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Why Can't I Open Anything Anymore?

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OK, you just bought a jar of kosher pickles and you're dying to put one on the burger you just barbecued. You should be able to just unscrew the lid easily, remove the juicy pickle from its briny bathwater and slap it on the meat. This used to be easy. Not anymore.

Although I am not decrepit (I work out with weights three times a week), pickle jars present an almost insurmountable physical challenge and I must do what everyone else does -- struggle to open it until my face turns red and a vein bulges in my forehead. When that doesn't work -- and it never does -- I put the jar under hot water for about 20 minutes and then try again. It still won't budge. Frustrated, I bang the lid on a marble counter, which causes the marble to crack. Finally, finally, the damn thing begins to move but by now my burger is a hockey puck.

Why do I have to get acute tendinitis to open a goddamn jar of pickles? Are they afraid the pickles will escape?

Back in the day, a pack of chewing gum was easy to open. Pull the little red cord and "voila." Now it's impossible. Today, a pack of gum has an ultra-thin plastic thread wound around it and you're supposed to just pull it to open the pack, but you can never find where it starts. Even a magnifying glass won't reveal the thread's origination, so you have to resort to a penknife or your wife's fingernails. A roll of clear packing tape presents the same problem.

Another example are those pull tabs on FedEx envelopes that are supposed to make them simple to open, but they almost always tear halfway through.

What really gets my goat is when a package says "Easy to Open! Just Pull Tab!" Often, there's a little arrow that points to where the tab is supposed to be, but you can't find it. (And I'm not wild about the exclamation point either. It's like they're excited that they've come up with something groundbreaking that doesn't work.)

Yes, a bag of coffee needs to be vacuum-packed to keep it fresh -- I get that -- but why should I have to struggle to pull apart the flaps? Of course, like everybody else with a normal frustration threshold, I end up cutting it open with scissors. But now I can't use those little plastic closure straps to secure it. So what? They don't really work anyway.

And when was the last time you tried to open the cellophane packaging on a CD or DVD without breaking a fingernail or saying, "Is Coldplay really worth the effort?" And those special CD/DVD openers usually don't work. The question is why should CD/DVD openers even need to exist?

With milk cartons, you're supposed to manipulate them in such a way that it will form a spout, but if you get it wrong, you're in for a week of cleaning up the lake of milk that has formed around your coffee cup.

Or let's say I'm an elderly person with a heart condition. My Nitroglycerin tablets are in a tamper-proof plastic pill bottle. Unfortunately, the term "tamper-proof" means that nobody on Earth can open it. You push the lid down, you try to turn it, you push it down harder, you twist it again, but nothing happens. I know, I know, the tamper proof business is a safety measure so little kids won't get into it, but would it be so hard for them to develop a pill bottle that adults can open and kids can't? Hell, we went to the moon.

And for a little added frustration, the bottlers have pushed a little wad of cotton into the bottom of the bottle, making it unreachable by human fingers and thus requiring a pencil or tweezers to pry it out.

The warning label on Krazy Glue makes it sound like your fingers will stick together forever if you get any glue on them, but the tube has been designed to make that practically unavoidable when you attempt to open it. And why are the tubes always so small? Is there an embargo?

And don't even get me started on molded plastic. What sadistic genius came up with that idea? It looks like there's an easy way to open it, but there isn't. You try to pull it open with what appear to be little snap locks at the edges, but you can't because there aren't any little snap locks. They just look like snap locks. Once again, you must resort to scissors, but it's even a frustrating and often futile challenge with scissors. Knives are dangerous and if you actually manage to pry the plastic open, chances are you'll cut yourself on the jagged daggers you've now created out of the plastic. Buying a miniature Jaws of Life (if such a thing exists) is pointless because it would probably come in molded plastic.

On the other hand, cigarettes, screw-top booze bottles and pop-top soft drink and beer cans are a snap. Obviously, they want to kill us.