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Food for Thought

Wet soap

How many jokes or anecdotes have you heard about the difficulty of holding onto a wet bar of soap? I always supposed that was one of the reasons for the invention of soap-on-a-rope. All the new shower gels and body washes have nearly made that, and the soap dish itself, obsolete, but I think they have quite a long way to go before reaching perfection.
I wonder, for instance, if the people who design those streamlined plastic bottles that hold body wash, shampoo, cream rinses and dish detergent have ever tried to hold them with wet, soapy hands. It’s hard enough to pick up one of those bottles with wet hands, let alone squeeze out some of the contents and hope it lands wherever you intend for it to go.
The shampoo and the body wash have flip-up lids, an improvement over screw-on lids that tend to escape and lodge themselves in the drain or roll across the floor and disappear forever. They are really difficult to flip open when you have to use both hands just to hold onto the bottle. These lids tend to get clogged up, making them even more difficult to flip. And more difficult to close firmly so that, when that light-weight plastic bottle tips over and falls off the edge of the tub, all the expensive contents ooze out and silently trickle down the drain.
I like the plastic bottles in theory, they are unbreakable and totally eliminate the danger of broken glass in the bathtub or shower. Being lightweight is about equally an improvement and a drawback, since the plastic is so thin and flexible, it is difficult to hold onto, and easy to squeeze out too much. What do you do with that extra big glob of cream rinse? You can’t put it back in the bottle through that little squirt hole. You’re going to have to pry off that wide plastic top , and it takes two hands to do that. But you have one hand full of expensive cream rinse. If you put it all on your hair, your hair will be too limp and slippery and you’ll have to wash the cream rinse out and start all over again.
Then there’s the baby oil. At a certain age, skin tends to be too dry for comfort and a slathering of baby oil after a shower helps, especially in wintertime. Even baby oil has been repackaged in unbreakable plastic bottles and I think it’s not only sensible as a safety measure, but also more economical, as it cuts down on packaging and shipping costs. But there’s one thing that puzzles me about the so-called concern for safety. The baby oil bottle has a maddeningly difficult safety lid that is impossible to open with one hand. How on earth does one open that bottle while holding onto a wiggling baby so he doesn’t roll off the bed or take a nosedive off the changing table? Even when I am the baby getting oiled up, that safety lid is a menace. I must admit, though, that the person who designed the bottle made it easier to hold onto with slippery hands, but he really should rethink that lid.
Now we go to the kitchen. I like the liquid dish detergents for quick wash-ups, and soaking really grungy silverware and baking dishes. I wonder, though, why manufacturers think I want everything to smell like lemons or sour apples. Soap never smells like soap anymore. It’s getting impossible to tell by the smell in the kitchen if someone is baking pies or scrubbing the floor.
That aside, the plastic bottles that hold the dish detergent tend to have a little pull-up knob on top that supposedly closes the bottle when pushed down. Well, maybe the first time you use it. After that, the little pop-up knob is clogged with half-dried detergent that crusts around it and prevents it from closing completely. And I really don’t appreciate what I think of as the Lawrence Welk factor. That is the half-inch soap bubbles that float out of the bottle after I’ve squirted the desired amount of detergent into my kitchen sink. This phenomenon happens because the plastic bottle is too thin for the weight of its contents and, while trying to hold onto it with one wet hand, I can’t help but squeeze it slightly while attempting to set it down without tipping it over. I wouldn’t mind the bubbles so much, if they’d simply float down and land in the sink, but they invariably float toward my face where they either settle on my lips and I have to stop to rinse out my mouth, or they land on my eyeglasses, necessitating a pause for lens-polishing before I can continue with my kitchen clean-up.
I realize that a lot of the reason for modern packaging has to do with safely, a great deal more of it has to do with catching the eye of the consumer and making him or her want to buy that brand rather than this other one. Shouldn’t at least part of it have something to do with function, ease of use, preventing waste, and being able to hold on to the bottle with slippery, wet hands?