Monthly Archives: June 2016

Packaging from Hell

Are you as frustrated by product packaging as I am? From over-the-counter drugs to batteries to hair dryers the war against the consumer goes on.blister pack tablets

If you’re like me, you’ve wondered why packaging is so difficult to breach. Are the designers trying to wield their power? Are they stupid? Are they sadists? Do they think someone will steal or damage the product?

Strange as it seems, every time I remove an anti-histamine tablet from a blister pack or open my newly-purchased herbal supplement bottle , I think of a 1982 Chicago product tampering scare. Some really angry person tainted Extra-Strength Tylenol capsules with potassium cyanide as the bottles sat on store shelves. Seven people died in a series of poisonings. Although there were a couple of suspects, no one was ever convicted of this crime.

Copycat product tampering followed, notably in 1986, when a woman tainted bottles of Extra-Strength Excedrin with cyanide poison. Her husband died (as she planned) as did another individual (collateral damage) in the same town. In association with these deaths, Stella Nickell was eventually found guilty on Federal product tampering charges. She was sentenced to two concurrent ninety-year terms. She’ll be eligible for parole in 2018 and could still face charges for those murdes in the state of Washington.

Johnson & Johnson and Bristol Myers, respectively, each immediately recalled all their products from the market and were credited with saving hundreds of lives. But more than that, they subsequently made radical changes to how products were packaged and even manufactured.

But it’s not fair to blame all impenetrable product packaging on the 1980s tampering culprits. Child-proof packaging, namely a child-proof cap, was first conceived in 1957 and perfected in 1967 by Dr. Henri Breault.

Photo by Beth

Photo by Beth

I’m not sure what fiendish mind came up with the hard-to-open really heavy plastic packages that seem to be molded to the products. Some are immune to scissor attacks and not at all concerned by an approaching utility blade. Penetrating the seal creates extremely sharp plastic pieces which are eager to begin blood-letting adventures among one’s tender fingertips.

I suppose I can put up with a little inconvenience if lives are safer. Still the clamshell blister wrap seems a little excessive.

Father’s Day

Last month I discussed Mother’s Day and how important my mother was to me. Because my parents were divorced when I was still a toddler, my relationship with my father was necessarily different.

I’ve never celebrated Father’s Day with more than a card and/or a phone call. It’s not a special day for me.  I loved my daddy and I know he loved me.  I always felt he supported me, even if from a distance.  But I lived with my mother and she took care of my day-to-day and year-to-year needs.

Strangely enough, I always called him “Daddy.” I say strange because I called her “Mother” never “Mommy” or “Mom.”

Unlike with shared custody, I visited my father only occasionally. We spoke on the phone quite regularly, but he rarely attended my school or dancing events. I don’t remember wondering why or feeling particularly bad about it.

The truth is during the 1950s and 1960s, Fathers—at least mine and my friend’s—rarely participated in their children’s lives. In fact, unlike today, there weren’t that many school activities which required—let alone encouraged—parental participation.

When I would spend the day with Daddy (keep in mind I was 6-to-10 years old), he would amuse me with magic tricks. He could find nickels in the strangest places—behind my ear, on top of a lamp shade, behind a clock. And we always ended the visit with a game of dominoes, which he never let me win; I had to work for it. In my teen and adult years, we would play pinochle, assuming a couple more players were available.

Our phone conversations included his reciting poetry. He wrote one about my dog named Twinkle, called “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Dog”—you get the idea. He also wrote “punny” jokes and product jingles, none of which I remember, but they always made me laugh.

Another favorite phone game involved my giving him a long series of multi-digit numbers to add or multiply together. He could come back with an answer almost immediately. My mother said he was good with math—no kidding—and could have been a CPA.

As I grew older and my male friends or co-workers talked about their daughters, I began to realize how much I had missed. Sometimes I wondered what having a full-time dad would have felt like.  What would have happened if my parents had stayed together? But such speculation only makes my head spin—too many variables.

The fact is, I am who and where I am now because of everything that has happened in my life—every person, every event, every circumstance. And frankly, where I am now is a perfect place.

To Write or To Not-Write

Being a good writer requires many skills, creativity the chief among them. In addition, an appreciation for rules of grammar, spelling, plot development, and character development are extremely important. It is also good to have a few reference books—ones about writing, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and atlases. Of course, today the World Wide Web—via Google and others—has replaced the need for a physical library. Personally, I like to touch the books.

Not-writing, on the other hand, requires only one ability—procrastination: the action of delaying or postponing something AKA stalling.

If you are a professional writer, you must be able to skillfully accompany procrastinating with a solid excuse. The fact that a piece is not written, edited, or outlined is not generally acceptable. There has to be a reason your publisher or editor—and even yourself—will understand, i.e., believe and forgive.

Here are a few suggestions with important caveats. Please note: overuse can be risky.

  1. Sick Pet—make sure you have a pet; long-term symptoms add credence; veterinarian receipts may be required
  2. Sick Friend—make sure you have a friend; long-term symptoms and an explanation why you are only friend who could assist may be required; pictures of friend in doctor’s waiting room are a bonus
  3. Sick Relative—make sure relative named is alive and living close enough for you to assist, although having to travel to the relative’s city is a bonus; distant relatives may require additional explanation
  4. Pet ate manuscript—make sure pet is large enough to do the deed (no fish); use only if desperate or speaking to gullible individual
  5. Computer problem—offer details and horror stories about losing files; invoices from computer technician may be required; be prepared to explain why you didn’t buy a new computer
  6. Yard work—make sure you have a yard; grass and/or weeds must exceed height limit for your neighborhood/city/county; planting a vegetable garden does not qualify
  7. House chores—provide a long list (cleaning, laundry, painting, etc.) with last completion date for each; back up with pictures of dust, grime, spider webs, dirty clothes, & dirty dishes
  8. Overtime at day-job—make sure you have a day-job; time card records may be required
  9. Hospital Admission—for yourself, magnitude of illness must be raised; include reason for not taking your laptop with you; hospital invoices may be required
  10. Day off for good behavior—works only (but not always) if speaking to yourself
  11. Creativity on fritz—clever, but amateurish
  12. Funeral of friend/relative—use only if true