Saturday, November 22, 2008


Among other grocery items, I recently bought a jar of pickles. I am not a pickle fanatic, but with Thanksgiving coming up, it never hurts to have some around. So I decided to try eating a pickle with my evening meal, just to test it out.

Fifteen minutes later, I was still trying to open that jar of pickles. I pushed and pulled and twisted, to no avail. The lid stubbornly clung to the jar and was seemingly immovable. So I took a kitchen knife from the drawer and banged on the top of it, giving it several good whacks.

That didn't work. The lid would not budge. So I ran it under hot water until it should have been drowning. Then I pushed and pulled and twisted the cap again. It remained on the jar, refusing to move an inch. I hammered at it again, cursed at it, and tried waterboarding it one more time. After a half hour of work I was completely exhausted, but the pickles remained in the same condition that they were when I had brought them home from the store.

I gave up. Anything that fights that hard for its existence, clinging to its status quo, has my admiration. I set the jar in the cupboard and saved it for a visit from some huge burly fellow with ham-like hands stuck on arms equipped with bulging muscles enhanced by years of steroid use. I would hand this guest my jar of pickles and test his endurance and his strength and hopefully, both of us would enjoy a pickle.

So, in my cupboard, I found a tidy little packet of vegetables and rice. Just right for my dinner, I thought. I studied the packet and found a little notation that said "Tear here!" Always being the obedient type, I immediately tore there. Nothing happened. The packet was sealed shut. So, after pinching at it for awhile, I decided to give up and use the scissors. Scissors are meant to come to the rescue of people like me. So I neatly cut across the top of the vegetable packet and thought that my troubles were over. No such luck! The packet was sealed shut. The use of the scissors seemed to have encouraged that packet to seal itself firmly together.

What now? Do I bring out the blowtorch or call for the Jaws of Life from the local Fire Department? How does one open products these days when they are sealed as tightly as if they contain information on National Security or a yellowed, original, handwritten copy of the Constitution? I understand that, if we do not seal things correctly, some lunatic with evil intentions might sprinkle arsenic or anthrax or ricin or some other deadly product on our food. No one wants to die because they wanted a spoonful of rice and broccoli, that's for sure! But sealing these food items so tightly that it takes a marauding bear to get them open is frustrating beyond words.

Americans are innovative. Our companies keep coming up with new ways to package food. Take coffee, for instance. Coffee used to come in those five-pound quantities, tucked into a slippery can, covered with a plastic lid. Unless your hands were the size of pizza pies, you could not grip these cans tightly, which meant that occasionally you would spill coffee all over the floor. So, the companies began working on this. Some of them invented a plastic can, with little indentations that are intended to make the can easier to pick up. The trouble is, the indentations are not quite in the right position, so if you are not careful, you'll still find your coffee on the floor. So, another company, I think it is Maxwell House, has invented a can with a handle. It's not only easy to pick up, but you can use the empty can to water your flowers, or use it as a vase to hold your flowers. There is no end to the uses for this can.

Someone, I don't know who, probably the same guy who created that horror-inspiring Cling Wrap, decided to put out plastic bags that are reclosable. There are some people, or so I have heard, who can actually get these bags to close. They must be rocket scientists, or at least Harvard graduates! You have to line up the plastic lines, try to get them close together, then run your hand along the edge of the bag. Then it is supposed to close, but it very often doesn't. You then have to repeat the whole procedure, not once, not twice, but several times. If that doesn't work, you should follow my method. I close the damned things with clothespins.

Yes, clothespins. Since clotheslines are an endangered species these days, what with dryers usurping the need for them, clothespins just sit around in bags in your closet and mine. I don't know why we don't throw them away, but we never do. So, using clothespins to close bags gives the poor things something to do. They make excellent kitchen aids.

I know these inventors are trying to make my life easier. When they invent something like that little tab on the soup can that does away with the need for a canopener, they are trying to give me surcease from getting that canopener hooked onto the edge of a can and using my muscle to make it work. Some people use electric canopeners and, since the little tabs make any canopener obsolete, they have not only made our lives easier, but they have saved a tidbit of electricity, probably taking a penny or two off the electric bill. So, the intentions of these inventors are good. It isn't their fault that the pickle jar won't relinquish its lid and the plastic bag won't close.

I am continually amazed by the creative ability of American citizens. Like the gift one of my granddaughters gave me for my birthday. It is a whistling key finder. If you lose your key, it whistles, therefore allowing you to follow the whistle to the lost key. The thing is, giving a deaf woman a whistling keyfinder is not conducive to locating keys, but the thought is there. It is flattering to me that they forget my handicap and treat me like a normal person, perhaps a bit dumber and harder to get something through her thick skull, but normal, nonetheless.

It reminds me of a story told me by a friend of mine, who happens to be a former alcoholic. She has given up drinking for several years, belongs to AA, and has successfully evaded even having one fatal drink. She worked in a drugstore and one day a customer came in, complaining that he could not find the letter "M" in a contest where one had to collect letters to spell out the word, America. He said that, if he had an "M", he could win the $10,000 prize. My friend happened to have the letter "M" and generously gave it to him. He thanked her profusely and left the store. A few days later, he came back to the store and presented her with a Thank You Card and a huge jug of wine.

So, our lives are filled with minor complications. What one person believes is a marvelous discovery causes irritation and aggravation to someone else. We try to keep up with the changes and, when we can't, we gripe about it, but do not want the changes to stop. Some things in life just have to be accepted, and I am reminded of this every time I look at that infernal jar of pickles that sits in my cupboard. When inanimate objects refuse to give in to human ingenuity, one can only take a deep breath and say, "Screw it!" It's the only answer in this complicated, intricate and wonderful world!