Given that I am inordinately fond of and totally – as it were – attached to my fingertips and nails, I have come over the last few years to develop a bottomless loathing for what I can only subsume under the straight-forward sobriquet of ‘American Packaging’. I believe I understand why we have devolved into this paludal slough of packaging despond: it’s the lawyers – and not without justification!
A few years back an idiot or two would make the rounds of drugstores and grocery emporia in the bigger cities, prying the lids off vials and bottles filled with various kinds of pills, removing a few and dropping in dangerously poisonous replacements. People got hurt. Suits got filed. Counter-measures got taken. Not unreasonably, legal departments advised commercial clients that prying lids off such containers on open shelves be made so difficult that they could not readily and quickly be opened. That worked. In the stores. And – unfortunately – ditto in the nation’s bedrooms and bathrooms and living rooms and garages and gardens! Indeed, these simple preventive measures were so successful that corporate boards thought it wise proleptically to guard against any and all potential legal actions arising from non-proprietary additions to company products.
And – thus — here we are!
Let me begin with those unavoidable jam samplers you find on every commercial breakfast table in every restaurant throughout the land. The prettily wrapped little rectanguloids have on one corner a nanometer’s worth of paper/foil protruding for your fingers to hold and tear off. But human thumbs and opposable index- or middle-fingers being of a proportionately monstrous size, they are physically incapable of grasping that micro-flap to begin the denuding of the jam within. After watching in nascent rage as my fingers fiddle and fumble and flip the containers onto the floor or into my neighbor’s coffee, I grab a fork and let the sharp tines do their brutal, pumping thing.
Then there’s that minuscule cream holder with — mutatis mutandis — another unopenable covering whose removal must be thoughtfully engineered if success is to be hoped for. But no irate forks this time – imagine how that would squirt everywhere … except (this time when you want it to!) into that coffee cup of black liquid. Have you ever wondered why half-and-half containers have to have those welded tops with plastic rings over the opening? Well, it’s obviously because their removal assures that a good portion of the cream will pop out as the lid finally liberates itself from the neck of the carton – open only in the sink, where both the cream and your tears over the spilt cream will not make a mess on counter tops and table cloths.
What about the protective emballage encircling those long straws designed for the soon-to-be-forbidden 16-oz soda drinks? Again, the first difficulty is finding some snippet of cellophane to gain purchase for stripping off the wrap. And when you do, only the lightest of digital compressions are possible if the straw itself is not to be squished into an internal circumference slighter than that of a clogged carotid. Since the wrapping is itself less tensile than laminated steel, even a secure purchase is no guarantee of triumph.
And I haven’t even left the table yet!
For example, when I get home I have the dreaded task of trying to deal with the day’s bounty delivered by UPS. Out come the box cutters! Next are hesitant cuts. Now my eyes follow the blade’s likely trajectory towards my nervous fingers. An unhappy nail snags on one of the sharp threads embedded in a strip of sliced tape – whose very edge is itself a razor-like cutting tool looking for human flesh with its fresh blood.
And how about all those stiff and hard sheets of cardboard glued to finger-shredding plastic bubbles that house our ballpoint pens, cutlery, screwdrivers, hammers, cell phones, camera chargers, coffee makers, frying pans …
Not to mention the plastic tie-togethers diabolically fused to pairs of socks and the utterly inaccessible inner linings of expensive shirts! Trying to find where each begins and ends so you can clip them is a mocking exercise in futility, and simply ripping them out all too often damages the cloth to which they have been cryptically attached. Does one really have to put up with such aggressive assaults on one’s waning equanimity?
Need I continue this particular screed about one more kind of liquidated happiness?
Since we Americans have gone to the moon and have achieved many other technological breakthroughs of spectacular scope over the years, I can’t help but think we oughtta be able to come up with an easier way to protect products and still be able readily to unwrap the defensive packaging.