Monday, June 05, 2006


I went to the hardware store the other day and bought a screwdriver. It was a fine screwdriver, with a red handle and shiny metal. Just what I wanted. The thing is, it was encased in Bubble Wrap. Getting the package open involved tearing up the bubble and ruining the beauty of the whole thing and ruining my fingernails at the same time.

I got to thinking about it and wondered just why it is necessary to put a screwdriver in Bubble Wrap. The reason still eludes me. I guess that, if that screwdriver were left unwrapped, it might lose some of its shiny surface. On the other hand, I would not want to buy a screwdriver that was so easily marred.

Perhaps the makers of that screwdriver worried that some crazy person, a murderous lunatic, would insert some dangerous substance onto that screwdriver, thus kill some innocent buyer. I don't know what substance that could be, but perhaps they know more about this subject than I do. I just can't imagine buying a screwdriver, handling it, then falling into a dead faint on the floor. But anything is possible in this world.

As one gets older, one becomes more and more frustrated with the way American companies encase every product in hard-to-open wrapping. It doesn't seem to be enough for a company to just put a product in a box or a bag. After you have figured out how to open the box, there is more wrapping to contend with. Every little knob and item is encased in something, be it plastic as strong as galvanized steel.

One can understand medication being wrapped and closed securely. No one wants to swallow an aspirin that has been coated with arsenic or some such poison, slipped into a bottle or package by some raving loonie intent upon causing harm to a stranger. But I can't imagine a screwdriver suffering from such tampering.

Not long ago, I bought a computer cabinet, an inexpensive one, designed to hold my computer and my monitor, with a shelf for the keyboard. Just what I wanted. But I did not contend with the mechanics of this sale. I brought the box home, opened it with a sharp knife, and found a truckload of paper, cardboard and plastic wrapping each little part.

There was an instruction sheet, which was very nicely written and diagrammed in both English and Spanish, and it was clear from the beginning that unwrapping this object was going to be the least of my worries. To make a long story short, I have a computer table that holds everything perfectly, but seems to weave in a graceful manner either to the North or the South, depending upon its whim. The computer, monitor and keyboard balance precariously on its surface, as I contemplate the leftover screws, plugs and weird unnamed pieces still left in the box.

Wrapping objects these days is not only defying lurking poisoners, but it is covering up the sins of the manufacturers. We all can remember those huge candy wrappers that, when opened up, revealed this small, piddley, paltry candy bar hidden beneath the giant wrapper. Only consumer complaints...or perhaps the lowered price of chocolate...convinced the candy makers to go back to the larger bars.

So, we seem to be at the mercy of the wrapping paper. The box is wrapped and taped. The items inside are wrapped and taped. The items inside the wrapped and taped items are wrapped and tapes. I figure that someone finally found a use for all that duct tape manufactured during the Orange Alert scare.

To get back to my Bubble Wrapped screwdriver, the wrapping was much larger than my slim, useful tool. It took up a great deal of space in my trash can and that leads us to another problem. I am just one person. I should generate a tiny amount of trash weekly. Instead, I toss out one, two and sometimes three trash bags every seven days. Why? Because of wrapping paper. Everything is boxed, wrapped, surrounded, tucked, taped and stapled. Because of all this wrapping, I am a human trash machine. My trash can bubbleth over.

Now, if you multiply my large deposit of trash by the some 400,000 Americans, including those babies with their constant supply of paper, wipeys and dipeys, you have mountains of trash rivaling any range in this country or Europe. And, when I think about it, I wonder what we did back in my childhood years on the farm, when garbage pickup did not exist for us, nor could we have afforded it if it had.

It was simple back then. Paper was used in the outhouse, and the dogs or the pigs ate the scraps. Our dogs ate such delicacies as corncobs and apple peelings, never saw a vet, and lived to be twenty years old. Today, dogs cost more than humans at times and can easily die at early ages. It's a wonder they are not Bubble Wrapped!

Those were the happy, trashless days and I frequently envy their passing. As I stuff more wrappers and boxes in my trashcan or claw at some product wrapped in stubbornly clinging plastic, I envision a future when we will become so overwhelmed and weary by coping with wrapping that we will be unable to find the product at all.