Saturday, December 14, 2013
Packaged for posterity...
Then one day, the cereal and detergent boxes that had always said "Press Here" ceased to yield, when pressed, the little pouring holes we remembered from childhood. Rather, our thumbnails broke, and turned purple overnight. Padded book envelopes, which used to open with an easy tug on the stapled turned-over flap, were now taped over the staples. The taping was tenacious, multi-layered. Postal regulations, some said: too many assistants were calling in sick after cutaneous contact with half-bent staple ends.
All this time, childproof pill bottles had been imperceptibly toughening and complicating, to the point where only children had the patience and eyesight to open them. Though the two arrows were lined up under a magnifying glass and superhuman manual force was exerted, the top declined to pop off. Similarly, the screw-tops on cans and bottles refused to slip into the grooves that in theory would lift them up - up and free. Instead, they rotated aimlessly no matter how much simultaneously downward and sideways, or semicircular, pressure was applied.
Occasionally, an isolated householder did enjoy a moment of success with these resiliently-sealed and reluctant containers; manufacturers, swiftly striking back, printed the instructions in even smaller type or, less readable yet, in raised plastic letters. The corporations, it seemed, did not want their products released into use - any upsurge in demand might interfere with their lucrative downsizing programmes.
The little bags of peanuts with which the downsizing airlines had replaced in-flight meals became impossible to open. The minuscule notch lettered "Tear Here" was a ruse; in truth, the plastic-backed tinfoil, or tinfoil-backed plastic, had been reinforced in that very place. Mounting frustration, intensified by the normal claustrophobia, cramping, and fright of air travel, produced dozens of cases of apoplexy and literally thousands of convulsively spilt peanuts. Even the transparent sacs of plastic cutlery for aeroplane meals proved seamlessly resistant, and yielded up their treasure only when pierced from within by a painstakingly manipulated fork.
Such consumer-resistant packaging devices were all as bows and arrows before the invention of gunpowder, however, once the maker of "VANISH", a brand of mysterious crystals alleged to be able to clean toilet bowls, came up with a red child-resistant cap, shaped like a barred "O," a three-dimensional "O," whose accompanying arc-shaped directions read, "To open: Squeeze centre while pulling up." Well, good luck: squeeze until your face turns red, white, and blue. No amount of aerobic finger exercise will ever pack in the squeeze power needed to release those crystals into that murky toilet bowl.
Either we have grown feeble or the policy of containment, once preached as the only safe tactic for dealing with the growing terrorist menace, has now refocused upon the output of capitalism, in all its sparkling, poisonous, hazardous, variety. They - the corporate powers that control our commercial lives - have apparently decided, with regard to one product after another, to make it, advertise it, ship it, but not let us into it - be it aspirin, salted peanuts, or 'Vanish', it is too wonderful for us - too potent, too fine.
We rub the lamp, but no genie is released. It seems, we live surrounded by magic caskets that keep their tangy and convenient goodness sealed in forever! Now don't get me started on modern vehicle on-board 'safety' electronic measures... (",)