CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Christmas is coming! Are you ready for it?No, I don't mean have you finished your Christmas shopping and gotten all the cards in the mail. I am thinking about what I call the "inaccessibility factor."Have you assembled all the necessary tools you will need bright and early on Christmas morning as you face the gifts you and your anxiously awaiting children will have received? Do you have sharp scissors, a wedge, pliers, a sturdy knife, a beer bottle opener, an ice pick and possibly a small crowbar?My first husband predicted that some day someone would invent the unopenable package -- and that was 50 years ago. At the time it was a problem that surfaced mainly under the Christmas tree.However, I must have experienced some difficulty even then because he frequently remarked that when I opened a box it appeared to have been torn apart by an explosion from within. Little did he know!Could he possibly have envisioned Annapolis, Md.-based Atlantic Shrink Wrapping Inc. (and, yes, it does exist, dear reader), which has shrink-wrapped tractors, helicopters and even an historic train station in Virginia?Now that I have found, to my dismay, that I qualify as one of the "oldest of the old," I would welcome an external fuse on almost everything to detonate the impenetrable packaging rampant in my daily life.The whole thing started with the 1982 Tylenol scare and was hastened along by the increasing number of toddlers gulping down grandma's pills. A number of years ago, Consumer Reports gave out an "Oyster Award" for the most frustratingly unopenable packaging -- there were 10 entrants and the prize went to the Barbie Doll. It took a strong young man 28 minutes to access Barbie and all her accoutrements.
When I was 75, I married my third husband. He wasn't young but he was a man -- and men have toolboxes. By the time he reached 90, even he had to admit defeat and seek assistance when we were handed water bottles by an airplane hostess.Widowed once more, I live in a "retirement community" (communal living consisting mainly of elderly women). Life in this setting is easy, except for the almost daily struggle with an array of "inaccessibles." Women are inventive and have their own "tools." Sturdy kitchen scissors are possibly the most treasured, but the back of a dinner knife can usually outwit the tab, which some idiot, probably a man, supposedly facilitates access to a soft drink.A beer bottle opener can sometimes defeat the pill bottle that demands that you line up the arrows before you can take a pill for the throbbing headache probably brought on by an onslaught of similar packaging.A candidate for public office once presented me with a soft plastic disc with his name on it. Its purpose was to help get a grasp on those pesky screw-top bottles and jars. It really, really worked! Sadly it did not live forever. The candidate has outlived it. He is still in public office and he still gets my vote every time he runs.Even my grandmother had her own tool for access to the inaccessible. I very much doubt that my grandmother canned her own beans, and I know for sure that she was never challenged by a liquor bottle, but the graduated rings on this antique metal instrument must have played a valuable role even then.Although women are endlessly inventive, sometimes the challenge exceeds our cunning. Fortunately, at the retirement community we have other resources. I have taken applesauce to the kitchen, batteries to the maintenance department and once even resorted to the office to pull the top off my pen.Where will it end? I once saw a cartoon of a doctor delivering a baby with a cellphone in its chubby little hand. It is easy to envision some future nurse handing the new mother her shrink-wrapped child (cellphone wrapped separately).
The big day is almost here, so get out your tools and have a very Merry Christmas.Dorothy W. Dixon, of Charleston, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.