By Mordechai Schmutter


I can’t believe we’re living in a country where everything’s going to be legal soon except straws.

I’m referring, of course, to the ongoing Straw Ban, in which the government, along with some environmental agencies, is trying to get rid of plastic drinking straws.

I guess mankind can get by without straws. For thousands of years, we didn’t have any straws — besides, you know, actual straw. They slept on it, fed it to their animals, and they stuck it in drinks and tried to drink through it. This is why their lifespans were shorter. They also wanted to make sukkahs out of it, but the Mishnah said no.

But there are parts of everyday life that didn’t exist in ancient times that we now need straws for, such as Slurpees. How are you supposed to drink Slurpees without a straw? Do you just pick it up and tilt it and have all the slush say, “Hold… hold… hold… now!” and then come forward at once and hit you in the face?

Another part of our life that straws improve that didn’t come up in ancient times is the ability to enjoy beverages while driving, because drinking straight out of a cup would block our view of the road. How are you supposed to drink if you can’t see the road? We’re going to have to have all these rules about drinking and driving.

And what about juice boxes? How are your kids going to get two whole ounces of juice all over themselves? And what are you going to use to blow into your drink if you want to make science lab noises? What’s your kid supposed to use if he or she wants to drink in class through a little hole in the desk? And what is the government going to take away next? Paper towels?

Admittedly, we won’t need as many if they take away juice boxes.

Also, some people like drinking their drinks from the bottom. Because normally when you’re drinking, it’s from the top. It’s very hard to drink from the bottom. Though it is possible. My whole class used to do it in third grade, and I don’t see any reason why we can’t all do it. You take a plastic cup — which is still legal, apparently — and you bite a hole in the bottom corner, and you drink like a hamster. It was a huge fad in my class back then — we did it every day at lunch. The only real issue is that you can’t take your mouth off the cup until the drink is empty, and also that you have to awkwardly bite the hole while the drink is already in it, because one time I did it beforehand and I wet my rebbe’s pants. The rebbe was sitting at his desk, pouring everyone juice, and when it was my turn, I held out my cup, and he started pouring, and all of a sudden he stopped, looked down, and yelled, “What are you doing?” And I, as a timid little kid, wanted to apologize, except that I had to grab the cup and stick it in my mouth until I finished the whole drink. I looked extremely inconsiderate.


I think that was the last day we were allowed to do that.

Also, we’d have to get rid of plastic stirrers, right? How are you gonna stir your coffee? With a spoon, like an idiot? I honestly don’t know how people used to stir their coffee before coffee stirrers. I think they were putting the cover on and shaking it.

It does feel a little weird, though, that everyone’s so fixated on straws. I guess they’re pretty easy to give up, and why not start small, right?

The truth is that our country alone uses millions of straws every day, though most of that number is probably coffee stirrers taken by kids at your shul. And no one recycles straws. People toss them on the ground, and nobody who’s trying to clean up the planet is going to pick up someone else’s straw, because yuck. And many of them end up abandoned in the ocean.

Wait. How are all these straws ending up in the ocean? Are people trying to drink from the ocean? I think we need to fix the education system so people know to stop doing that.

Experts estimate that there’s plastic in the digestive system of 30% of all sea life and 70% of sea birds. And probably 80% of kids. (Boys raise the average.) Point is, it’s not so bad for one person to have a straw, but if you have a straw, everyone else is going to want a straw, because that’s how straws work.

Personally, though, I think the ban was started by somebody who was trying to figure out how to cut down, and he had a kid who was making loud slurping noises or blowing massive chocolate-milk bubbles all over the table, and finally the guy was like, “You know what? I’m going to get rid of all the straws!” Or his kids were a little older, and they were doing that thing where you attach 50 straws together across the house so you can drink straight out of the fridge without getting up, and he said, “That’s it! No more straws! Also, you’re getting a summer job.”

And it probably wasn’t hard to get the major restaurant chains to go along with it, because no one charges for straws. Except whoever sells it to the restaurants. So no restaurant is really going to be against this, because it’s saving their bottom line.

And now some city governments are getting in on the action. Seattle went first. I’m not sure why Seattle specifically, of all cities. Maybe they drew straws.

In fact, one city in California is proposing jail time for anyone who sells or distributes straws.

“What are you in for?”

“Murder. What are you in for?”

“Well, I own a restaurant, and the government said, ‘Stop giving out straws!’ And I was like, ‘I don’t think so!’”

At least this ban isn’t an infringement on our religion. I don’t think there’s any halachic scenario where we need straws. Even when you make Kiddush for your whole family, you drink from the cup, and then you pour for everybody. You don’t just put a handful of straws in the cup and have everyone drink at once while trying to avoid eye contact.

Guest: “Um, I changed my mind. We’ll make our own Kiddush.”

Basically, more and more people are going to have to start resorting to Twizzlers. Sure, they’re disgusting to eat afterwards, especially if you’ve had orange juice, coffee, or instant soup. (“I think I have a noodle clog.”) But at least they’re biodegradable. What would we use on Pesach, though? We’d probably have to bore a hole through a marror root. Or rubber-band two celery sticks together.

I’m not sure why they have to ban straws entirely, though. Maybe they can go with an “ask-only” policy, where you get a straw only if you ask for it. This would limit straw consumption to only people who are not introverts. It happens to be that I only really use straws when I’m in a restaurant, because when you order a drink, they bring you a straw automatically. Why? Is this a classy way to drink? Does anyone drink champagne this way? I guess it does allow you to drink in public without getting an orange-soda mustache.

Also, it happens to be that some injured or disabled people need straws. But I guess there’s no reason they couldn’t start selling straws at pharmacies, where people could get straws if they have a prescription.

It’s really just disposable straws that are a problem anyway. We can still get reusable ones, and just wash them out, somehow. How do you even get in there? You need a tiny bottle brush. Or a pipe cleaner, I guess. (Which are also single-use, by the way.) Because why else do they sell pipe cleaners?

Maybe people still smoke pipes. If pipe-cleaner sales are to be believed, it’s mostly kindergarten teachers.

There are other options, such as compostable paper straws. Airlines are starting to stock those, in case the planes go down in the ocean.

There are also stainless-steel options, which have to be toiveled, and which, if you drop them while doing so, are not great for ocean life either. Go figure. This is so going to get the Jews in trouble.

Some companies are also considering straws made of raw pasta, which can get really weird after a few minutes in a hot drink.

Or how about bamboo? You might have some pieces in the garage.

Basically, people are going to have to start carrying around their own straws like they carry around pens. Wait! You can use pens! I even carry a red pen, because I’m a teacher, so I’d have a fleishig straw as well. It might explode, and I might have to throw out my pants, but that’s a small price to pay.

At the very least, this would get people to start carrying around pens again. But you wouldn’t want to borrow them.

Here’s what’s actually going to happen: People are going to buy up all the straws before the ban goes through. They’re going to have closets full of straws, and they’re going to try to hold on to them for the rest of their lives. And how? By washing and reusing them.

Which is exactly what we wanted them to do all along.

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of six books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to


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