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Sunday, July 14, 2013

containers I have known

While moseying around the office the other day, I heard a feminine squeal of delight. As the squeal emanated from the Credit Department, I naturally assumed someone had discovered a missing nickel hidden in the P&L statement. As it turned out, I was mistaken.
The source of the unbridled joy was much simpler yet no means less puzzling.
One department member had presented another department member with an empty plastic tub! Not a large, pack your bathroom in it tub, nor even your sock drawer.  It was a small clear plastic affair, which had been formerly utilized to convey cookies from the store to the place of their consumption.
Noting my puzzled expression, the recipient of the tub exclaimed “You can never have too many plastic containers.”
I have to admit, this was the first time I had ever heard plastic containers held in such high regard.
Typically, one usually expects the “can’t have too much” appellation applied to money, love, family, good health, and so forth. Plastic containers, though? Not usually. She then enthused how great they are for storing food, snacks, etc. I politely mentioned something along the lines of “Mazel tov!”, smiled and went on my way.
Naturally, this caused no end to my thinking of food storage and the ubiquitous plastic container.
The “never too many plastic containers” line raised some doubts in my mind. From my fairly limited perspective of having raised a family of four children, I can’t ever recall a time when I lamented a shortage of plastic tubs. In fact, the opposite was, and is, usually the case.
Have you ever watched those late night infomercials touting the world’s most efficient organized containers and storage system? The “before” scenes could have been filmed on any given day at our house. We have a cupboard which is dedicated solely to the storing of tubs and their related kin. The door to this cupboard has “CAUTION Open with Care” in 3 languages emblazoned across it. When one grasps the door pull, a ship’s horn sounds, and a recorded voice proclaims “Warning! You are about to open Cupboard of Doom! Warning!”    Failure to promptly release the knob, continuing to open the door, causes the recorded voice to say “Don’t blame me. I warned you!” 
Upon opening the door, you hear the ominous rumble from deep within. You feel a trembling beneath your feet. Looking down, you watch as thousands upon thousands of mismatched containers, lids, cups, etc spill in slow motion about your feet, quickly swallowing up not only you, but the entire kitchen.
That has always been my experience with plastic containers. Not only do they multiply at night, they fail to do so in an orderly manner. One day, you will have lids, with a shortage of bottoms. The next day, you have bottoms, the same number of lids, but only ONE set actually fit together! And they aren’t the same color, but a hybrid mix.
Also, containers tend to be most unruly, even when they are “designed to stack together”. We have been duped by this slick line more times than a fat guy wheeling into Dairy Queen. They may stack together when brand new, in their neat packaging. You may even be able to stack them neatly in your cupboard, assuming you have disposed of all the other containers you had and are starting from new. Assuming you never need to use one, the containers remain neatly stacked together.
There, dear reader,  is the fly in the proverbial ointment. Take just ONE of those neatly stacked, precisely arranged containers and lids away….and the whole lot simply refuses to stack with any semblance of order. In a silent revolt, they pretend to be nice and orderly, only to cascade upon the floor just before you can slam the door shut, bracing it with a 2X4 and half-dozen nails. You can hear them laughing as they plot their impudent rebellion: “Hey, Al! You are smaller than Herb. Let him climb on top of you. Now, Betty, you perch on the very edge of Herb. Yeah! Perfect! When the door opens, you 3 will start to fall, the rest of us will try to “save you”, only to all spill out! HAA!”
“Well,” you may be thinking, “I just won’t use any of the containers.” At first the simplicity of this decision is pure elegance. Then… the inevitable happens.
There is that one 1990s vintage container way back in the fridge, holding leftover sweet potato casserole from Christmas, 2011. You find it while seeking unsuccessfully for the jar of Stadium Mustard you know you had right back there. After surviving emptying the contents in a bio-hazard bag and disposing of them in accordance with all appropriate federal, state, and local laws, you have scrubbed and sanitized the container. Now, you confidently open the door to place the now pristine container & lid inside. Alas! The ridiculous thing doesn’t fit! Not anywhere!
Collapsing in a sodden mass of tears, you clutch the formerly goldenrod colored contraption to your breast.  With a shudder, you pull yourself to your feet. Slowly, ceremoniously, you proceed across the kitchen floor. The haunting sound of “Taps” echoes from somewhere in the living room.  Breathing a heavy sigh, you lift the lid of the trash can to solemnly deposit the old relic atop this morning’s egg shells.  You prepare a cup of coffee, relax, and ponder what archeologists 3,000 years from now will determine the purpose of the thing was.
It is now lunch time. I take up my insulated bag, and head to the break room. I feel the weight of the plastic container which snugly cradles my noon-time repast. It sits there, awaiting the onslaught of microwave, the indignity of knife and fork, a hap-hazard rinsing out before being tossed back in the bag to receive a proper washing upon returning home, all in stoic silence.
Perhaps the things do have a purpose after all….

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