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Milk crate mysteries

Posted by Robin Abrahams  January 29, 2008 09:24 AM

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I had never noticed this before, but there is a milk crate on our front porch, and on the side of it is written, "Misuse Liable to Prosecution."

What could this possibly mean? Miss Conduct has been asked to speak to the use, misuse, or nonuse of many physical objects--cell phones, grooming paraphernalia, napkins, iPods--but never to the use of milkcrates. Is it even possible to misuse a milk crate? I can think of ways to misuse a milk crate--beat an old lady to death with one, trade large numbers of them for heroin, use them to store illegally downloaded DVDs--but in all of these situations the crate per se seems rather incidental to the commission of the crime, no?

But apparently it is possible to misuse a milk crate. In 2003 a New York man was ticketed for illegal use of a milk crate; he was sitting on it (warning: offensive language in link.) And the fact that misuse of milk crates is illegal has entered the pop culture imagination, to a degree. A 2007 dance performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music took the crate slogan as its title. This article on urban scavenging notes that milk crates have many uses, yet are "stridently illegal to misuse." And apparently milk crate theft in Australia is a serious problem (*cough*).

Every day, things are learned. Every day. Life is beautiful.

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About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at missconduct@globe.com.
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Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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