Things I hate #17

Packaging. I spent five minutes wrestling with a sachet of pasta bake yesterday when I came in from work. In the end I stamped on it until it burst and ate the contents from the laminate. Licked it up off the floor like a dog. Not what the serving suggestion proposed, but I’d had it by then. Kicking the kitchen units and swearing at the top of my voice. Stabbing out madly with a carving knife. This is what laminated tin foil and thick paper and heat sealed plastic had reduced me to. The Gordian Knot represented less of a puzzle. Hercules on his twelve labours had it easy. The Golden Hind of Artemis? I’ve shit ‘em. Compare stealing the apples of the Hesperides with DVDs that arrive tight wrapped in cellophane that has no apparent seams. No contest. The DVDs are impregnable. Like Keira Knightly. There’s no purchase to cause a rip, there’s no edge to get a nail under, no room to make a cut without damaging the box underneath. Hercules would have been shambling back to Thera, tossing his copy of The Boat That Rocked to one side unopened, calling it a day and heading for the beach with a big jug of ice cold Mythos and a Tzatziki smothered kebab. Sod that! Want to keep a child busy for a couple of hours? Toss the little bugger a jar of Pesto and tell them there’s special green chocolate inside. And have you ever bought a new album on compact disc and tried to get the inner sleeve out of the CD jewel case without damaging it when the jewel case has little notches on the end? It’s like trying to crack the Enigma Code. Only trickier. And more time consuming. You’ve really got to be desperate to know who played bass on track 5 before starting to climb that bloody mountain. You might as well be doing a Rubik’s cube with one hand. A greasy hand with broken fingers. A greasy hand with broken fingers that’s been in a bucket of frozen water for five hours. The man who’s frantic to know the lyrics to Big Country’s ‘Big Country’ from the Crossing album could go fucking bonkers in this situation. Does Stuart Adamson sing ‘Go see Pharoahs in the desert’ or ‘Grow flowers in the desert’? Arrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If back in the day 30,000 years ago homo sapiens had been faced with this problem they would have turned it in and we would still be up in the trees dragging nourishment from twigs. It’s sobering to think that the inner sleeve to the deluxe edition of The Who’s Who’s Next – the one with all the previously unpublished photos of Keith Moon blowing stuff up and John Entwistle… erm… standing with his arms folded – may have meant a break down in evolution and we would all still resemble Liamgallagherman. Hirsute, grinning primates, swaggering through life with an over developed ego and a shocking lack of self-criticism. The Chimps would have taken over the earth and mankind would be well down the pecking order in the Planet of the Apes. We’d be on permanent nut cracking duty for the Gorillas. Wiping the Baboons’ chapped arses. Waiting for Noelgallagherman to come up with another tune and beating Robbiewilliamsman to death with a rock. For fun.


The trouble is that for the sake of cheapness and uniformity everything is packed by machines these days. Humans are dirty and sadly inadequate folders, tuckers and labellers. And they need food and toilet breaks and want paying. Bloody greedy, incontinent ingrates. Instead the products that we get are immaculately shrink wrapped, hygienically vacuum sealed, plastic moulded, seamlessly canned and charged with static electricity with such loving attention to regularity and corporate branding by a relentless machine that will run twenty four hours a day that would make Andy Warhol weep behind his Ray Bans; the sly, charlatan fuck. The modern product is truly a thing of beauty. Everything looks all nice and shiny because the packaging becomes an end in itself. It’s made to look pretty and desirable so that you buy it. Like the totally unnecessary hologram printed boxes on toothpaste. Why the hell do we need those? Are they really worth another few thousand acres of rainforest? Shiny shiny. Yes they are. Packaging is an art. Uniformity creates desire. Sod opening it. Just look at it and luxuriate in your own affluence. Or else it’s packed up to preserve it from interference or decay. A tin of baked beans has a longer shelf life that depleted uranium from Sizewell B. But that immaculate shrink wrapping, hygienic vacuum sealing, plastic moulding, seamless canning and the static electricity charge leaves apparently little or no thought as to how the packages will ever be opened again. And then there are so many little security touches and safety hurdles aimed at defeating the crank extortionists who tamper with food so that opening a jar of Piccalilly is like trying to crack the big lock at Fort Knox. With a stick of celery.


How the hell do old people go on with these things? How many deaths in the elderly have been caused by a stubborn tin of sardines when the key snapped or a microwave Shepherd’s pie with an un-peelable plastic lid where the material simply flaked off all around the edges? Cross and Blackwell brings out a new packet design and the wrinklies are dropping like flies. It’s like a Polar Bear suddenly being confronted with a coconut or a Giraffe finding the lush savannah replaced with a Tesco surrounded by a thousand square mile tarmac car park. Eh? The police must be forever breaking in to mouldy bungalows to find a pensioner gripping an unopened Pot Noodle covered in frenzied scratch marks. Some World War 2 hero, who saw off Hitler and the Third Reich, finished off by the screw top on a bottle of Chocolate milk. Poor old buggers. But maybe that’s how we’ll all go. Because packaging is getting worse. Maybe we’re going to be the authors of our own extinction. We will fall to our own weakness for cleanliness and beauty and the treachery of the machines we have created. Forget global warming and greenhouse gasses or inter-continental ballistic missile Armageddon. Forget the rumoured New Ice Age or a millennium long nuclear winter. The dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid from out of space. Mankind will be brought to an end by the unconquerable cellophane on a Marks & Spencer’s ready meal Chicken Korma.


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