Trina Machacek: Buying unlikables

Sometimes there are things that you just can’t fix. No matter how much sugar or salt you add to a bad selection of a frozen dinner or a brand of coffee creamer it just will not sit in your mouth happily.

That happened to me just this past week. It was coffee creamer. Now I have to admit I am not a “real” coffee drinker. I make this concoction of vanilla caramel instant stuff and add some vanilla caramel creamer and hot water and then my lips. So when the store was out of my desired creamer I grabbed something that was vanilla-ish and caramel-ish and as an added bonus it said latte. Well la-de-dah I thought. Maybe a step up right? Not!

Not that I have a pallet that can discern exactly what a latte is, I just thought since it was on the same shelf as the one I bought it had to be close. Again. Not. So here’s the dilemma. Do I finish the entire container or do I cut my losses and, well as terribly wasteful as this sounds to me, do I just pitch it and go back to get what I really wanted in the first place?

This doesn’t happen with just food items. It could just as easily been a type of fertilizer for the lawn. Maybe a roll of duct tape that was cheaper but looked the same as the more expensive stuff.

Then you realize the off brand cheaper fertilizer is clumpy and you wish you would have just waited until the store had just what you wanted. And the duct tape will not keep all your ducks in a row as good as the sticky stuff you usually buy. Do you use the whole roll and grumble at it each time it doesn’t come off the roll easily or the fertilizer mucks up the spreader over and over again? Or do you bite the bullet and just chuck it and get what you wanted in the first place?

I’ve done both. This really all came up as I was wrapping a gift recently and the roll of tape I was using out of a dispenser I have on my desk kept splitting. You know that roll that every time you use it you have to take it out and scratch at it with your one last fingernail to find the end and get it all lined up again. Then you go to use it and it splits again. It looks like a regular roll of tape. No big gouges or cuts are apparent to make this silly tape try my patience over and over again. But! Yes a sticky “but.” But it cost like $1.29! Yes, I am that tight with a dollar.

There really is no easy answer to these situations. There should be, but there isn’t. My heritage tells me to use things until they are so used up you can see the carbon footprint left behind in the dust created around the items. My frustration level tells me to toss and get over it. Here’s the thing though. And this will usually put the answer to rest for me every time I go to throw something away that isn’t used up to the very last drop, inch, or pink of eraser that is so far gone you tear the paper with the edge of the little metal base the eraser sat in.

I pick up pennies. No matter where they are. Parking lots. Store floors. Drive through drives when I see them out the window. Yes it’s me who’s holding up the line while I get out and pick up a penny. So when I bought that creamer and didn’t like it I thought just how many times I would have to stop and pick up how many pennies to cover the cost of the creamer I was going to just pitch.

So I will, each morning, try to “fix” the creamer to my liking. Oh I will probably spend more on fixes by adding a pink or yellow or blue sweetener or maybe real sugar! Or a dash of milk or, or, or. But I will not throw it out. I tell myself it’s that heritage thing. In reality it is my hard headedness. Guess that is heritage after all.

I will keep the creamer, but I threw that dang tape away. So far out my back door I didn’t even see where it landed. So for the next month or so if you see me and I am not wearing a happy “coffee” face it’s because of those silly pennies out there waiting for me to pick them up.

Trina lives in Eureka. Her new book, They Call Me Weener, is available on or email her at to find out how to get a signed copy. 


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