Packaged frustrations - from cheese to sugar box spouts

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I THINK of myself as a liberated woman. I have a good job, earned a master of business degree at middle age, and, if push comes to shove, I can even change a tire. But when I try to open so-called simple packages, I feel as helpless as a babe. Is anyone smiling in recognition? Cheese packaged in hermetically sealed plastic wrappers has stubbornly resisted my two hands, front teeth, sharp knives, and scissors. When I finally succeed in ripping the wrappings off, there is cheese under my fingernails, and the cheese is always mutilated.

Speaking of cheese, I try to avoid the packages with paper between the slices. The paper has a gluelike substance that makes it and the cheese stick together like Siamese twins. My tastes do not run to Swiss, ham, and paper.

When I'm very thirsty, I try to persuade myself to stick to just water. Unfortunately, I don't always heed my advice. A can of soda with an easy-flip lid is great, if the lid flips easily. When it doesn't, I attack it with a can opener. Result: unsightly cola spots on my kitchen ceiling and very little soda to drink.

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Push-out spouts on cereal, rice, and sugar boxes are another source of humiliation and pain. The sharp edges of those protruding spouts cut fingers like two-edged swords. To make matters worse, the cute little spouts end up at the bottom of the boxes, never to reappear. I then stuff the holes with pieces of paper towel. Needless to say, the contents of the box do not stay very fresh. Manufacturers might as well not code-date the boxes.

Half-used spaghetti boxes are yet another nemesis. Leftover spaghetti glides easily from the box to the floor. If my dog isn't sleeping, cleanup is easy; she chews the stalks up. But if she isn't around, it's a back-breaker trying to scoop those slippery pieces off the floor. And there is no way to seal the half-used box together again, except with tape. I try to remember to keep a roll in the kitchen, but I never do.

I love a sardine sandwich, but I usually end up with tuna fish. The key on the back of the sardine can resists my best wrist movements. By the time I roll the key around half of the can, it gets stuck, snaps off, and I am left with seeping sardine juice, but no sardines.

Outside the kitchen lurk many other packaged enemies. There are those well-named, high-tech ``blister packs'' for combs, brushes, eyebrow pencils, even toys. Impatience doesn't help. Scissors or knives work quite well on these packages, but when I'm really in a hurry, I try to tear them open with my bare hands.

Toilet tissue that pulls open in shredded strips can reduce me to tears. Adhesive tape that rolls out easily at first, but then sticks back to itself on the roll, is one of my top frustrations, especially at Christmas gift-wrapping time.

Mentally, I have composed hundreds of letters to send to manufacturers of these ``easy to open'' packages, but I've never written even one.

I am hoping that some packaging engineer will read this article and be inspired to ingenious innovations - like putting instructions about how to open packages right on the packages themselves. Suggestions will be gratefully accepted.

Joan Lewis is a free-lance writer in Yonkers, N.Y.

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