The tab on the side of the box says ‘Lift to open’. I should be so lucky. If they were honest, it would say ‘Lift to remove tab’, or ‘Lift to deface packaging’. But you keep hoping, don’t you. You think that one day you’ll lift that tab and the little cardboard zip will keep zipping and the box of soap powder will be miraculously accessible. It can’t be just a company joke, you think, or someone would have called them on it already. Or worse still, you think it’s all your fault: that other people zip away like champions and you alone in all the world are the one person who regularly hacks the box apart with scissors and sprays soap powder like a gritty blizzard into every corner of your cluttered and unsweepable laundry.
Whole neighbourhoods are built on the landfill created by packaging that didn’t unpackage as promised. The world is cluttered with the mangled remains of consumer frustration that left indestructible plastic welded to cardboard and containers with lids that refuse to lift and peel. And we, poor fools, contain our outrage lest the packaging industry point fingers of scorn at our ineptitude.
Well not anymore. I’m issuing a challenge to all packaging industry moguls. You try getting soap powder out from under the laundry tub. You risk your fingernails on lift-and-peel lids that don’t. And as for resealable packages – that’s just a commercial plot, isn’t it. They never work, so either the contents rot and shrivel and you have to buy more, or you invest in plastic containers to decant it all, and either way, wholesalers and retailers laugh all the way to the bank.
If I were kind – which I’m not – I might see this as one of life’s challenges designed to teach us in simple, non-threatening ways the intrinsic and character-building beauty of learning to deal with frustration. Bollocks. If my character isn’t built by now it never will be, and a permanently sealed ten-pack of batteries is extremely threatening when hurled through a twelfth-storey window.
The fact that packaging has its very own industry probably says it all. Gone are the days when you bought biscuits scooped from a jar on the counter. And it probably has its merits, particularly in a society where germs have fangs and must be constantly attacked by compulsive spraying and wiping with anti-bacterial wonder solutions. But think about it: there’s a whole army of people who spend their lives thinking up ways to stick stuff in things so that it’s the prettiest on the shelf. I’d be happier with efficient soap powder in a brown paper bag.