How the plastic Grinch almost stole Christmas

by Ogi Overman

On the scale of insidiousness, it’s not comparable to, oh, spying on American citizens without a court order, but it’s somewhere in the mix. While I’m not one who finds a conspiracy behind every lone gunman or UFO sighting, I’m convinced that there is some collusion here, some money changing hands somewhere, something going on that is not readily apparent. I mean, how else can you explain the gross overuse of plastic packaging in practically everything we consume these days?

As I said, it’s not exactly in the same league as, say, revealing the identity of a covert CIA agent, but it’s about as infuriating, just in a different way. It’s a scourge, a blight, a waste and it makes no sense ‘— qualities it does share with the Duh administration. But the difference is that some folks out there think highly of the Bushies, whereas I don’t know of anyone who is ecstatic that it takes a chain saw and a blowtorch to open a box of wizzits.

They may not have started it but Prilosec OTC was on the vanguard of this bane on society. As soon as the heartburn pills were approved for over-the-counter, they went from a nice little medicine vial to a 10 X 12 plastic-encased carton that could survive Armageddon. I actually took some pictures of one for a potential column a couple of years ago, but never wrote it because it seemed like an aberration at the time. Besides, chiseling my way into a Prilosec container every 48 days seemed a small price to pay for the heartburn relief it offered.

But not anymore; this overpackaging travesty has become a trend, the accepted way of marketing products of all sizes, shapes and descriptions.

I didn’t realize just how pervasive it had become until this Christmas. First came the flashlights my brother gave me, a nice gift of two Krypton lights, three C cell and two AA batteries, all packaged together in an attractive case. But by the time I got them out of that World War III-proof case, I had gone from peace-on-earth-goodwill-toward-men to thinking WW III might not be such a bad idea.

Next, my wife’s brother gave her a lovely set of Calgon ‘Take Me Away’ beauty products. As Christmas morning faded into Christmas afternoon she finally gave up trying to open the sharkproof box and handed it to me. After the scissors failed I resorted to the carving knife, and that’s when my Inner Scrooge took over. The plastic was molded so close to the product that a slight slip of the knife resulted in the tube of body lotion getting nicked just enough to spew all over the sleeve of my new alpaca sweater before oozing down onto the Rockport shoes she’d bought me. In a matter of moments I’d gone from Perry Como to Ted Nugent.

But the final straw was the Norelco razor she gave me. Now, as long as I can remember, the commercial with Santa sliding down the hill on a Norelco electric razor has been a staple of Christmas. Men have been finding Norelco razors under the tree ever since Muddy Waters invented electricity. And until recently they came in a perfectly suitable box, which could be opened with two good hands in just a few seconds. Men were happy; wives were content; kids were secure. Christmas was good.

Sadly, I’m the type of guy who’ll try to kill a fly with a 12 gauge shotgun, so when my brand new Norelco razor with all the bells and whistles refused to become unencumbered from its hermetically sealed tomb I resorted, once again, to the carving knives. Only this time I went for Big Mama. This jewel, which can only be bought on late-night TV, laughs at Ginsu, sneers at Ronco, mocks Swedish steel. You have to have a license to carry this baby and file a report after you’ve used it!

So when Janet saw the steam billowing out of my ears as I grappled with my new Norelco, she knew what was coming next.

‘“No, not that!’” she pleaded. ‘“Please don’t let this ruin Christmas. We’ll find a way to get it open.’”

My spirit-of-the-season reply was, ‘“To hell with it. I’ll grow a damn beard!’”

Fortunately, my brothers, sister in law and two teenage nephews arrived shortly, and ‘— with the help of some vice grips, box cutters and a Propane torch ‘— Big Mama remained in her sheath and disaster was averted.

But next year, I swear, if I get anything in one of these anti-tank cases, I’ll be out there going toe-to-toe with the blue hairs the day after Christmas.

I could write the manufacturer, I suppose, and complain about this ridiculous overpackaging. But that would be too logical, wouldn’t it?

Ogi can be reached at, heard each Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. on ‘“The Dusty Dunn Show’” on WGOS 1070 AM, and seen most Fridays on ‘“Triad Today’” at 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. on WXLV and WUPN, respectively.