Richard Daybell – Novels, stories and short humor
Several years ago, we found the perfect gift for my father who, in his seventies, had just given up smoking. It was a little glass case with a tiny hammer attached to it and instructions that said: “In case of emergency, break glass.” Inside was one cigarette and a match. He loved it. A lot of packaging for one cigarette but the packaging was the point.
Packaging has become an integral part of products these days. But unlike that cigarette, most of today’s packaging seems pointless. I think it all started with shrink wrapping, and the whole reason for shrink wrapping anything was because they could. I personally would shrink wrap the idiot who invented the process and leave him or her mummified for the ages.
Packaging is not meant to make life easier for the consumer. On the contrary, much of it is intended to make life more difficult for the consumer, especially the consumer who would avail himself of the product without paying for it. Which is all of us, in the eyes of the manufacturer or retailer, until proven otherwise. That must be why an item that is the size of a quarter is packaged to make it bigger than a breadbox. That must also be why price stickers won’t come off a product without defacing it (the idiot who invented those little stickers for fruit and vegetables should also be shrink wrapped and propped up next to that other mummy). And articles of clothing have a dozen tags hidden here and there in the hopes that we’ll be seen walking out of the store with our tag showing.
Today shrink wrapping has been superseded by packaging made of space age plastic so strong it would stop a runaway locomotive or a speeding bullet (more on bullets later). The purpose here may be less to prevent stealing than to make us destroy the product inside before we can use it. The new fluorescent light bulbs offer a perfect example. Here’s an environmentally friendly product meant to save energy, but packaged for maximum landfill usage. Meanwhile, those old energy-guzzling incandescent bulbs are packaged in bio-degradable recyclable lightweight cardboard.
Among the most nefarious of packagers are the pharmaceutical companies (nefarious in many other ways as well). Starting with the noble idea of child-resistant packaging they have gone to the extreme – individual pills encased in plastic or foil on a shrink-wrapped card, inside a shrink-wrapped box.
Which brings us back to that speeding bullet. The recent heated debate on the place of guns in our society suggests an area where packagers such as the pharmaceutical industry could provide a valuable public service – namely, packaging bullets – you know, individually encased in plastic or foil on a shrink-wrapped card in a box sealed in space-age plastic that would, well, stop a speeding bullet.