Chuck Thurston column: Life with the package-challenged

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My daughter-in-law is a wonderful wife and mother. A Georgia peach from the U of G itself and a Tri-Delta to boot. An altogether lovely prize in the bridal sweepstakes – yet early in their marriage, she revealed a terrible secret to her husband.
As my son and his new wife prepared their first Thanksgiving dinner together, she tried halfheartedly to open a box of stuffing mix, then handed it over to him with these fiv chilling words: “I can’t get into things.” This was news to him, and I shuddered as he related the incident to me later. His mother has lived with this malady since I have known her. I questioned him briefly. Did she start at the right end of the package to begin with?
“N-No…..not…not….always.” This was a serious case.
I will grant you that many things are tough for the best of us to get into. I have concluded that the best tool for breaking into the hard plastic shell that encases so many products these days is a pair of tin snips. I sympathize with folks having problems here.
But a milk carton? It is just one of the things I make sure I get at first after the groceries are put on the kitchen counter. My wife, oblivious to the little “push up here” instruction, would somehow rend the top of these containers into a shredded opening that wouldn’t allow a decent pour. A wiseacre friend pointed out that this innovation would actually permit the pouring of two or three glasses at the time. I didn’t see the humor in this.
When some milk cartons began to feature the small grenade-pull ring, I thought my worries were over. Nope. She managed to mangle one of these also.
I pride myself on my cereal box entry. I carefully lift the pasteboard top with the little tab, and — just as carefully — open the little slot to accept it. Not too wide….not too narrow. Just right for a snug fit. Then I – once more carefully – open the interior plastic bag. All the way across the top opening, with no tears or holes – the better to roll back after your flakies have been poured, so you can preserve the freshness of those still in the box.
I don’t know how my wife does what she does, but her cereal box openings are worthless for further use. After a couple of cereal pourings, half the cereal winds up in the space between the shredded box opening and the “bag designed to preserve freshness” (as the advertising folks like to say). Long before the flakies are used up, they have become a bit…um…soggy. I am not a fussy person, but dang….!
Don’t even let me get started on box wines. That tale is too painful to write about.
Other examples abound – broken fingernails on pop-top cans, flour and sugar bags sundered so that a bag to hold the bag must be used. Letter openers? Ha – for sissies! She pokes a finger under envelope flap and rips across the top. Most of the time, the contents survive OK, but we have mailed more than one taped-up bill payment back.
I am incredulous, but her logic is impeccable. This is exactly why such things as rubber bands, Scotch Tape, paper clips and such were invented. Not to mention that greatest of all inventions for the package-challenged: the Ziploc bag.
So when my son revealed his wife’s affliction, I gently put my arm over his shoulder, took him aside, and commiserated with him.
I gently gave what few words of advice I could. Get to the groceries first, make frequent offers to help open things, lay in lots of Ziplocs.
This marriage can be saved.
Chuck Thurston is retired and lives in Kannapolis, NC. His email is A book of his collected columns, “Senior Scribbles Unearthed,” will be published this fall.