In time for Memorial Day I am here to share with you the results of painstaking research.  You come to Cheap Talk for Economic Theology, existentially challenged theater reviews, and poetry, and today you are getting the instruction manual for summer.  (Let’s hope it stops raining in time.)

I’m talking about those rugged paper bags of hardwood charcoal that are bound at the top with a zipper-like string seam that looks as if it was made to cleanly unravel.   Sometimes it doesn’t and then you can yank and yank to no avail. And even when it does there seems to be some magic involved, like the gods of charcoal are smiling down on you.  Well, I’m telling you its all science and you can make it happen every time with three simple steps.

Step 1:  Orient yourself.  There is a front and a back.  The front side has clean loops, the back side string is ragged and knotted at the end.  Pictures:

Front Side

Back Side

 You have to pull the string from the back side.  It unravels from left to right.

Step 2:  Understand what you are doing.  There are really two strings here woven together.  There is a string on the front side which is pushed through in loops through each of the little holes in the bag.  Then a string on the back side is threaded through them also in a looping fashion.  The end of the string on the left side is then knotted onto the leftmost loop.  What you need to do is remove that knot and free up the end of the backside string so that you can pull it.


Step 3:  The endgame.  Once you have the end of the backside string all there is left to do is pull and the whole apparatus becomes unraveled. You can then extract the frontside string leaving you with two strings in your hand, a flap of paper to lift off the bag (and recycle) and finally a wide open bag of non-fossil fuel.  No hassle, no pointless yanking, no scissors. Works every time.