Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, April 19, 2013

A fresh look at some dated subject matter

We all have our obsessions. You have yours, I have mine.

Most of them are harmless. They don’t hurt anybody or anything. They are just things we do in a routine way, or things we believe are necessary to live in a contented frame of mind.

I would tell you about a few of mine, but you probably wouldn’t believe them, or else think I am crazy for making them public and thus drawing attention to myself in a way that is not necessarily flattering.

Oh, all right. I will reveal one of my obsessions if you promise not to tell anybody.
While I am standing in the shower in the morning, I decide what kind of after shave fragrance I will apply to my face that day.

I give it a lot of thought. It is a lengthy debate.

I know you don’t think it’s important, but it’s important to me. So please understand that it’s an important decision that I make every morning as I am soaking wet — probably around the time I am rinsing the shampoo from my thickly matted hair.

Thickly matted hair runs in my family, even among the animals. Frankly, I think the dogs are beautiful with thickly matted hair. But no. Maggie had to go get a haircut on Monday, and it was Tricia’s turn for grooming on Wednesday.

That’s so they can see out from behind all that hair, I am told. Well, I never thought they had any problem seeing, especially seeing their dinner plates when it is time to eat.

So off they went to the barber shop last week, and now they will be practically naked until their beautiful coats of fur grow back.

But I digress.

Obsessions are everywhere, and no one is immune from them. And that applies to the lady of the house as well.

She has an obsession that I find amusing, but I never argue with her because there is no point in doing that, especially when I know in advance that I will lose.

So she gets her way, and I smile and say, “Well, OK, if you say so.”

Her obsession is this: She will never use any product, especially food, if it has an expiration date indicating it has, well, expired. That is to say, too old to use.

Even a can of beans that expired yesterday. To her, too old means too old.

I have tried to reason with her about these matters. I say things like, “Look, that doesn’t mean that an egg that expired yesterday will kill you today.”

“Oh yes it will,” she insists.

“Look,” I respond, “I read the obituaries every day, and I never read about someone who died from eating an egg that expired the day before.”

Have you ever hear the expression about words falling on deaf ears?

When I attempt to make my case, applying cold, clear logic, for using expired food because it is wasteful to throw it away, the ears that my words fall upon are deaf.

Period. Discussion over. Throw it out.

Some expiration dates are really hard to find. Have you ever tried to find an expiration date on a tube of toothpaste? You know, so you won’t kill yourself in case it expired the day before.

I really think some manufacturers try awfully hard to make their expiration dates hard to read. That is foolish on their part, because if you are inclined to throw out something that is only a week or two past its prime, you are more inclined to go out and buy a new batch of it, as, for example, in the case of cough syrup.

Nobody who has a cold buys a bottle of cough syrup, takes it home and uses up the whole bottle before it expires. It doesn’t make sense. Nobody coughs that much.

I will wager, if you look in your medicine cabinet, you will find a bottle of cough syrup that expired at least a year ago. Or maybe even five years ago.

If you are coughing in the middle of the night, get up and grope in the dark for the cough syrup, do you try to read the expiration date before you take a gulp? Of course you don’t. You pour some in a spoon, or in the measuring cap that comes on the bottle, drink it, smack your lips and you go back to sleep.

My brother was over the other day, and we were watching a ball game. I asked him if he wanted a beer. He said sure. I said there was some in the refrigerator in the basement. So he got one.

Later, the lady of the house asked me how long that beer had been there. I told her Dick Stone brought it over for the class reunion. It was left over. When was that, she asked. I think it was 2006, I replied.

Maybe beer doesn’t have expiration dates. But my brother is still OK, and that was seven years ago.

Now, you can tell when potato chips are stale by the way they taste. But beer? I guess it only gets stale when you open it and let it sit.

One product that never goes bad is Altoids. Someday I will explain, because I know what I’m talking about.


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