Another Perspective

Rip Stop

Have you had it up to here with extra-strength Tylenol bottles and other such packaging? Welcome to the club.

By 7.20.07

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At a back yard barbecue last summer, I handed a bag of potato chips to my friend Dan and asked him to open them. I have weakened so badly with kidney failure that I often ask for help with such things.

Dan is a big, strong guy. Has a farm, works outside, takes long walks every day, was an aide to General MacArthur.

"Are you kidding?" Dan said. "They make helicopters out of this stuff."

Meaning the material of the chip bag, not the chips themselves -- though you never know nowadays.

Have you had that experience? All sorts of E-Z Open Zip Strip Pull Here Open Tab Press to Remove Seal -- have become impossible.

AND THEY DO MAKE HELICOPTERS out of that stuff. Maybe that's the reason. I used to have a client that manufactured laminant material for helicopter rotors. Laminates involve putting layers of different kinds of materials together in sandwiches to create greater strength, springiness, flexibility, lightness, and so forth. See: skis, tennis racquets, golf clubs, and so forth.

My advertising client made plastic-like films in giant rolls, brobdingnagian Saran Wrap, but even harder to handle. It got moved around factories in dust-proof chambers by people wrapped up in white from glove to slipper. These varying materials, when laid down over molds in just the right sequence, could be baked to incredible hardness with almost no weight.

It was a miracle of modern manufacture, incredibly strong.

UNFORTUNATELY, THIS MIRACLE SEEMS to have been applied to modern packaging. Probably it all started with the Tylenol scare of 1982. Remember? Seven people in Chicago died after taking Tylenol capsules that had been deliberately contaminated with cyanide. A Mexican comedian joked, "You can drink the water in America. But don't take the Tylenol."

Johnson & Johnson, manufacturers of Tylenol, responded with a crisis management effort that is still studied in business schools. Obviously, it included "tamper-proof" packaging.

The end result of which is that I actually have to file an agreement with my pharmacy to get my medicines in bottles without child-proof tops, because otherwise I can't open them.

Commercial products, that's another matter. "Pull easy-open strip." Tell me another one. "Easy reseal tab." Right. "Open other side." Ha! You lie, charcoal breath.

I warn you. I carry a knife.

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About the Author

Lawrence Henry writes every week from North Andover, Massachusetts.