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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

You know what you don’t see enough of anymore? Rubber bands. It’s possible you see more of them than I do. But typically the only place they show up is around asparagus. And sometimes around flower stems if you buy a bunch.

Something triggered this thought today and I can’t for the life of me figure out what it was, but suddenly I was thinking about rubber bands and wondering if I had any in a drawer somewhere with a few hoarded twistie ties.

I never did have much use for rubber bands. They tend to squish soft things like mail and they decapitate the asparagus if you’re not careful. I’d rather have my pencils in a holder from which I can pluck them (glass jars work splendidly), and I keep ribbon from unspooling with a little dab of tape.

I’ve never used them for any clever hacks, like keeping a wooden spoon from slipping into a pot, which I suspect doesn’t work anyway and is just one of those things the internet tells you like it’s encyclopedic fact.

What I really want to know is why rubber bands popped into my head. I think it had something to do with something on TV but I can’t remember what I was watching, either. The whole idea of rubber bands sort of blotted it out.

At any rate, there is only one thing I ever think of in relationship to rubber bands, and that’s the rubber band balls we used to make as kids with my grandfather.

Did you know that the world record for largest rubber band ball was set in 2008? That’s a long time for a record to go unbroken. It weighs 9,032 pounds and used 700,000 rubber bands. It’s made from these huge industrial size rubber bands that look more like bungee cords.

Why do rubber bands of that size exist and what do people do with them?

The rubber band balls we used to make were nothing record-setting. We mostly stopped when they were a good size to bounce, then did it again.

Back in the day rubber bands were more popular for holding mail and newspapers. Or maybe mail and newspapers were more popular and they just happened to come with rubber bands.

Either way, my grandfather collected rubber bands for us and taught us to connect them and grow our balls as big as we wanted them. Lucky for him we were satisfied with baseball size.

They say you can use a rubber band ball as an eraser. You can also use it to wake your father up when he is falling asleep in front of the TV with his head propped on the remote control.

Rubber bands are technically made from rubber, which comes from actual trees that are tapped for their sap, much like trees are tapped for syrup.

Of course there are synthetic rubber bands these days but the internet tells me that both are biodegradable, which is a good thing because quite frankly I’m tired of having my childhood memories ruined by someone telling me how awful it was. Riding a bike without a helmet comes to mind.

Anyway, sometimes these random things pop into my head and this was today’s. And yes, I know it’s technically two words but it rolls off the tongue like one.


Seriously, try to say it like two words. You can’t. And if you’re a New Yorker you don’t even need that superfluous r in the middle

Photo: see, I told you they came with the asparagus.