Who's asking: John McFetridge, Toronto, ON
John's complete question: "Often, when I take my kids to restuarants (especially chain family places), the server will give us a few brand new crayons in a plastic bag or little cardboard box. We really appreciate this and my kids use the crayons -- usually just a little and we leave them behind. But everytime we get brand new crayons. So, what do these restaurants do with the partly used crayons?"
This is one of those things it never occurred to me to wonder about -- but once it did, the question troubled me a great deal. Growing up in a household of five kids within a four-year range (the sixth came later), I learned to take crayons seriously, and can still tell you the coloring habits of each of my siblings in detail.
Kids today are spoiled in the crayon area. For one thing, Crayola now makes a box of 96 crayons, which Claire has already heard me whine about -- 96! Who needs 96 crayons? Sixty-four were enough for my generation, dammit. (I have it on good authority, however, that the in-box sharpener still doesn't work very well.) The crayons also come in all kinds of metallic, fluorescent and pastel colors that were not available during my childhood, and you can even custom-order boxes with multiple crayons of one color or another. (This would have saved my family a lot of fighting over the black crayon. Then again, we would not have learned those valuable negotiating, bullying, and hair-pulling skills.)
But Crayola also makes something really cool, which gets back to the answer to this question: a crayon maker that allows kids to recycle used crayons into new ones, and combine colors into new shades. (People who might buy me birthday or Christmas presents, take note: I want one.)
Once I discovered this, I was hoping to find that some employee of Friendly's or Denny's or Ricetta's had the happy assignment of recycling used crayons, cranking new ones out of the Crayon Maker in some back room off the kitchen.
But no. Last night at Ricetta's, where we celebrated Grace Lechner's birthday, I continued my informal poll on the fate of the giveaway crayons.
"If they're in good shape, we reuse them," the server said. "But usually we just throw them away. And of course, you're welcome to take them with you."
The green lifestyle, surely, should include recycling crayons... maybe some of those carbon credits can go toward installing Crayon Makers in every IHoP.
And before I forget: happy birthdays today to Maeve and Pam, and many happy returns. Spring is coming any day now.