Yes, you read that right – a titanium straw. “That’s a bit ridiculous”, you might think at first (I admit that I did), but think again. It’s not so silly. In fact it’s not silly at all. Like carrier bags, plastic straws are a blight on the planet and should be banned immediately. Endlessly produced from non-biodegradable materials and given away free to people who have no intention of using them, they end up clogging our waterways, poisoning our sea life and generally being a complete waste of time.
The Titanium Straw in its natural environment
They remind me of some clothes pegs I bought once. Cheap wooden ones, the spring was so pathetic they would literally fall into three pieces the first time you exerted pressure on them. I mean, who makes this crap? Who spends their life making a product that is incapable of even fulfilling its basic function without breaking? How can they live with themselves? Why don’t they just end their pointless existence.
Okay, so straws do have a use and won’t break at the first attempt (I hope) but they should still be eradicated along with plastic cutlery and many, many other things. It pains me to see barmen, mixologists even, using a straw each time they need to test the taste or strength of their creation. They reuse jiggers don’t they? They don’t throw away every shaker, muddler and shot glass after a single use, so why the straw? They are the perfect end user for Snow Peak’s titanium tube. The rest of us can just, like, sip from the glass like the evolved lifeforms that most of us are. It doesn’t even have to be titanium. It could be steel, or silicone or bamboo.
You might wonder why I have embarked on this rant; why I have opened a can of worms that is so obviously guaranteed to get me riled up. Well sometimes an unwanted straw can result in the wastage of more than just that one piece of plastic, and in the birth of a global movement.
Yes, here comes another little piece of the non-warmdüscher creation story. Following on from last week’s adventure with Mucki, the Austrian scientist who took me tubing down a remote Guatemalan river at night, we go back in time roughly six weeks to Granada, Nicaragua.
I was travelling with a Swedish metal-head called Josef when we checked into Grenada’s cheapest hospedaje where we were shown into an enormous and almost uninhabited dormitory. It didn’t take us long to hook up with two Austrian dudes, Mucki and Rudi, in a quest for cheap rum and the fact that the four of us were happy to spend a whole afternoon pricing alcohol rather than enjoying the minimal sights of Grenada was a bonding factor; we were clearly of the same ilk.
Along the way we picked up an Israeli and another English Dan and the evening turned out to be a belter in the way that only a bunch of newly-met young travellers interacting with bottles of local moonshine can produce. I won’t go into details but, entirely the worse for wear, I staggered back into the empty dorm room in the middle of the night. Turning right on entry, I navigated to my bunk by remote control, like a salmon swimming upriver to spawn. I knew exactly where it was but when I got there – Lo and Behold! – some bugger was sleeping in it. Annoyed, I shook Goldilocks awake to explain my predicament but he just mumbled “This is where they told me to sleep, mate,” and went back to it. Confused and unable to come up with any sort of backup plan, I went to sleep on the floor, surrounded by about 30 empty beds. Only in the morning did I realise I’d entered the room by the opposite door and had turned automatically in the wrong direction, away from my assigned bed. Damn you, symmetrical bunkhouse!
The comfiest bed in the dorm (after two bottles of rum, anyway).
I digress. The next day the six of us went out to Lago Nicaragua to recover, and this is where it happened. There were some other tourists there, not cheapskate backpacking scum like us but proper American tourists, one of whom bought a bottle of Fanta into which the vendor inserted a straw, as they do. The tourist walked away, staring at the straw in disgust before pulling it out and slowly pouring the entire bottle of pop onto the ground in front of us. “Dirty straw,” he told us, nonchalantly. As $10 a day travellers we would rarely cough up cash for a cold fizzy drink, it was like manna, and to see one wasted because of a slightly dusty straw was painful.
Mucki christened him the warmdüscher, the German nickname for people who are too prissy to take a cold shower and would rather spend good money on hot water. The word quickly became a catch-all term for someone who would spend any money beyond the absolute minimum necessary to survive. We became the non-warmdüschers and we would compete with each other to see who could spend the least every day.
Our competitiveness culminated one night after a long walk in the rain looking for a hostel because none of us would suggest getting a taxi, the antithesis of our newly-christened ethos. We finally reached a restaurant, cold and wet and hungry. The place was not cheap and we eyed our menus warily, each of us afraid to suggest any dish beyond the very cheapest vegetable broth with bread. No-one spoke; the silence became unbearable. Finally, other Dan broke the silence with an embarrassed cough. “Sorry guys,” he said, “I’m going to order the bolognaise.” The rest of us looked at each other for a second, aware that it was ridiculous for him to be apologising for ordering what he wanted. “No, no,” I said quickly, “You go for it. Not a problem, don’t be silly.” He looked relieved, a weight off his shoulders. I waited another second before lowering my eyes. “Warmdüscher,” I whispered, just loud enough for the whole table to hear. Cue epic laughter. We ended up all ordering the bolognaise.
The original non-warmdüschers: (back) Dan, Rudi, Josef, Dan2, (front) Mucki, Marius.