Trina Machacek: Pants are not napkins

Sometime ago there was a commercial on television for a laundry detergent that touted it could get out “ring around the collar.” Back then growing up in a house with a father who had this problem, my mother used the product to deal with the ring of the businessman.

Then I married a farmer. I found with farmers some danged ole ring was not nearly as imposing as getting grease out of jeans. And T-shirts and those big red kerchiefs. There was a real road map to those stains.

In summer along the front pockets there would be grease skid marks. As seasons changed those grease marks were transferred to the pockets of vests and then heavy bulky jackets that did not go into the washer with ease. But what got me laughing was the jelly stains, fried chicken stains and among others oily gravy stains that were wiped on shirt tails and the thighs of jeans.

Enter napkins. Napkins is where I want to go today. There are napkins and then there are NAPKINS. Regular napkins usually come in huge packages with four colors and each one will almost do one meal if you don’t spill or slobber too much. If you decided to step it up a titch you moved into the paper “dinner” napkins realm. Bigger, white and folded like they are meant for royalty. Well normal people royalty. You know, like in-laws. Not to be mixed with the linen napkins used for big holiday dinners. Paper dinner napkins are for little holiday dinners. If you make a distinction between the two you are more high-brow than I am for sure. My napkin of choice? The ever present paper towel!

Paper towels have come so far in their years of existence. I use one that is decorated in many different patterns with flowers or butterflies. It also comes in white. I do not buy the plain white. My inner self is more gregarious than white. I go for pizzazz.

There is a problem with using a paper towel that I am pretty sure we have all run into. It’s very hard to throw away a paper towel isn’t it? Come on we’ve all used one over and over and over again. Something in our make up tells us there is no reason to throw away this little square until it is as used up as a tire that has been retreaded, blown out and patched at least three times.

Paper towels are supposed to be disposable. But isn’t there more it can do? It can still be used to wipe up a counter, dry hands after washing in the kitchen sink after starting the fire in the wood stove. But! Yes a wiped “but.” Ick! But you must draw the line and throw away that towel if you use it on the floor or to dry your hands after cleaning the cat box! I mean come on we have to have standards.

Then there are linen napkins. I use these when I have a nice dinner party. They add a bit of la-de-da to any table. Trouble with linen napkins is that I only have four. Well actually eight, two fours of different designs. And they are very used. One set even has a few time honored, but hardly noticeable stains on them. If I fold them just right you’d be hard pressed to see where they had been used to line the French bread bowl and gotten butter on them.

The other set? Well they are pretty but need to be ironed after each washing. I don’t remember the last time I took them to the ironing board so they get folded just right and set out as to not let the rolled up edges show—too much. No, linen napkins are not my first line like my easy to grab and fold paper towels.

Before I go I have to vent about who on this great vast earth thought that making three little paper towels out of one nice sized paper towel was a good idea? By mistake I got home with one of those devil rolls and cussed it at every zip off of a towel. One is way too little to be of any good. Two is just a weird size that doesn’t fold right to be a napkin. Oh and grabbing the three little strips as one is too big and wasteful. This silly change should be reason to revolt in the world of paper towels.

Whew. I feel better. Hey, hand me that used towel hanging in the sink drying, to wipe my chin.

Trina Machacek 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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