Sunday, December 30, 2012


Now that the big gift-giving holiday is over how many of you have faced the daunting problem of modern packaging? Opening a present isn't just a job of ripping off some flimsy decorative paper. You must approach the task with the proper tools. Scissors? Hah! Hardly worth bringing along. Today's items require wrenches, chain-saws and flame-throwers to un-box. It isn't just the fiendish gift-giver armed with bubble-wrap and duct tape - Himself comes to mind in this category. And it isn't just the breakables that must be safely encased in styrofoam. Those are certainly challenges but they don't come close to those terrors of modern packaging: The Hard Plastic (S)Hell.

You know them. The item is highly visible so it can be hung enticingly on a hook in the store where it can catch a buyer's eye and be popped into the cart for a trip home. It was thence swathed it in colored paper using lots of tape since the odd vacuum-packed shape resists neatly folded corners and sheds bands of ribbon as soon as they are attached. It sits awaiting the eager opening.

Paper is ripped off and the recipient is greeted with a tactical problem similar to breeching the security surrounding the Pentagon. The gift, often a toy or electronic goodie, can be viewed but remains locked within its shell. Eventually that chain-saw (Himself uses a lethal-looking Chinese Army knife) is wielded and sharp bits of plastic fly across the room to embed themselves in the rug where they can later move to an unwary bare foot. The warranty and instruction pages shred into confetti while the gift itself falls perilously toward the floor. The heroic gift opener wanders off in search of something to staunch the flow of blood brought on either by sharp plastic edges or frustrated thrusts of the chosen blade. Lookers-on remain to exchange startled glances after the flow of obscenities the un-wrapping brought about.

Maybe we could encourage manufacturers to wrap their products like M&Ms? Somebody quick invent the clear candy coating!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Wrap Artist

Wrapping gifts was once a specialty of mine. I used to be so good at folding precise corners, cutting the right amount of paper, getting the ribbon tight and the bows fluffy. The results were pleasing and the job itself pleasant.

These days I hack at the paper and swear it fights me as I vainly try to snuggle it around whatever I'm trying to cover. Is it made more cheaply? The stuff seemed determined to rip and tear in awkward places. The rolls are way too long for most gifts and impossible to wrestle with no matter what I'm trying to enshroud.

As for ribbon, since I seem to have developed extra thumbs... or perhaps I've lost a few important digits, victims of age-induced stiffening... ribbon is nearly beyond me. It rolls away off the edge of the table and once captured fights any attempt to measure. The amount cut is always way too long or just a smidgeon too short. On occasion I mush a pre-made bow on top of a box, mostly to cover one of those aforementioned surprise rips.

Creativity is still part of my holiday gift-swaddling plan. It just has an entirely different meaning. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

My Wish for Today

December can be a tough month. The approaching holidays create Currier & Ives expectations in people. Ads on television are full of jolly, happy images of food a'plenty, warm companionship, and the love we all crave from family and friends. Reality can often come up short. Food is expensive, companionship elusive, family ties are broken or damaged. It is hard to make reality approach the picture we hold.

This year it is even tougher. The news has brought us visions of horrifying events that rob the world of the peace and love the season promises. It is difficult to face the world with Christmas is our hearts.

For those of us who can still smile it is time to try and plant joy in the world. It only takes little seeds. Turn to the first person you meet each day and smile. Pick someone to greet, to compliment, to express your kindness and love. Hold back a curse. Share a hug. Do it once a day and let it grow. Do it twice. Three times. Fill your world, our world, with something to benefit us all.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Coupon Humor?

Dear Corporate "America",

(Sorry for the quotes but I examined the package of the product I'm writing about and I have no clue where to direct my comments. You seem to be an American company with an address in Illinois but the product is made in China and presumably was boxed there and shipped here.)

I want to bring your attention to my reaction to the Manufacturer's Coupon included in your packaging. Lovely thought and I was quite tempted to use the coupon until I saw the expiration date. The coupon expired just about a year ago. The product it accompanied does not expire for for another 6 months.

Now I know this is naive of me and I'm sure somewhere in your big corporate headquarters there are clever folk sitting around carefully planning these things, but this doesn't seem to make sense. Is your goal to make an out-dated offer and thus not have to forgo profit? Or was it to irritate the customer by making what is ultimately a worthless offer?

You have achieved one of these brilliantly.