Problems with Modern Packaging

It seems that many common products that in the past we bought in stores and opened easily at home now require tool kits, which may include hammers, screw drivers, and possible explosives.

I suppose the changes in all current packaging began with the horrible random murders committed in the early 1980’s by the as yet not apprehended psychopath, who tampered with bottles of Tylenol by inserting enough poison to kill innocent people. I can’t imagine the twisted rage that would turn someone into that kind of demonic human being, but the mark left by those murders is still evident in almost every consumable product that needs ingestion after manual opening.

Everything from aspirin to orange juice requires some kind of dexterous hand maneuver in order to get at the product, let alone actually use it.  Some are more annoying than others, like the little plastic circle with a ring handle that opens sealed containers of orange juice, and cartons of soup or broth. I suspect I am not alone in my having broken off the circle pull, so that a sharp knife became necessary in order to get at the contents of whatever product I naively believed was easily accessible.  Several canned goods use a similar pull made of metal.  The pull has to be bent back and then tugged in just the right way in order to dislodge the can’s lid slowly and rather dangerously.  Yesterday, as I was trying to open a can of black bean soup, the design of which undoubtedly came from Fort Knox, the lid jammed near the end of my attempt, splattering black beans on the kitchen wall and dark soup on the counter tops and floor.  If the tab breaks off before you’ve opened the container, calling a professional may be your only option, as continued struggles with sharp, partially removed lids from cans may inflict nasty cuts.  I speak of this from experience but will say no more about the grislier details of those encounters.

We need to sympathize especially with disabled and elderly people for whom the daunting task of opening even a can of tuna can demand more stamina than they have left.  Think of someone suffering from arthritis or rheumatism. Just trying to open a bottle of aspirin or a carton of milk can be discouraging for them.  And that reminds me.  Has anyone ever really been able to open a carton of dairy cream, not using scissors or other tools, and without tearing the top to shreds?  As soon as I see the words, “EASY OPEN,” I simply buy the product, no matter what it is.  For products like scissors and butane lighters, manufacturers seal them in heavy cardboard and plastic, so that getting at the contents requires scissors or blow torches.  Ironic, isn’t it?

Plastic “peanuts” are my pet peeve in packaging larger items.  In Tennessee last year, I purchased two antique chairs that had to be shipped to my house in Colorado.  The huge boxes were stuffed with the plastic peanuts so that when I opened the boxes, the white peanuts gushed out onto the driveway and were carried by the wind like a snow storm all over my neighborhood.  The remnants of the peanuts are still there, and probably will be for a couple more geological eras.  The chairs themselves were wrapped tightly in many layers of heavy plastic requiring special cutting tools for over an hour before I reached the final contents of the boxes.  Counting the time I was chasing plastic peanuts all over Centennial, I spent almost three hours getting to the two chairs inside, which by that time seemed only a dim memory of what I had fallen in love with in Tennessee a month before, due in part to my exhaustion.

The result of all this is a kind of nostalgia I experience in remembering the days when opening common and necessary products didn’t yet pose challenges more horrific than those of a Rubik’s Cube.


About John

About John John Bolinger was born and raised in Northwest Indiana, where he attended Ball State University and Purdue University, receiving his BS and MA from those schools. Then he taught English and French for thirty-five years at Morton High School in Hammond, Indiana before moving to Colorado, where he resided for ten years before moving to Florida. Besides COME SEPTEMBER, Journey of a High School Teacher, John's other books are ALL MY LAZY RIVERS, an Indiana Childhood, and COME ON, FLUFFY, THIS AIN'T NO BALLET, a Novel on Coming of Age, all available on as paperbacks and Kindle books. Alternately funny and touching, COME SEPTEMBER, conveys the story of every high school teacher’s struggle to enlighten both himself and his pupils, encountering along the way, battles with colleagues, administrators, and parents through a parade of characters that include a freshman boy for whom the faculty code name is “Spawn of Satan,” to a senior girl whose water breaks during a pop-quiz over THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Through social change and the relentless march of technology, the human element remains constant in the book’s personal, entertaining, and sympathetic portraits of faculty, students, parents, and others. The audience for this book will certainly include school teachers everywhere, teenagers, parents of teens, as well as anyone who appreciates that blend of humor and pathos with which the world of public education is drenched. The drive of the story is the narrator's struggle to become the best teacher he can be. The book is filled with advice for young teachers based upon experience of the writer, advice that will never be found in college methods classes. Another of John's recent books is Mum's the Word: Secrets of a Family. It is the story of his alcoholic father and the family's efforts to deal with or hide the fact. Though a serious treatment of the horrors of alcoholism, the book also entertains in its descriptions of the father during his best times and the humor of the family's attempts to create a façade for the outside world. All John's books are available as paperbacks and Kindle readers on Amazon, and also as paperbacks at Barnes & Noble. John's sixth book is, Growing Old in America: Notes from a Codger was released on June 15, 2014. John’s most recent book is a novel titled Resisting Gravity, A Ghost Story, published the summer of 2018 View all posts by John →
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