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Package Baggage

It always fries my brains when I have nothing more creative to do with my time than visit a computer store. It is a bit like sending a Brit soldier to the gulf without any body armour. I am always caught between the friendly fire of spotty computer experts who start rubbing themselves up against a flatscreen thinner than a fagpaper while explaining the difference between 12 bit and 16 bit digital processing. The ears loosen from the moorings I start to suck my thumb and playfully kick the heels. Apart from the ugliness of computer furniture, I have very little to say about it all as it is not my chosen field.

I might add that I find the odd transition of white to black monitors although some sort of fashion statement will not be changed purely to match the cushions in my house. That, suffice to say, is hardly more excitement than I can possibly bear. Who decides this bollocks? You and l just get used to black computers, and a brass 'wirewool' finish with pastel stencils will rocket into the market no doubt. What next, pewter printers and walnut keyboards? My friend usually swings by the computer shop while on his own errands because frankly, I would slip out of this dimension and straight into a coma if somebody tried to educate me on such matters.

But what is it with designer packaging? I watched on the news recently about a certain 'Mr Big' who was arrested for peddling cheap DVD's and it would appear he owed his brief success to selling movies for about three quid and thus had very few complaints from his growing customer base. Now if an Asian asylum seeking entrepreneur can spot a corner in the market after just six years in 'Blighty' what does that tell you about our over-priced, over-packaged, over-hyped, etc etc products, whose manufacturers are surprised when a pirate industry springs up and takes 40% of the business?

Buying good quality contraband should be encouraged to force the real 'rip off' merchants to bring their prices down? Oops! Did I say that out loud?

This brings me to packaging.

My froth about packaging is such a pet hate with me. I would love to hit the streets with a camera crew and see how many O.A.P's can get a Digital camcorder memory card out of its second skin before they croak or preferably just watch their wrinkly faces screw right up as I dust them occasionally.

These little suckers are only the size of postage stamp but live in this plastic crib that will withstand a thousand megaton blast.

The shell is moulded and in comparison to the actual size of the product is the equivalent to an affixed playing card in the middle of the Old Trafford. Inside is a paper insert that has a splash of graphics promising you eternal life and a perpetual hard-on for your digital recorder.

It is a freestanding display that apart from its impregnability would be an ideal ice scraper for the car windscreen when your own credit card has already expired.

I used carpet scissors in the end to chomp the plastic edging away, slither by slither, until I found the tiny card that was further cocooned inside another plastic sarcophagus. It's very own 'snap-to' and rigid wallet for easy carriage. To my horror I noticed I had extricated the card without checking the printed warning that 'should the product be unsatisfactory' that it had to be returned intact.

How do you know it is unsatisfactory until you have tried it? It's a memory card for a video recorder? You have to try it out first by taking it out of the package. I bet even the memory card would have remembered this.

Supermarket shelves groan with the weight of packaging when little of the product actually exists.

Rashers of bacon sat looking without hope in welded envelopes. Biscuits have to be guillotined midway up the packet to become liberated. Vacuum packed frozen goods with re-sealable 'fasteners' that refuse to clip together and end up slipping out and falling helplessly to the freezer floor. Petit Pois, sweetcorn or pasta that you try to open the top end and by some bizarre logic thus gives the signal for the arse end to burst apart with the force of a megaton bomb.

Audio tapes! (I mention these as I'm 'normally bias' anyway?.) The cellophane that hermetically seals your boxes of tapes in case they are exposed to too much oxygen and need the tiniest forceps in the world combined with your own teeth to remove.

'Shrunkwrapped' pizzas that look like an artefact found by 'Timeteam' with all the cheese and already sparsely dressed toppings on one side only. That's right. I see you nodding! Leaving one, lonely, stray slice of pepperoni inhabiting the bald hemisphere making your TV dinner looking like a pimple on a bears arse.

You can only imagine that the last Neapolitan left alone on the shelf forces you to buy it because it was constructed by a food operative that presumably serves breakfast at home to his or her family with a tennis racket.

