Sunday, April 27, 2014

Rhys's Sunday Gripe

Rhys: I've had a tough few weeks--book tour, rushing around the countryside, finishing a book, doing I thought I'd take a nice long relaxing bath. I checked the vanity and found a packet of "Relaxing Pear and Rosemary Bath tea".
I ran the bath. I took off my clothes.  And then I tried to open the sachet of tea. It is encased in plastic and won't open.  There are no scissors in this bathroom and I'm naked.  So it looks like no relaxing bath for me.
And this is not an isolated incident. A week ago I had to go to a reception. When we got to the city I realized I didn't have a lipstick in my purse. So I popped into the drugstore to buy one.  In the Ladies room at the hotel I tried to open it. Again sealed in plastic and won't even open with my teeth.

So my gripe is this: Why do they need to package things so ridiculously well? I've recently had boxes of soup that say "Tear along this line" and then won't tear. Even my packet of peanuts on the plane won't open. And when we're talking electronics, the plastic in which they are sealed needs an industrial-level chain saw to cut into it.
Is this all result of things like the Tylenol Scare years ago? We must keep our peanuts and soup and lipsticks and relaxing bath teas safe from maniacs who might wish to tamper with them?

I remember the good old days. In my childhood I lived in a village and my mother would send me to Smallbones the Grocer (I'm not making this up). He had big open bins of sugar, flour, raisins, barley, beans all over the store. You'd ask for a pound and he'd dig in the scoop and fill a paper bag, twisting it shut. As far as I know nobody ever got sick from this unhygenic practice and the costs were kept down and the landfills didn't fill up with stuff that will never biodegrade. And nobody went mad trying to open anything.

Off for a relaxing bath with Epsom Salts (if I can open them)


  1. Oh, the agony of dealing with packaging . . . we have a handy, dandy little tool that easily opens all those miserable plastic cartons that would stand up to a pack of grizzly bears tearing at them with claws and teeth, but I share your pain at the difficulty of getting into anything after you’ve paid for it and taken it home . . . .

  2. I'm laughing, but only because I can relate. Any time you need to borrow my chainsaw to get into your electronics, please let me know.

  3. Legacy of the Tylenol poisonings? Or overprotection of children (that I don't have)?

    When I got out of the hospital with a complete fracture of the humerus and my back in spasm (after a bad fall from a horse), my doctor called in a prescription for pain pills. They were delivered in a container with a childproof cap. I only had one functioning arm. I did not have any kids; I didn't even know any kids.

    I called the drug store and made them come back and open the bottle for me. Now I use a different pharmacy.

    I keep a scissors in the glove compartment so I can open packages in the car. But you can't carry a scissors in your purse if you need to go into court houses and airports (which means I can't do needlework on planes and in waiting rooms anymore). If trends continue, you'll be able to carry a gun everywhere, but not a scissors.

  4. I have to be extra careful with my wrists, so I hate bottles you must press down and twist at the same time. A recent challenge? Laundry detergent with a tear off tab, and a push down, and a twist. I couldn't do all three, and finally had to punch holes in it with screwdriver and dribble it into an empty bottle. Interesting when my husband came home and found the punctured detergent bottle. "Had a bad day, honey?"

  5. So funny Ramona! I've had to punch holes in chicken broth, but never detergent:).

    Ellen, I'm afraid you're right. We've gone a little mad in today's world...

    Rhys, I hope you got your relaxing bath!! xoxo

  6. One of the reasons Miss Edna lives with us is that she has arthritis in her hands and opening every things from the store (milk, orange juice) is too hard for her...

    I have on-and-off carpal tunnel and also have issues...

  7. I have a great tool in my purse called a Swisscard -- the size of a credit card and it has several tools -- scissors, tweezer, nail file, toothpick, and even a little pencil.
    But I wouldn't have had it in the bathroom!

    I'm on your side, Rhys! And don't even get me started on children's toy packaging.

  8. Credit our litigious society for the "secure" packaging.

    Of course, the only way for many oldsters to get into a "child proof" container is to ask the kids to open it.

    ~ JIm

  9. Super secure packaging on many small items may have more to do with shoplifting. As a retirement job, I worked part time in retail and often found discarded packaging (not the super-secure type) on the floor, in clothes on the racks, etc. The small item had just been put into a pocket or purse and carried past the register and out the door.

  10. Aargh! A pet peeve of mine also. Enough to make me put (okay, throw) down whatever it is I can't open and just walk away. I tried to open a package of scented bath salts just a few days ago, only to have the salts end up all over the bathroom floor, shelves, toilet - and a teeny bit did, luckily, land in the bathtub.

  11. Okay, so I recently had sort of this problem with... don't laugh... a brassiere. It had a front fastening (cool racer back) only I could not figure out how to undo the plastic clasp without breaking it. I brought it back to Marshall's (where else?) and fortunately the woman at the counter used to work at Lady Grace, purveyor of undergarments -- you know, the kind store where the sales ladies (always ladies) wear measuring tapes around their necks and actually offer advice about arcane issues like cantilevering.

    Fold and twist, that was the answer. And easy peasy it came open. Of course it didn't fit, but that's another story.

    No such easy answer for so called clamshell packaging. Articles I see on line recommend using a kitchen can opener. I can just see what TSA will say when they haul that out of my luggage.

