21 August 2007

Keep off the glass

A broken glass, broken bottles and glass shards in restaurant food. This day has an edge to it.

I broke one of my favourite glasses this morning. A wine glass. And no, I wasn’t drinking before sunrise – I was merely clearing away the debris from a jovial get-together last night. I am not one of those women who are unable to go to sleep unless everything is spotless.

This particular glass was no heirloom. It was thick, but large and had a nice shape. It was given to me by a friend who had broken several of mine and it was chosen because it looked as if it would be really hard to break. Not so. And I cut my finger.

Of highways and restaurants
But that’s not where my glassy morning ended. When I was on the way to work, a South African Breweries delivery truck developed an ominous-looking bulge on one side. Sure enough a few minutes later, bottles started cascading onto the highway, shattering among all those vulnerable tyres. The morning was developing a certain edge.

And then there was the news story in my inbox about a couple who put glass in restaurant food, complained, laid charges, claimed from insurance, didn’t pay their hospital bills, and lived royally off the proceeds. But police have now seen through their glassy scheme, and they are facing more than 20 theft and fraud charges altogether in several American states.

The miracle of glass
In the last couple of centuries, glass has changed the face of many professions – chemistry, pharmacy, nursing, architecture... Just think where the first two would have been without glass jars, and the last one without windows. Glass is see-through and waterproof. It must have seemed like a miracle to the Venetians when it was first made there in the 12th century.

A thousand years ago people did not have windows. You had to choose between heat and fresh air, light and safety. If you were lucky, your home had a few holes covered by wooden shutters. If you were unlucky, your hut was simply dark, or your castle had those thin slits that let in a nasty breeze and possibly a couple of well-aimed enemy arrows.

Lying in wait
So I am all for glass – but not if it is lurking on beaches, or on my living room floor, lying in wait for small feet or my fingers.

A recent ad for a glass company showed a lovely beach with a bottle drawn in the sand. (Glass is made of sand, remember) But where they lost the plot was in saying that glass takes nothing and that it leaves nothing behind.

Of course broken glass leaves something behind – ask anyone who works in a trauma unit at a hospital about that.

But point taken – glass does take less from the environment than plastic does. Or paper, for that matter. (Let’s not get onto the topic of paper cuts) And it has given us windows, glass jars, drinking glasses, bottles, beads, the first syringes. And where would we be without all those?

But no one should forget that as useful as glass is, when it shatters, it can become lethal – especially to young children. Excuse me while I go and nurse the cut on my finger that has just started bleeding again.

(Susan Erasmus,, August 2007)


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