Sandwiches that are 'front end loaded' for display purposes fooling the hungry buyer that the chunky filling continues throughout the entire breadth of the bread. Not so.

A sneaky lift of the promising BLT reveals yawning expanses of nothingness, only if you can exhume it from the plastic prison first without it exploding over your 'laptop'.

Whole marketing and design departments spend a sh*tload of cash trying to create the most inappropriate packaging. Easter eggs for instance. Trees have to die to put a stupid piece of hollow chocolate into a coffin. What's wrong with a bit of bubblewrap? Who invented the polystyrene quaver and giant shoulders of the stuff protecting your new TV? At Christmas time my house is drifted inside to the rafters in the stuff. My garage becomes an arsonists' paradise until the dustman comes, with reams of cardboard, flat and corrugated, and the customary shower of polystyrene that after a light breeze can be found in every corner of every garden in my street for weeks to come.

Chunks of the stuff, that if strapped together, would probably melt the polar icecaps and is chased, eaten and passed by small children and dogs (easily mistaken for those circular rice cakes but far tastier).

"Contents may settle".

What seems to be happening here, is the manufacturer is too embarrassed to say 'size does matter' and want you to believe that the 50% extra FREE is the box size and nothing to do with what's inside.

If you bought muesli that 'settled' does that mean you will be less disappointed at opening a half empty box? Does this apply to meanly filled yoghurt pots or boxes of fish that say "6 to 8" pieces? It's either 6 or 8? I don't like guessing games. If I go to my bank I don't want the teller to say to me when I want a balance, "You've got either sixty quid left or a fiver."

How can anything plastic make some product or other more desirable? Hands up any one person who has ever bought wine from a plastic decanter? Ok, I admit to the odd box of wine simply because your drinking levels can be hidden from party guests and what they cannot see will not hurt them until you collapse over their Tiramisu at dinner and try to blame it on the 'time of the month'.

Going on picnics without the scissors for instance. If the scissors were forgotten everybody would starve or die of thirst. It would be like surviving the Holocaust without a can opener.

Why do you seem to need scissors for every task to remove packaging?

Dribbly giblets from inside a chicken have to be cut away from their plastic bubble. What did we use before to sever umbilical cords? Why do paramedics have to cut away a perfectly good pair of jeans just because you leg is caught in a haybaler?

I remember on one occasion my Mother cutting my hair with pinking shears and I went to school the next day with a Barnet looking like an upside down bun case. I thought they were for 'running up' curtains with? There again you should not run anywhere with a pair of scissors in your hand.

Samson from the Bible had his hair cut off by Delilah as he slept. This was to sap his strength. It was believed as Hebrew custom then, as it is today, that masculinity was all in a man's long hair.

Men of all creeds wear long hair at times. Today they are called tw*ts.

A women's hair is supposed to be her 'crowning glory'.

This has changed and become her handbag and accessories. Who doesn't want a shock of long hair plunged into your chest at intervals? If your woman does not have long hair, hold onto her ears.

We take scissors for granted.

'Edward Scissorhands' didn't, but he could hardly point the finger. There was one guy who could never scratch his balls without becoming a human shish kebab.

Dishwasher or soap tablets that won't prise from their wrappings.

Endless crap car accessories or kids toys that fill you with trepidation before you snap it from the carcass only to find the most vital component falls in half when it makes a bid for its freedom. You can't buy a carrier bag without advertising something on it.

Maybe we could have a dating service on them next. Have a different lonely heart on each side of the bag along with a contact number.

Like those scandalous bookclubs ? that send you every book you didn't want and call it the 'Editor's choice' and charge you fourfold 'Amazon' prices on the fifty books you have apparently pledged to buy within three weeks.

Editor's choice? If I meet him I will give him my 'readers choice' that of 'War and Peace' up his cable layer, sideways, to effect the most injury. Yes, still in its packaging!

