We all run through life in turbo drive, every day trying to do more in less time. We live in a magical world where new conveniences pop up regularly, developed to match our speed, our lack of patience, and our need to “get ‘er done.” Yet amazingly, we still yearn for faster and better.
I’m regularly astonished at myself for being frustrated if my computer gets bogged down and I have to wait a whole 10 seconds for a program or link to open up. Or if I have to wait 8 minutes while watching my local news so I can see the weather forecast. Or if my elderly dog is moving slowly during a walk. Or if doing my hair in the morning takes longer than 5 minutes. Heaven forbid I get stuck behind a “meanderer” in the grocery store. And just the other day I “ran” in to a Subway restaurant, and got frustrated that there was only one person working, and four people ahead of me. I actually considered leaving, until I took a breath, felt badly for the woman who was doing her best to get to everyone quickly, and stuck in there. I was back out the door in less than 10 minutes. Gosh, how did I ever survive it?
I do recognize my own impatience, and my seemingly lack of ability to slow down. I’m trying to kick it down a notch, really I am. As a matter of fact, I have a goal someday, when I’m retired and in my advanced years, to be that woman who takes her time roaming through a store, who can patiently wait for something with no angst, and most of all, who can sit and watch the younger versions of myself run around like lunatics and laugh and say “I was you once.” I’m already amused by some of the new products that come through that seem to take a step too far down the convenience road – like this weekend in the dairy aisle of the store I saw a “Deviled Egg Kit.” Ewww, really? I can’t even imagine what will be available in another 20 years or so.
I do believe however there will always be one industry that will continue to struggle with “trying to make life easier and faster”: the packaging industry. Forgive me, please, any of you who develop or design packaging. I know you are doing your best, with great ideas, using the resources available. Even at my job, I’ve learned more about product packaging and the challenges that lie therein. Yet there are some things that will forever slow us down, no matter how well-meaning, like speedbumps in the middle of our daily raceways.
Let’s look at a few examples:
Bacon packaging. Tightly sealed envelopes of bad-for-us-but-yummy meat treats, with little windows designed to delude us into believing there’s some meat accompanying the fat on each piece. At the very top reads an ever so handy phrase: Peel Apart Here. I have never successfully pulled one of those packages open. The only thing that changes is the amount of time I will wrestle with it before just grabbing the scissors.
Produce bags. Lightweight bags that hang in a roll in the produce department of the grocery store, that require a bizarre combination of finger wrestling, rubbing, shaking and peeling to open. After three minutes or so of playing rock, paper, scissors with yourself and a bag, you realize you’ve been trying to open the sealed end, and have to start all over again. All while balancing three peppers under your arm.
Anything with a plastic tab. Water bottles, gum cups, deli containers – all of those nifty “convenient” openers that provide a tear-away seal for our safety… until the little nub or tab rips off prematurely, thus making the container virtually impenetrable. Nothing worse than being really thirsty and holding a water bottle with a lid that won’t lift off. Or being in the car with a new car-cup for gum and the tab breaks off – leaving you with a plastic vault that is now only good to be used as a baby rattle. Speaking of being in the car, on a recent road trip, I had stopped at a service area for gas, and got a snack bag of trail mix for the next leg of my journey. The “tear here” area at the top was impossible to tear. The only way to open it would have been with scissors. Which I don’t keep in the car. Even poking it with keys or trying tearing it with my teeth didn’t work. Gotta love staring at a snack with a rumbling stomach for three hours.
And finally, the worst modern packaging yet: the kind of moulded plastic that holds everyday products hostage, like electric toothbrushes, lightbulbs, small electronics, and – ironically – even scissors. There was a recent article in the UK’s Telegraph that aptly refers to the frustration of trying to open these containers as “wrap rage.” Consumers report trying to use scissors, knives, razor blades and even hammers to open these devils. And, you guessed it, many end up with injuries. You may be able to quickly and efficiently brush your teeth with a nifty new powered toothbrush…. But it is going to take you an hour with three sharp tools to first get it out of the package, and likely a visit to Urgent Care.
Yes, I know, these are First World Problems. What slays me is that in this very modern, wonderful First World from where we’ve put a man on the moon, we can’t master “tear here to open.” Perhaps it is the universe’s way of telling us we need to slow down, to take deep breaths, to take our time in our crazy schedules, and that not everything in life should be rushed.
Either that, or we all need to carry an emergency pair of scissors with us at all times.