Monday, December 14, 2009

637 Expiration Dates

637 Expiration Dates

Some expiration dates are absolutely clear. Take this one from "Mission Impossible:" "This tape will self destruct in five seconds."

Five seconds later, poof, the tape is gone in a small flame and Jim Phelps tosses the tape player in a wastebasket in the park or a dumpster in an ally, and that's that.

Most everything else, it gets vague.

The cottage cheese container says "Sell by February 10, 2010." Implicit here is that the stuff will self destruct pretty quickly thereafter and let's make sure the customer is stuck with the rancid, green cheese or milk or what have you. So, this is a warning for the merchant rather than the shopper. And even for the merchant it's vague. What TIME on 2/10/10? If the store is open 24 hours, do they send people scurrying around at 11:45 pm on the 9th, hunting for things to remove 15 minutes later?

Vaguest of all is "Best if used by June 23, 2011." What does that mean? Does it mean the can or box or package won't explode on the 24th? Or does it mean the stuff will gradually deteriorate until, when you open it on, say June 23, 2012 whatever's inside will have shrunk or shriveled or begun to turn to powder, but won't kill you outright?

A side note on a new version of "Sale ends December 28th." Instead of saying that, they say "Prices good until December 28th." What happens on the 29th? Do the prices turn "bad?" Or maybe they turn "excellent." Probably, they rise. But that's not what the sentence says.

Of course, there are "sell by" and "use by" and "best by" dates that are a bit more significant than those for cheese or milk or the big holiday sale. If you're in doubt about a can of soup's viability, you can throw it out.

But you can't throw out a war. The Korean war started in 1950 and an armistice was declared in 1953. Fifty six years later, American troops remain on the Korean peninsular. Not only that, but North Korea just withdrew from the armistice, so the war goes on. At least technically. So July 27, 1953 was the armistice's "best if used by" date. But not an expiration.

Now, what's kind of date have we attached in Afghanistan and does anyone believe it?


--The charities that used to send sheets of labels with your name and address seem to have stopped doing that, or at least cut back. They were, of course, expecting donations in return -- and may not have gotten many. So you probably are down to your last 5,000 stickers.

--That's not the only thing that's disappearing. What ever happened to contests where you could win something by giving the best answer in 25 words or less? No one can say anything in 25 words any more, including this piece of shrapnel which runs 46 words.

--The above word count is accurate only under certain circumstances, though it is certified both manually and by Google Documents' word count feature. The rub comes thus: Is "--" a word and are 25 and 46 one word each, or two? The actual count could be as high as 49.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©2009 WJR

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