Remember how easy it used to be to open pill bottles before child-proof caps came in? Can you recall how simple it was to open a package containing a watch or a flashlight or any object before space-age blister packs showed up? Those nasty transparent containers that make the product shine on the rack but give you fits when you try to open them?
First, you run your fingers around the outside of the pack to see if there’s a hinge or opening that you can use to crack the thing open. Failing that, it’s scissor time. High density polyethylene (that’s the technical term for the stuff) fights back against the strongest shears as if the thing inside refuses to come out. And the pack fights back too, Your hands end up in a wrestling match with the stubborn stuff. I don’t know how many times the sharp edges have sliced open a finger. When you finally rip the blister pack open and free the object inside, you feel like you’ve gone ten rounds. Okay, the product looks great on the shelf and makes shoplifting more difficult but do manufacturers know how customers feel after a battle with a blister pack?
A variation on the blister pack is plastic berry box. It doesn’t hold a candle to the HDPE, but it can still drive you bonkers. With two plastic pegs on the corners of the top that fit tightly into round pockets on the bottom, it can make you crazy. You can wedge your fingers between the two but they still put up a good fight.
Even the seemingly innocuous cardboard cracker boxes pose frustrations. At the top of the box, there’s a little cardboard tab on which is printed “To open, lift flap.” Sounds easy enough, but when to try to pull it up, the flap resists as if its saying, “Oh, no, buster, I’m not making this easy for you, no way.” So you pull harder and the flap suddenly rips off and you’re left holding a scrap of cardboard.
And the package remains closed. Now it’s knife time, sliding the shiv under the flap you slide it up and down, hoping the flap will now pop open. If it does, you face Stage Two of the opening process. The cellophane packages inside holding the crackers are crimped at the top so they don’t tear easily so you have to stab the cellophane to free the crackers, ripping it open so the crackers you don’t take out quickly get stale or soggy. It’s payback time for the cardboard box.
How about the little plastic rings inside the spout of a milk carton? Sometimes you get lucky and you can pop the ring out but often the rings hunker down into the spout and won’t allow your finger to get under them. Standing by the open fridge trying to poke your finger into the ring is enough to get the day off to a bad start.
And resealable plastic bags holding stuff like granola where the top of the package has an arrow and the message “Tear here to open”? Sounds easy enough but to open these guys, you need luck. Because I don’t know how many times I’ve torn here and ended up with only strip of plastic between my fingers. So you keep tearing until you finally reveal the locking gizmo which is two lengths of plastic with long teeth that seal them together. Another obstruction. It says on the top of the package, “Resealable bag for freshness” and “Press along strip to reseal”. That’s if you can get the two plastic strips (often called a resealable zipper) to separate because they often fight back and you end up grabbing the bag on both sides and ripping it open. Which often wrecks the zipper so the contents go bad in no time.
As gorgeous as Apple packaging is, have you ever tried to open a box containing a new iPhone? Apple vacuum locks the phone inside so no matter how hard you shake it, the box will refuses to open. Maybe they don’t want iPhone boxes slipping apart on their trip back from China, but the box might as well be welded together so you can’t even wedge a fingernail between the two. So its “shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake” until the box gives and lets the inside sneak out enough for you to get your fingers around it and pry it out.
But the ultimate enemy when it comes to packages are the white plastic pails that chlorine tablets come in. They have an inviolable locking mechanism with a red lever on the side and instructions stamped in raised lettering around the edge of the pail. Problem is the lettering is white and the box is white so you have to have a reading knowledge of Braille to understand the directions.
Getting into the Pharaoh’s tomb would have been easier than opening the chlorine can. I once spent twenty minutes trying to figure it out, finally giving up and heading into town to the pool supply business where I’d bought the stuff. Of course they had the code to opening it and quickly popped the red doohicky in the right direction and unscrewed the top. Needless to say, I carefully laid the top back on the pail when I’d finished, not wanting screw it down and find myself going back into town again.
Recently, we bought a Dyson battery operated vacuum. I dreaded opening the package and spending a half hour unloading all the parts. But the thing almost jumped out and assembled itself. Nothing fought back, the stuff was easy to get out, and with a series of drawings, showed you not only how to put it together but also how to operate it, making up in a small way for all the packaging battles with blister packs, resealable pouches, milk cartons and chlorine pails that I’d fought and lost.