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  • Writer's pictureJim Pfiffer

Open sesame? Not with today’s containers

Weekly humor column by Jim Pfiffer, Elmira NY

My kitchen throw-rug stinks of pickle juice and “squishes” when I walk on it.

Got that way because I tried to do one of the most difficult tasks of modern life: open a jar with my bare hands.

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I tried both hands. No luck. Got miffed. Ran it under hot water. Nada. Got pissed. Pried it with a spoon handle. Still stuck. Got furious. Got my pliers, clamped them around the lid, clasped the far ends of the handles for max leverage, took a sturdy feet-apart stance and twisted with all my might (I even used my grimacing, “I’m not playin’” face for effect).

The lid gave way.

And gave me a fright. The pliers flew from my grip and slid under the fridge, pickle juice sloshed from the jar and a pair of pickles ejected and tumbled across the dog-hair-covered floor There is nothing more disgusting than a dirty, hairy gherkin.

Why is it, everything is so difficult to open? Are jars, cans, bags, boxes, bottles, capsules, pods and pouches sealed with nuclear forces, 1,000-ton presses and NASA-strength adhesives? You need power tools and improvised explosive devices to open a jar of peanut butter.

You need an engineering degree to open a prescription medicine bottle. Each one has its own unique entrance procedure. Push down while turning, pull up while pushing, squeeze the sides while turning or push, pull, squeeze and turn while swearing. Yes, there are instructions printed on the cap, but you can’t read the letters because they are quantum size and white on white. Thanks a lot.

I worried that opening all these stubborn containers would cause me carpal tunnel syndrome. The problem has become so bad I now worry about getting Holland Tunnel syndrome.

The no-open technology goes back to 1982 when someone laced Tylenol bottles with cyanide in Chicago. Seven people, who popped the pills, died. The killer was never found.

That caused product manufacturers to do what they do best – cover their butts from lawsuits. Their solution: “If you can’t open it, you can’t tamper with it.”

Then they lie to us with phrases like “Easy to open,” “Peel here to open,” and “Pray here to open.”

The side of my box of mac-and-cheese has a perforated tab telling me to “push here” to open. When I push, the box top collapses into itself and a product design engineer, somewhere, is laughing his ass off.

Why do I have to get past a series of roadblocks to open an aspirin bottle? First is the layer of clear plastic that is spot-welded to the bottle cap and neck. I can’t get a fingernail or an incisor under it to start the rip. It teases me with a red dotted line indicating where it can allegedly be easily torn. (More engineer laughter). The line is put there to give you hope. In frustration, I grab a steak knife and hack away at it like a psycho at the Bates Motel, until it comes off. Now I must decipher the cap combination to remove the lid. Next, I face the dreaded foil seal, made of an alien spaceship material that can’t be pierced, peeled or pulled. I stab at it with a screwdriver and spit ugly epithets at the Bayer company until I get it half open.

“Finally!” I exclaim. “I’m in!”

Nope. Still have a wad of cotton to remove. The opening is too small to insert two fingers to pinch and pull the wad. I must use one finger to remove it piece by piece, and use it to blot-up the blood oozing from the knife and Phillips’ head cuts on my hands.

By the time I get in, I can’t take the aspirin because they are past their expiration date.

Truth: There is an online site called “Opening Jars with Arthritis: 21 Tips,” including “start with the correct form,” “hold the jar close to your body” and “whatever you do, don’t ask that Pfiffer dude to do it.”

Here are some other common “you can’t open me – nah, nah, nah-nah-nahhh” containers.

  • Disposable plastic bags in a supermarket’s produce section. You can’t tell which end of the bag opens. It’s too thin and adheres to itself. I stand there rubbing it between my thumb and forefinger praying it will open, while the baby onions I want to put in it grow into adult onions.

  • The clear, thin-ridged plastic (used for 2-liter soda bottles) that can only be cut with hydraulic shears, leaving razor sharp edges that can easily sever fingers. (Hint: soda bottle manufacturers should include a tin of Band-Aids with each purchase.)

  • Those friggin’ tiny oval-shaped stickers welded to individual pieces of fruit. You can’t remove them with a fingernail or knife edge without gouging out most of the fruit.

  • Snack bags with tiny pre-cut slots where you are supposed to be able to start tearing open the bag top. My dog loves these bags because I always end up ripping them wide open and potato chips scatter across the floor for canine pickup.

  • Roll of clear plastic packing tape: The tape is so transparent you can’t find it’s end and if you do you can’t pull it from the roll in one piece without it sticking to itself.

I think we should make jar opening with bare hands a summer Olympics event.

Better yet, we need legislation that forces manufacturers to give us easy-to-open products.

We can call it the “Opening Containers” law.

Jim Pfiffer’s humor column is posted every Sunday on the Jim Pfiffer Facebook page, Hidden Landmarks TV Facebook page and Jim lives in Elmira with his wife, Shelley, and many pets, and is a retired humor columnist with the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper. Contact him at


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