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The Column

Take One Down, Pass It Around
7/27/03

What's the difference between a guy in his early twenties and the homeless? After they drink a beer, the homeless are smart enough to recycle the bottle.

I'm kidding, of course. Guys in their late teens save beer bottles, too.

It's a common occurrence to walk into a college student's room and see a collection of empty beer bottles. Sometimes this collection features one beer in particular. Sometimes it's a collection of one bottle each of several different beers. Sometimes, there's no rhyme or reason as to which bottles have been saved and which have been discarded. But one thing is always certain - the total street value of the bottles is less than eight dollars.

A beer bottle collection is probably more common than baseball cards or stamps or comic books - yet there's absolutely no market for it. Because the collections are not simply of beer bottles - they're of beer bottles that the collector finished himself. I say "himself" because girls are usually smart enough to throw away their garbage.

If a guy told his friend he collected blown glass, that guy probably wouldn't be invited to the next Super Bowl party. But if that same guy were to mention he'd saved a few thousand beer bottles, his friend would probably say, "cool, can I see?" and "want to come to my next Super Bowl party?"

But glass bottles are kind of pretty. And I don't mean in a "that matches my shoes and my bag" way. Most people agree that bottles are just classier than cans. I don't recall ever seeing anyone with a great beer can collection. Or at least with a great beer can collection on purpose.

There is a variation on the beer bottle collection - the hard alcohol bottle collection. Usually this consists of a few empty bottles of Vodka filled with water to make people think they're full bottles of vodka. Inevitably, someone sees one at a party, drinks it and thinks its vodka, and then throws up all over the carpet even though they're completely sober. Or at least that's what happened at one of my parties.

People who drink because they like the taste of beer don't put their empty beers on a shelf. Usually because these people don't exist. People who drink because it helps them feel comfortable at parties don't put their empty beers on a shelf. Usually because bright red Solo cups don't look good on a shelf. People who drink in order to forget their problems don't put their empty beers on a shelf. Usually because they can't remember where they put their empty beers or shelves. The people who save beer bottles are those that drink for sport.

Collecting beer bottles is like hunters mounting their kills. Even hunters know that a deer head on wall looks horrifically tacky. That's why hunters don't go out and buy deer heads. They're not doing it to decorate - they're doing it to brag. Try offering a hunter a free deer head (assuming you have an extra one). They'll politely turn you down before going out to kill three more deer just because they're worried you may have finished off more than they did. The same thing happens with a beer bottle collector. It's not a coincidence that the words "deer" and "beer" are spelled so similarly. And if you are the type to collect the carcass of something you vanquish, make sure to at least wash it. Especially beer bottles. Put it this way - an empty Amstel Light should never look green.

One thing I noticed about beer bottle collectors is that they rarely move their collections. Despite my not having added to it in about five years, my baseball card collection goes where I go. But that is because I built it up over my entire childhood, and not just over a few good weekends.

I used to have a lot of beer paraphernalia, but I outgrew it. Well, the girls I date outgrew it. The girls I'm interested in now appreciate having a few drinks, but they'd sooner like to see a deer head on my wall than 99 bottles of beer. Which, incidentally, is either a pretty weak collection of empty bottles or a strange way to store full ones.

For those guys reading this that are also outgrowing their beer collections, or at least meeting girls that are outgrowing their beer collections, you may be wondering what to do with all of those empty bottles. For you, I have this piece of advice:

They're worth ten cents a piece in Michigan.

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