The story of any one of us is in some measure the story of us all. ~Frederick Buechner

Ugly Mugs

At JPUSA we have a tradition of collecting and using “ugly mugs” from thrift stores in our neighborhood.

Our use of tableware has gone through several evolutions. We used to eat off segmented plastic cafeteria trays. Then we got rid of them in lieu of china plates, like the kind used in diners. We used to buy sleeves of plastic cups that we’d never be able to get completely clean. It was an axiom: check the bottom of your cup. Invariably there would be crusted milk stuck in the crevices. About three to four years ago we switched to mugs. It made sense. They were easier to clean and cheaper to use than disposables (and better for the environment, too!). At Unique Thrift Store on Mondays we can buy a crate of mugs for about 15 cents a piece. So we load up!

It’s always a surprise who you see using the ugly mugs. The anarchist holding up a mug with a corporate logo. The guy who hates anything cute drinking out of a Hello Kitty! mug. The drop-out enjoying a cup of coffee out of the University of Chicago mug, the non-athlete sporting a Notre Dame Fighting Irish mug, the cynic proclaiming “I Believe!”

Most of the time the cups are a mystery, the sponsor or purpose lost to us, the new owners; yet it is always interesting to see people with a Christmas mug in the middle of a blistering July day or one commemorating the Zywiekie Family Reunion, or a creepy transfer picture of someone’s kid. #1 Lover, Las Vegas Grandma, Will Work for Coffee— that’s us! A strange collection of ugly mugs.

Jane Hertenstein
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