I think I must have been born a skeptic. I’m one of those people who doesn’t believe in anything being “FREE” and who always reads the fine print before signing on the dotted line or putting my signature next to the designated ‘X’.
I’m one of the few who reads clothing labels to follow laundering instructions, follows recipes by the letter (none of that “a pinch of this” or “approximately that,” for me!) and abides by game rules like they were written in stone—which confuses my daughter-in-law, whose family makes up rules as they play.
Those who know me are, therefore, surprised to find out that I refuse to abide by “BEST IF USED BY _________” or “EXPIRATION DATE __________” on grocery items. I’m smart enough to figure out on my own when it is time to throw something away. If an item in my refrigerator has mold growing on it, is sticky or slimy, stinks to high heaven, or begins to walk away on its own, I have an inborn sense that it needs to be discarded. If a can of beans has been setting on a cupboard shelf and was a wedding gift, I know it’s time to toss it (we just celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary). If I see little curled dried-up bugs in a box of pasta, I choose to toss it (as opposed to finding the tiny rascals floating on top of the boiling water during the cooking process.) And, if the corner of a cereal box has been chewed off (and it doesn’t match the teeth-prints of my 3-yr.-old grandson) I throw it away.
I found a can of tuna, rusty and puffed out, on a basement shelf of a departed loved one recently and I threw it in the garbage pan without a flinch. Same thing went for her powdered laundry detergent harder than a brick, and clothing with broken zippers or holes as big as Texas. I do all of this because it is the sensible thing to do. (I would also throw away the 50-yr. old threadbare sheet my husband likes to wrap up in like a cocoon to go to sleep, but this might make our 44th wedding anniversary doubtful!)
I visited my newly married son not long ago and his lovely bride asked my advice on whether she should rush off to the Emergency Room because she had unknowingly consumed something with a “close” expiration date.
“How close, honey?” thinking that if it was a year or more ago, I should at least examine the container to check for suspicious activity.
“It expired two days ago,” she whispered, looking as guilty as a confessional confider.
I mourn throwing away coupons that have passed the date of fulfillment, and wish I had a dollar for every item I have pulled off the grocery store conveyor belt when I realized the coupon for it was invalid—this occurring with an impatient check-out cashier in front of me, and a group of glaring patrons in line behind me.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” I’ve wanted to shout, “fine print is getting smaller and my aging eyes are growing dimmer,” but I refrain myself and try not to hang my head like a condemned criminal as I humbly exit the store.
Receiving mail-order catalogs with “LAST CHANCE TO ORDER!” or “THIS IS YOUR FINAL NOTICE!” stamped on their fronts is another pet peeve, because it is evident it is NOT the “last chance” or “final notice,” since I continue to get multiple issues after that!
I know, I know. In this day and age, manufacturers and every other merchant have to protect themselves from being sued by consumers (and sometimes, from responsibility) for unsafe products, and the good ‘ol FDA has stringent guidelines they have to pass. Not to mention our country’s present health care debacle, which wouldn’t surprise me to end up requiring expiration dates indelibly stamped on our forearms . . .
I have a problem with bureaucratic, governmental (or, otherwise) rules ordering me when (or, how) to get rid of something. Just don’t get me started on the danger and disposal of thermometers, fluorescent light bulbs or old furnace duct-work coated in asbestos or the end of the world due to global warming . . .
In pondering over these things, I have determined that there is only ONE thing that will never expire, and that is God’s love for each and every one of us.
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