Little did we know, Rosemary and I, during that last summer in the ’50s together at the Velvet Freeze ice cream and sandwich shop, what the future held for us and our great country.

We sat there as we always did, in late afternoon light, sharing a large cherry vanilla phosphate.

I was about to leave the neighborhood to live with a brother in Waukegan, Illinois, she to enter the convent. OK, I just needed a laugh this morning. Poor Rosemary. It was Mary O’Hara who went into the convent. Rosemary was moving to Memphis to work as a cashier in a Katz Drugstore.

But on this day, as a tribute to good old times, we shared our last cherry vanilla phosphate, and, as always, with two straws — not because I was cheap, but because Rosemary thought that sharing one soda with two straws was romantic. She was right. It brought us closer together, so close her Evening Shadow mascara left marks on my nose.

I will never forget that striped paper straw slipping between those Tangee-tinted lips, heightened by the seductive sound of the last drops of vanilla phosphate being sucked up.

Most of you are too young to remember when such an act was all the rage, when young kids sat at the soda counter and shared a shake or ice cream soda with two straws.


Two straws. Who knew that a day would come when enjoying the extravagance of adding a straw would be considered an ecological mortal sin?

This was a time when straws were still made of paper, and millions of lipstick-stained straws simply vanished.

So why, all of a sudden, is this anti-plastic straw movement gaining popularity in America? Blame the turtle. Read on.

It seems that our ocean creatures are choking on our discarded debris, such as license plates, tire hubs, old Crocs and plastic straws. Yes, straws.

That green straw you just tossed into the trash? It turns out that it’s a weapon of mass oceanic destruction. Who knew?

It all started with a video of a sea turtle with a 4-inch plastic straw jammed up his nose. (I’ve decided to call him “Tommy.”) It was stuck in his nasal cavity and down his throat. Tommy couldn’t breathe properly, couldn’t smell the location of food he required. It’s a horror story on film.


How long, I wonder, was Tommy swimming around in the ocean with that plastic straw jammed up his nose?

Environmentalists Heidi Siegmund Cuda and Elizabeth Glazner of the Plastic Pollution Coalition, who discovered Tommy off the shores of Costa Rica, are adamant. “We are grown-ups; we can drink out of a glass without a straw.”

Perhaps. When I was growing up, my buddies, and certainly my brothers, would never pop a straw into a bottle of Dr. Pepper. It was considered “girly” to do that.

The only time I ever used a straw in a bottle of soda was when Rosemary had a cold sore.

Even today, many “manly” men eschew straws. I made a short survey. A waitress told me that when men order a soda or iced tea, they toss the straw aside.

However, one day I talked to a huge, burly guy with a woodsman beard outside of Starbucks. He told me, “My girlfriend won’t let me drink my favorite salted caramel mocha with whip on top without a straw. It gets my beard all sticky.”


Don’t you have to ask yourself, are huge, burly guys who work in the woods really into salted caramel mocha with whip? Really? These are generally the kind of folks you see whooping and hollering “lock her up” at Trump rallies, the kind of guys who you imagine breaking off the top of a bottle before drinking. But caramel mocha?

Nonetheless, environmental issues, especially involving our polluted waters, are filling the front pages, and Tommy Turtle with the straw in his nose is becoming the poster boy for the group.

How long, I wonder, will it be before he’s on T-shirts, and even showing up in tattoos on women’s bodies?

Soon, I predict, there will be nationwide marches in every city. Millions of young American women will drag their boyfriends into the streets, circle the White House and confront POTUS as he steps from his helicopter, jabbing at him with their fists full of colored, plastic straws.

Before you dismiss all of this as “tree hugging” humbug, consider this. Was that straw in Tommy’s nose yours?

J.P Devine is a Waterville writer.

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