The Hottest Places in Hell
by Paul Hein
by Paul Hein
The beleaguered members of the Christian remnant derive solace from the fact that evil will be punished. Justice will, sooner or later — very much later, surely — be meted out. None of the wicked people seen on the evening news, addressing their senates or parliaments, spewing lies, and raining forth death and destruction upon innocent and bewildered people, are children. In not much more than the blink of an eye they will find themselves standing before the judgment seat, bereft of speechwriters and a paid cheering section, too embarrassed to even attempt the justifications they so glibly offered while they strode the stage of life, puffed up with their own importance.
While the hottest places in Hell must certainly be reserved for those clergy who failed to perform their assigned mission, sharing it will be the politicians who performed their assigned missions so well. Right next door, I think, will be folks in the packaging business. At least that's the way it seemed this morning.
I came into the kitchen while my dear, gentle wife was attempting to open a carton of half-and-half. In theory, it's easy: just spread open the top, and presto, a nice pouring spout appears. In fact, it rarely happens that way. More often, it involves using some sort of tool — my wife was using a paring knife — to separate the cardboard pieces that are supposed to simply spread apart at a touch. She was gritting her teeth in her concentration, and her thoughts, while unexpressed, were unlikely to be directed kindly toward the people who designed the package.
Of course, the people in the dairy industry don't want their product spilled on the way to market, and the market managers don't want it leaking into their display cases. They would all prefer to err on the side of extra security, than extra convenience for the customer, whose wants and needs must take second place.
Some items, though, don't leak. Even so, their packaging is designed more for the benefit of the maker-seller than the buyer: the blister-pack, for instance. By putting a small item in a relatively large container, you can minimize theft. A battery or two, for example, could easily be slipped into a pocket, but when enswathed in plastic on a cardboard backing, the resultant bulk makes that unlikely to succeed.
I'd have no quarrel with that if the resulting container was easy to open. After all, discouraging theft keeps prices lower, and who could object to that? Unfortunately, the blister-package is made of such stern stuff that had the Titanic been constructed of it, it would be sailing about the Caribbean on cruise duty today.
There have been times when I have been sorely tempted to return a package of, say, batteries to the store for the simple reason that I couldn't open it. More precisely, I couldn't open it without first assembling suitable tools for the task. I'm too old for that: I can recall when you simple picked up batteries at the store, and didn't need tools of any kind to separate them from some cocoon in which they were encased. And you could buy one, two, or three batteries, if that was what you needed. You didn't have to get them in sets of two, four, eight, sixteen, etc.
Last night my daughter brought home Chinese. With the skill apparently inherent in the double X chromosome, she and my wife sorted out the little cardboard boxes so we each got what we'd ordered. (To me it all looks and tastes about the same — although delicious.) When I asked for soy sauce, one of them handed me one of those little plastic packets of the stuff which, on rare occasion, you can tear open easily, dispensing its salty contents on fingers, tablecloth, and mooshoo pork. But it's as likely, or likelier, that the package will resist all efforts of fingernail and tooth, retaining its contents like the canopic jars in King Tut's tomb, to be unearthed by archeologists of the next millennium.
Even the newspaper comes packaged, although the package is one which even I, sans power equipment, can open easily. But the design is nonetheless awful. The purpose, of course, is to keep the paper clean and dry. In rainy weather, however, the paper always seems to land on the driveway or lawn in such a way that the open end of the plastic bag faces uphill, catching rainwater like a funnel, and channeling it into the funnies, where you can find the real truth about the world if they're not sodden. Somehow the editorial page, where the real humor is to be found, remains pristine.
Stoke up those fires, Beelzebub!
July 25, 2003
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