  12. Blech, the overpackaging is insane.

    But the reason for it is not tampering or childproofing; it's way worse than that. It's because EVERYthing is made in China now, and shipped here via container ship. Have you seen those suckers? Giant, boxcar-looking things stacked onto the decks of enormous ocean-going vessels. In order to get products to the US without exposing them to moisture manufacturers encase them into those crazy, inaccessible plastic coffins.

    So not only do they waste oil by shipping, they also waste oil by using it to make plastic packaging. And water, too, because plastic manufacturing takes both oil and water. It's horrifying, when you think about it.

  13. A can opener ! Brilliant!

    I carry a rubber band-- it's really helpful for opening stuff. Grrrrr.

  14. Joan, we have one of those tools, too. Everyone should have one. But I have no idea what they're called. Otherwise, how would you ever open a DVD or Blu-ray?

    Rhys, still laughing, but with sympathy. Twice recently I was out doing errands and got a cheese and apple snack box from Starbuck's. This comes with a little plastic-wrapped package of whole grain crackers. Could I open the crackers??? No. I tried everything. Car keys, fingernails, twisting, tearing. Teeth. No go.

    The third time I got this, I had them open the crackers for me at the register. They had to use scissors.

    I always used to carry a little Swiss Army knife in my purse, but I'd forget to take it out before a plane flight and then have it confiscated by TSA. After losing half a dozen knives, I gave up.

    As if anybody could hijack a plane with a mini-Swiss Army knife, but don't get me started on that...

  15. PS Hank, how is a rubber band helpful for opening things?

  16. You can't take a Swisscard or anything like it on a plane either! I found that out the hard way...
    A wide rubber band is great for twisting off jar lids, if you don't carry around a rubber glove!

  17. I gave my son-in-law one of those Swisscards for Christmas a few years ago, and the TSA confiscated it. He was heartbroken. He said, anyway.

    Rhys, there is always a pair of small scissors in our bathrooms because my husband uses it to trim his mustache. Can't tell you how often it comes in handy.

  18. Oh, Rhys, I hear you! With lupus, opening anything depends where on the scale from good to full flare I am and lately I have big trouble even on a good day.

    Ellen's absolutely right. We can't carry scissors, knitting needles, little tiny Swiss knives anywhere anymore, but we have to put up with brainless wonders packing guns everywhere. And this makes us "freer" how?

  19. I finally found a nice little gadget for opening cds (yes, I still buy my music on cd). One swipe and it slices open both the plastic wrapper and that little strip underneath that if you try to take off otherwise tears into five pieces and you spend 10 minutes picking the bits off.

    The worst are toner cartridges for the copier. First encased in nuclear bomb proof plastic then cardboard made from some NASA materials, then a box and finally a foil wrapper. Scissors, knives, box cutters ...tried them all. I am usually so exhausted from opening the thing I have done my cardio for the day.

  20. Actually, the TSA rules have changed. You can carry scissors onboard with blades shorter than 4".

    I often carry a pocket knife with me on trips, but it's in my checked luggage. Of course, you have to check luggage if you want to carry such a thing.

    My middle daughter once got into serious hot water with the FAA because she packed a fuel canister into her checked luggage. Which is a serious no-no. The process to get her out of jeopardy was long, involved, and expensive. They not only confiscated it, but also investigated her thoroughly for the possibility of sabotaging her flight. I don't think she will do that again.

  21. Perhaps we can agitate for a concealed carry permit for scissors and swiss army knives.

  22. I returned on of those handy dandy openers when I couldn't get the darn thing open

    I have broken more scissors opening up packages like that

    Guess I need a little one around to open the packages and prescription bottles ;)

  23. A reader posted this on my Facebook page. So funny! Things haven't changed for the better since Carol Burnett fought the good fight with packaging!

  24. Rhys, I think you've definitely hit on something that is an irritation to all of us. I feel so bad for you that you didn't get your relaxing bath. I guess the lesson there is to make sure everything is open that you want to use before starting a bath? Or, maybe, don't ever take a bath. Hehehe!

    I'm so glad that my pharmacy doesn't use the child-proof caps with me anymore. Ellen, I say bravo to you for making the drug store send someone to open the bottle. Ramona, laundry detergent? Why would a company make that so difficult? So funny what your husband said. Hallie, of course it didn't fit after all that. Denise, I'll have to check out the Swisscard. My daughter lost her favorite Swiss knife she used for multiple purposes when she forgot it was in her purse going through security at the airport.

    Denise, your mention of children's toy packaging makes me grimace. Watching my four-year-old granddaughter squeal with delight at a present and then have to wait five minutes or more to actually touch the toy while I struggle with all the plastic and twistie ties and scotch tape and so forth, well it somewhat diminishes the excitement of the present. Arghhh!

    Debs, the Carol Burnett clip was hilarious! Everyone commenting today should take a look at it, but be sure to watch until the very end. Thanks for sharing that bit of hilarity with us. And, did Hank answer about how to use the rubber band? Oh, one more thing. Those of you who have mentioned devices that are handy to opening packages, could you name what they are or where to purchase them? I would love to have an arsenal of such tools at the ready.

  25. Oh Rhys --- I completely empathize. It makes my blood boil with frustration. My biggest gripe are CD or DVD covers which I have to tackle with scissors and end up throwing on the floor in a tantrum. I hope you got your Epsom salt bar ...