I used to tease someone because he got irrationally angry about stickers on fruit. He wasn’t daft enough to consume them accidentally, he just resented the placement of them. There was so much more to get cross about, I reasoned. How could he get so upset about labels on fruit, in a world of poverty and injustice and the Daily Express?
Today I had my own moment of packaging rage. I found myself railing against Blockbuster for putting a price sticker on my shiny new Quantum of Solace DVD. The DVD wasn’t shrink-wrapped in cellophane, so the sticker was glued onto the front slipcover. Appropriately enough, it was a near-unbreakable bond. Despite my best efforts, one part of the label was left on the box and the other half removed the surface of the slipcase.
We take good packaging for granted, and only notice when they don’t work with the ease to which we’ve become accustomed. Drinks cans no longer have tear-off ring-pulls that litter or maim. CDs have tear-strips at the bottom to spare your fingernails and temper. You don’t have to lick stamps any more.
So perhaps I’ve come to expect things like those “3 for 2” labels in Waterstones to detach easily. The “out of the box” experience for consumer goods starts when you pick up the item in the shop, and continues throughout the time you carry it home in keen anticipation, unwrap it with eager fingers, and sniff the contents. Maybe the sniffing bit is just me. I may be saying too much now.
Still, there are more important things to get irate about than a torn slipcase. Imagine how cross I’d have been if I were one of those collectors who never wants to remove his special edition Future Sonic Screwdriver from its packaging because that would slash its collectable value.
Having kids soon cures you of that. My younger son got one of those for his birthday, tore it from its packaging, and played with it so much that he lost the fiddly bit that conceals the hidden “neural relay”. He was entirely phlegmatic about this loss, and still loves the toy.
So I shall try to remember that when I am enjoying Quantum of Solace — keep my eyes on the screen, not on the slipcase.