Jan 05

Be still my heart

Every now and then something positive occurs that renews my faith in the basic intelligence of  mankind.

Quiet-CarYesterday, I was struck by two such rare occurrences.

The first came while boarding NJ Transit's infamous 6:01pm to Long Branch. I say infamous because this particular train can rival LaGuardia for the number of indefinite delays.

But, no sooner do I board the dreaded Scoliosis Express than I hear the conductor announce the first and last cars had both been designated as 'silent'. He went on to say the use of cellphones and loud talking would be strictly prohibited.

Wow! There'd be no more Jersey Shore housewives screaming into their phones, 'But, Paulie, I told yous this morning to pick somethin' up for the kids!' No more groups of rowdy, Foster Beer-quaffing businessmen bragging about the world-class talents of their soccer-playing offspring. Not even a gaggle of old world garment district buyers lamenting the latest price cuts. Nothing. Not a peep. Just silence. Sweet, beautiful silence. Be still my heart. And, thank you, NJ Transit (did I actually just write those words?).

The second revelation came while scanning the pages of Ad Age on the now quiet-as-a-church mouse 6:01 (and, what's with church mice keeping quiet? Are they the only mice who do so? Are they in fact mute? I doubt it. In fact, I can't recall a single instance of bumping into a loudmouthed mouse. Church mice need to hire a PR firm).

Anyway, an Ad Age editorial informed me someone is finally doing something about impossible-to-open, atom bomb proof, skin-tearing product packaging.

Product packaging is one of the other true banes of my existence. I've spilled enough blood ripping open packages of Gillette Mach 3, Purina Cat Chow and Nature's Path Flax-Plus Granola to supply Haiti's needs for a  fortnight (actually, I'm not sure of Haiti's current need for blood, so the actual time frame may be more or less). But, man, have I ever bled as a direct result of some foolish package designer's intent to make these products more impregnable than Fort Knox.

But, wait! There's actually someone listening. Walmart (ugh) is challenging vendors to reduce the amount of packaging to cut carbon footprints. And, Amazon is launching 'frustration-free packaging.' Talk about an oxymoron.

Now, if only someone could create frustration-free commuting, I'd literally be home free. And, Paulie, yous really did drop the ball on getting dinner for the kids."

A quiet ride home and injury-free package opening experience may not seem like much to you but, in these days of 24×7 doom-and-gloom news, they're bright, shining lights for this battered and bruised consumer.

Jan 07

The Fort Knox of pet food

January 7 - purina cat Ever try opening a bag of Purina cat food? I'm talking about the big bags made of 'dura-weave' and boasting to be tear resistant. They're tear resistant all right. Probably nuclear bomb resistant as well.

The bag comes equipped with an innocent-looking white string one is instructed to pull to open. Trust me, it doesn't work. In fact, it doesn't even budge. Nothing. No forward progress whatsoever. It's the stubborn mule of the innocent white string world.

So, anxious to feed one's cats, one selects, instead, a knife, screwdriver or, in one extreme case, a pair of hedge clippers to pry open the impregnable bag.

Inevitably, one of two things happens:

– I gash my hand (I'm currently sporting a nasty cut on my left index finger caused by punching the damn bag in frustration).

– When the bag is finally pried open, its contents spill all over the floor. So, one is left sweeping up piles of unwanted cat food.

I'm not sure why the folks at Purina encase their precious cat food in such an impossible-to-open bag. Is it some sort of reverse psychology to jump start a cat owner's exercise program? A way to further ensure the already hungry cat is positively starving by the time its owner rips open the Fort Knox of pet food?

I think Purina has created something very special here and shouldn't limit the dura-weave technology to the pet food category. Why not partner with the military, TSA and other defense sector prospects?

I'd put my money on the Purina dura-weave in a showdown with the average flak jacket any day of the week. This stuff would stop a bazooka shell in its tracks.

And, from an image and reputation standpoint, I'd embrace the bag's Rocky Balboa-like machismo by borrowing an old Ford truck tag line. How does 'Built Purina tough' sound to you? It certainly rings true to this cat owner.

In the meantime, though, I need to do battle with the new bag. I'm ready this time, though. I've got my wife's gardening gloves to protect my damaged hands and a razor sharp box cutter. Hey, Purina Cat Chow bag: 'let's get ready to rumble!