last advance money dwindling.  Angry Fat Girls -- soon to be retitled Eating Ice Cream with My Dog and Other Adventures in Fatland: A True Story of Food, Friendship and Losing Weight...Again -- bombed so badly that we're hoping for a miracle with the paperback.  As much as I try to look at the bright side (I'll have a Marley and Me look-alike: maybe it will be a sell-alike too!), my next advance is more than an 85% reduction.  I have plans that require money.  Paying off my debt.  Figuring out the third act of my life.  Yogurt.

So I got me an adjunct job teaching freshman composition to business students.  They are a fascinating lot.  The international students have some problems with English and the homegrown students have more problems with English.  We have nothing in common, coming as we do from all four corners of the globe, so I'm giving them a lesson in American history as seen through the lens of New York in the years between 1890 - 1910.  Their faces are mostly glazed over like Dunkin' Donuts but I rattle on, asking questions like, "Was the United States, a hundred years ago, an imperialist country?" (We'd just fought the Spanish American War and taken possession of The Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico and the American Virgin Islands.)  Or, "Is capitalism still the driving force of the U.S. economy?"  Or, "What has the long-lasting effect of the Ladies' Garment Workers' Union been?"

A molecule at a time I pull an answer out of them.  I tell them they can never use the word "just" in an essay they turn in to me again.  I snap when someone has not stopped texting after I've already asked him/her to stop three minutes earlier.  I have them doing daily presentations on their favorite aspect of popular culture and now know more about Korean boy bands and the Panamanian equivalent of Elvis Costello than I ever thought I'd need to know.  For 105 minutes, less 15 for presentations, I jabber on about commas, run-on sentences and the semiotics of Dreamland.  I'm terrified of that moment of silence when I run out of things to do and say so I over-prepare, which puts us behind schedule and exhausts me before I've set foot in the class each Tuesday morning.

I love it and I hate it.

But it could, of my department head's observation yesterday pans out, put me in a position to apply for Real Jobs.  You know, with, like, medical insurance and retirement and sabbaticals and a little house and yard for Daisy in Blow Hole, Oklahoma.

All of which is to say that I don't know what the hell I'm doing except that this weekend I'm doing only what has to be accomplished to get my kids thinking enough to begin working on a persuasive essay.  I have a date tonight with a Croatian named Bob and -- why did I PROPOSE this? -- a bowling date (I sprained my elbow when a friend, who was drunk, stumbled and I tried to break his fall) tomorrow night with a man twenty years my junior which makes me, my students inform me, a "cougar".  I will not color my hair for tonight because I'm tired and don't feel like it.  He'll be lucky if I take a shower.  Dates are not my life.  Words are, and they are precious because they're being spent on 420 minutes of standing at the head of classrooms each week.  I mostly don't want to talk because I'm weary with talking.  And I want to write but wonder if I have enough words.

So I thought I'd experiment here.

Now I'm going to go check my rye crop over on Farmville.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Trending in Francieland

Since when does any sane person eat ALL the dressing that comes with their salads?  How many calories should a dieter's menu be?  Is the "health" community desperate for fodder?