Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Contact Sports

Ok, settle down you football fans, I’m not referring to the Superbowl (which, by the way, my spell-checker objects to – it prefers “Superb owl”)

I’m referring, of course, to the art of covering your children’s school books in that clear plastic sticky film called “Contact”. Not of course that we actually use “Contact”. Oh no. We use the cheap Taiwanese rip-off plastic sticky film. It comes in three-foot long rolls, suitable for doing one and a half exercise books. And as you’ll see, NO WAY do I have any intention of doing anything with the other half-a-book’s-worth other than putting it into a Tupperware container and sticking it into the fridge (see my previous post if that seems a confusing thing to want to do).

Let me start by saying that I’d pay extra for exercise books that came pre-covered. I don’t care how much it would cost, I’d mortgage my house rather than cover them myself.

Then let me say I’ve always thought that there should be, if there isn’t already, a special place in hell for the product packaging designers who create packaging that can only be opened with a chisel, or perhaps a power tool featuring a lot of sharp teeth.

You see products packaged like that constantly. I particularly hate things that come sealed in that really stiff plastic that is completely sealed around the product and its cardboard display board. The sort of plastic that even a fairly robust pair of scissors won’t cut through. And even if you do manage to cut through it with a pair of tin-snips, or a file or something, without putting out the eye of the person sitting next to you, the plastic is so stiff and strong you are at risk of losing a few fingers prying open the remaining packaging.

Many Christmas toys come like this. I suppose the theory is that, while on display at the toy store, the sticky little fingers of legions of ankle-biters can’t muss up the product. I don’t know, and I don’t care. The packaging designers should be damned.

A close cousin of this form of packaging is the “blister” packaging that you get around batteries. The type where the plastic extends to the edge of the backing cardboard so there is no way to wrench it off the backing. It annoys me even more than having to find my set of micro screwdrivers to get the cover off the battery compartment of the toy every ten minutes on Christmas day to feed new batteries into it.

Still, as I sit through the frustrating process of not only dealing with the packaging around the toy, but also the packaging around the batteries, comforting images flash through my mind of the product packaging designers roasting slowly in hell being forced to open their own packaging for the rest of eternity.

Anyway, for marketing or display purposes or some such similar nonsense, our rip-off plastic sticky film comes curled up into thin tubes that make it subsequently impossible for the book-coverer to make it lie flat. That’s where the problem starts, but it certainly doesn’t finish there.

If you are one of those people who think that there is some type of karmic value in overcoming a difficult task regardless of the obstacles (I’m thinking of Sly and her phone here, because I can think of no other reasons for trying to do what she is doing), then book wrapping should become your number one activity.

Given I don’t believe in such mystic rubbish, I approach the problem rather more pragmatically – with alcohol. Here’s how it works:

1) Get a wine glass, pour some wine, and take a mouthful. Right. Ready to go. I’m an intelligent adaptive sort, SURELY this won’t be too hard. Can’t imagine why everyone says its so difficult actually.

2) Take your exercise book and a roll of the Contact rip-off film (hereinafter “the film”).

3) Attempt to get the film to lie flat by trying to roll the film in the other direction.

4) Discover this is a waste of time

5) Take a mouthful of wine while you consider your options.

6) Use the glass to weigh down one end of the film while you hold the other end with one hand and position the book with the other hand.

7) Emit a short expletive, clean up the broken wine glass from the floor where it has been unceremoniously flung by the film snapping back into a tight little roll.

8) Get another glass, pour more wine and take a calming mouthful.

9) Get passing child to hold down one end of the film while you position the book and make the first cut according to the instructions.

10) Discover that the scissors you have chosen have been used for some purpose that has rendered them completely useless for cutting anything.

11) Take calming mouthful of wine.

12) Turn the house upside down looking for a set of scissors that can actually perform the function they were designed for. Settle on sewing scissors, and relocate to spare room where their use for this purpose cannot be observed.

13) Make the first cut, and per instructions start to peel off the backing for half the width of the book.

14) Discover that the product designer for this stuff is destined to sit next to the rest of eternity sitting next to the packaging designers, being forced to tease the initial edge of the backing away from the film.

15) Refill glass and take a calming mouthful of wine.

16) Retrieve the film from the hands of the rest of the family who were convinced you were just being incompetent, but now realise the product designer needs to not only go to hell, he needs to go straight to the seventh level of hell.

17) Grit your teeth and persevere, taking calming mouthfuls of wine as you go.

18) Finally tease the backing away at one corner. Start to peel it back before realising the curly backing makes this impossible without it also wrapping the sticky side of itself around your arm and any nearby slow-moving children.

19) Grit your teeth and persevere, taking calming mouthfuls of wine as you go.

20) Eventually pry enough of the backing away to get the book into position. Realise that the book is not square on the film. Carefully peel the film off again, ripping the film down the middle in the process.

21) Take calming mouthful of wine.

22) Get another roll, and repeat steps 1 to 20. Reposition book. Discover there are masses of air-bubbles that make the cover look like weather-beaten prune.

23) Refill glass, take calming mouthful of wine.

24) Decide bubbles-schmubbles, you aren’t going to start over at this point, and anyway, the wine bottle is looking disturbingly empty and there are four more books to go.

25) Peel off remaining backing. Discover that the static buildup generated by doing so has made the film go berserk and it has become alive and is writhing about trying to attach itself to anything within reach. And succeeding.

26) Peel film off wine-glass (or is it the wineglass off the film, its getting hard to tell) and take a calming mouthful.

27) Flip the book over and sort of squeegee it onto the exposed film, encasing whatever remaining objects that have been caught up by the static cling writhing between the film and the book cover.

28) Stand back to admire handiwork. Damn fine job if you do say so yourself.

29) Write a note to the teacher explaining that the remaining books will be covered once you have overcome tomorrow’s inevitable hangover.

Mortgage smortgage. I have just had a better idea. I’ll set up a shop selling pre-covered exercise books and make my first billion at the start of the next school term.

Of course you know who know who will be working in the sweat-shop out back doing the covering – product packaging designers…..


At 4:58 PM, Blogger Sarah O. said...

My, you've been busy, wys! You must have gotten an air conditioner and a good night's sleep.

These two recent posts are so outrageously funny! I am so deeply jealous.

Not really, of course. But this is the funniest stuff I've read in a long time.

So you'll consider it an honor when you see me steal your jokes?

At 5:37 PM, Blogger wysiwyg said...

Only if the honor comes with a royalty payment...

...and yes, I've had the Tupperware thing rolling around in my brain since Sunday while fruitlessly trying to find a container for the left over spaghetti.

You see, I have this sub-conscious that tends to seize on a subject and sort of gnaw away at it, popping thoughts out into my conscious brain at odd moments.

So for the last couple of days I've had a whole series of sentence snips pop into my brain seductively. I say seductively because I enjoy this sort of writing, but rarely have to time to do any.

But the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak, was wrestling with the schoolbooks last night. I just HAD to write that story, so I did both at once.

Warning, though, I lead a boring enough life that its a fairly rare moment that I have anything interesting enough to write about.

So don't go signing up any book deals just yet.


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