God bless the little cream pots at motorway 'Welcome breaks' airports, or those found at cheap hotels that guarantee to be a hit with folk. A direct hit that is! From forty paces and causing your entire family to duck down under the table in case they see that it was you without any fingernails.

It is with rich fondness I reminisce about having all my produce put in a 'twisted at the corners' brown paper bag of just one size. All in a string handled brown paper holdall. Chips in newspaper that somehow made them taste better than they do today.

Real cutlery instead of plastic forks wrapped with a serviette in cellophane too, that so often lose a prong inside your cheeseburger and cause a three hour wait in accident and emergency.

This brings me to crisps? Once again there is enough room in each seal fresh pack to hold a moonie convention and yet only one sixth of a potato as facts bear out resides inside. One packet is never enough, so they sell you whole selection packs for you to munch through guiltily.

Whatever happened to those giant family packs of 'Golden Wonder' crisps? Just one big f*ck-off packet with crisps loose inside. They were the best thing to come out of the sixties and seventies. Just heaps of crisps to share amongst bus queues. You couldn't eat them all even if you ate nothing else for a week. They welded together after a while and would bend in half like putty.

No 'sell-by' dates in those days. No 'best befores'. You only got rid when they reproduced of their own accord. You could almost fold them like underwear at the point of optimum staleness.

You had to roll your sleeves up to reach all the 'smushed' ones at the bottom of the bag. Once eaten the giant thick foil bag was great to 'chuck up into' as you were sure to be blowing chunks for the rest of the day.

'Ringpulls' became the familiar 'shoosh' to be heard until present time.

Soon small catapults could be made from them by pinging the tab of aluminium in the crook of the ring. Now, packagers have even put a stop to that and smoothed the ring pull mechanism. That has stopped the fizz fun for many!

Now we have 'Widgets'? that take up a whole mouthful of beer space in the can and then will fill the rest of the beer with air so you can stay sober but end up with reflux.

If either too warm or too cold will depend on how much beer you want to end up over the cat and down the back of the telly.

Packaging is a crazy waste of resources and raw materials. It is misleading. It is unwieldy. Most of all it causes litter louts and pollution.

There are so many preservatives in food nowadays so who needs it?

This is true?. My father was known to be a real re-cycler. Others called him a tightwad! Either way, he saved all polystyrene and packed the loft with it. Feet thick. Our house was a potential tinderbox but Father always said that "keeping bills down and keeping warm" were more important than the possible future invention of smoke alarms. In 1973 we had more firemen because there were less hoax-callers then.

They didn't need risk assessments. They just had to be good at getting cats out of trees or your toes out of the tap. Firemen today are so afraid of health and safety they will fit smoke alarms in your house for free just in case you have the urge to sue them for dying of third degree burns or having to cut the top of your car roof off when you slip your disc during sex.

Father even covered the ceilings of our home with those polystyrene tiles. He chainsmoked too, so miraculously I did not become 'toast' at any stage and am here to tell this tale as a result.

I escaped any inferno of gargantuan proportions to mar my childhood that hypothetically, quite likely, would have been seen from one of the Apollo missions and lit up East Anglia like a solar flare.

Alternatives? Easy! Make all packaging edible. Then watch how marketeers become more frugal with it! You are not going to sell as many Big Macs if the customer is full with the Fries carton are you?

Anyway, my Mother was wrong when she said everything good comes in brown paper packages. I once put dog-shit in a brown paper bag and placed it on a neighbours doorstep. I would then take some matches and set light to it and play 'Knock down Ginger' by pressing the doorbell.

Retreating to my hiding place I would watch with delight as the householder would come to the door and try to put the incendiary out and only discover the sticky hitchhiker when it was all too late.

We made our own fun in those days.
Practical jokes meant something to the victims back then.

. About the Author .Perry Estelle.

Satirist, cartoonist and fiction writer. If you need original and sizzling satire on tap I am your man. Please contact me if you don't mind my overconfidence and want a weird regular feature! perry.estelle@fugitiveauthor.com .

By: Perry Estelle


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