Columns

2012.05.02 Leftover news escapes from column pergutory

on . Posted in Nowhere Road

By RICH FOLEY

Did you celebrate Earth Day last week? I hadn’t planned any special observation at first, but after discovering an old file of potential column ideas that never made it to print, recycling some of them seemed like the right thing to do. It also saved me from thinking up something new.

The first item, from the New York Times, concerned the growing trend among fancy restaurants not to allow substitutions, provide normally expected options and other odd policies.

For example, one restaurant in San Francisco refused to furnish salt or pepper because “the chef always seasons each dish perfectly.” Another, in New York City, banned more than one order of any particular item at each table. Maybe the chef liked preparing a variety of food. If you and a friend liked the same thing, I guess you had to sit at separate tables.

Other restaurants banned some or all condiments, particularly ketchup and mayo. One serves cheeseburgers with Roquefort cheese only. They’ll leave it off if you want, but substituting a different cheese is not allowed.

Another New York restaurant offers regular but not decaffeinated coffee, whole but not skim milk, and regular but not diet soft drinks, citing a lack of space to supply so many options. The owner offered this advice: “If you’re really on a diet, drink water.” I’m betting he only offers tap water.

If you want to buy a new car with a cassette player, you’re too late. The 2010 Lexus SC 430 was the last one available with a factory installed tape deck.

The only surprise to me was that Lexus was the final holdout. How many people who can afford a Lexus are still using cassettes?

Also out of luck is anyone with an undeveloped roll or two of Kodachrome film. The last place in the world capable of processing it, a small business in Parsons, Kansas, shut down their machine at the end of 2010, intending to sell it for scrap.

Dwayne’s Photo had a rush of business at the end, including an Arkansas railroad worker who brought in 1,580 rolls of film, paying nearly $16,000 to develop nearly 50,000 slides. Every single slide contained an image of a railroad train. The man borrowed money from his father’s retirement account to pay the bill.

A woman flew from London, England to Wichita, then drove to Parsons to have three rolls developed. Wouldn’t it have been a lot cheaper just to FedEx the film to Kansas?

A Los Angeles pathologist complained that he still had 400 unused rolls and not enough time to use it. The store had dozens of requests from both professional and amateur photographers that their roll be the final one processed, but that honor eventually went to store owner Dwayne Steinle. 

His roll contained shots of his home, his family and downtown Parsons. The last frame was to be a picture of all his employees standing in front of the store.

And finally, some frightening news for those of you who have decided to help save the Earth by using those cloth shopping bags offered for sale by so many supermarkets these days, instead of the free plastic ones used for years. According to some researchers, the cloth bags could put your health at risk.

One study at the University of Arizona  found coliform bacteria including E. coli  in half of the bags tested, “at a level significant enough to cause serious health problems, even death.” It gets worse. It was discovered that leaving the bags in a hot car trunk or on the back seat in the sun for as little as two hours increased bacteria growth by ten times.

A Canadian study found bacterial contamination in 64 percent of bags tested, with 40 percent testing positive for yeast or mold. One researcher added, “The presence of fecal matter in some of the reusable bags is particularly concerning.” Causing much of this trouble is cross contamination that occurs when raw meat products that may leak are carried in a bag in a prior shopping trip or at the same time as fruits and vegetables that are eaten uncooked. 

The problem could be easily solved by washing the bag after each use, but after you factor in the water and energy needed plus the cost of soap and environmental impact of laundering a load of contaminated bags each time you shop, those dreaded plastic bags start looking better in comparison.

That’s all the room I have for now. At least I can say I celebrated Earth Day by recycling four unused ideas into a column. How do you like that, Al Gore?

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