Open Sez-a-Me!

Posted in AK-47, design trumps function, nail clippers, plastic by expatatlarge on October 18, 2010

Necessity being Frank Zappa’s backing band, I managed today to find a unique (to me) way to open those fucking annoying hermetically sealed plastic(1) packs that almost everything comes entombed in these days. Of course I am a genius to come up this method and hereby declare that it is patent-pending in the name: “The E@L Alcatraz Clamshell Opening Method”. Royalties shall be expected. Remember, piracy is theft. (I saw that on a movie torrented the other night. It was a Japanese movie, language was “the original Polish”. I kid you not.) And re: royalties, please be generous, I’ll need to pay the Mouse’s salary next year.

Meanwhile, who was the fucking idiot who thought that making products completely inaccessible was a good idea? It used to be bad enough when conventional plastic wrapping first hit the streets. Initially it was Mars bars, sugar sachets and condom wrappers. “Just give me a product that don’t have to open with your teeth,” was my not infrequent complaint in those heady and anonymous years (pre-blogging) when calories, carbohydrates and sex where my main obsessions. Unlike now.

Well, yes, you can try and open one of the new-fangled hard cases with your teeth, but they’d better be the pearly white, razor-sharp choppers of a giant shark if you expect to make any impression (dental joke, haha) on the impenetrable plastic. Anything you do to these bastards without special tools is effort completely wasted, or might only result in the raising of dangerous jagged edges at the small hiatuses (hiatii?) that you might have made into the top of the package with your *useless and inappropriate tool of choice*. Other people (not sharks, I presume) have tried with varying measures of success. The recommended way discussed on Wiki-how is to use a manual can-opener(2). That’s fine I guess if you are at home and have one handy. Ruley, ruley sharp scissors or finger-cutters, sorry I mean box cutters, can do it of course but the warnings the Wiki-experts give are valid. It is bloody easy to do yourself damage with these weapons, as well as with those resulting jagged shards. These edges come at you like aforementioned sharks (not shards) when, once you have made a significant enough breach in the casing, you attempt to use manual force (you’re a tough guy, a little bit of adamantine plastic is not going to defeat you) to rip the rest of sealing apart. What happens is that the sundered edges do not conform to the anticipated path of release – the tear swizzes from the side of the package through to the middle and the rearing edges rip into your flesh like weasels.


Well I am not at home with my trusty toolkit by my side. I’ve been in this bloody hotel room for two weeks already and there are another three to go. I do not have access to my sharp scissors, my box-cutters, my fingernail-paring-shaped surgical needles and my silk 02 thread to repair my damaged body parts, nor my manual can-opener and neither my tin-snips. (Don’t actually own tin-snips.) Which is good for my continued survival as I am sure Thailand is going to drive me suicidal (how much sex can a man put up with?) soon enough. I am lucky then that you can’t just walk up to an apothecary here in Bangkok and ask for whopping amounts of otherwise dangerous prescription-only drugs – such as, for a random example, enough Viagra or Cialis to explode an elephant’s trunk.

One thing I DO have, speaking of (not Cialis and not elephant trunks) fingernail parings, is one set of those trusty but dangerous-on-airplanes weapons – my nail-clippers. One of? you ask. Yep, I own two and I now keep this set in my travel bag and have another always in the bathroom at home, because chances are 1 to 100 that I would forgot to pack it otherwise. What am I, stupid? (No! I’ve already told you I’m a genius! Don’t you listen?) Of course sometimes I pack the bathroom one as well and have two in my toilet-bag when I arrive and unpack. Chances are I’ll leave one if not both of them there when I check-out.

Hey! Stop raving on you lot… See, look, pay attention.

Here is the E@L method, demonstrated in the photos below.

Step 1. duck into the bathroom and grab your sturdy nail-clippers – the ones you get at The Body Shop for $37 are fine – and take on the impenetrable polycarbonate(?) clamshell casing. Place clippers over the seam at the edge (they *just* fit), bite down a few times really hard, move one clipper’s width to either side (to the right if you are left-handed and to the right if you are right-handed) and bite down again, hold firmly, then twist the clippers. You’ll hear a crack (eventually) and the first of your chomps into the transparent tomb of whatever you have bought at the IT store is done. Continue (to the right if you are left-handed and to the right if you are right-handed) until one of the ends is completely open, then maybe give another clip around the side to release the corners, and you’ll find it (relatively) easy (mind the sharps jagged edges! How many time do I have to warn you?) to rip the packaging apart. Unless you are a girly-girl.

Step 2(ish – might have missed some numbering there): because you failed to heed the multiple warnings re: sharp edges, step quickly to the bathroom again to staunch the blood-flow from the remnants of your digital artery using the cotton wool pads, the ear-drum puncturing devices, and the shower cap. Now go back (Step 3?) and remove whatever it was that you couldn’t get to inside the package and use the fucking thing, after all that pain and effort.

You get the idea already don’t you? The following photos are completely unnecessary.

Here they are anyway. Not everyone is intuitive as you.

Doneskies! And with hardly any blood loss!

Of course if you don’t even have nail-clippers, you’ll have to resort to your AK-47.

Once your package is open, please, please go after the guy who invented them and scatter a magazine load around his completely penetrable liver, as a favour to me.


1: Or is it that ultra-hard carbon stuff that the guys won the Nobel prize for the other week?

2: Addendum: now I think about it, I have tried using my can-opener at home – useless.

The Best Of Times, The Worst Of Times.

Posted in AK-47, Bangkok, beggars, capitalism, Dickens, soldiers, work by expatatlarge on October 10, 2010

Every day I walk past where a leather-faced, one-legged woman sits on the footpath. I think of her as old, but she might be my age or she might even be my mother’s age. Her skin is so dark. There are several men in pink/orange vests hanging around nearby, drivers for the motor-cycle taxi “stand” under the steps to the elevated crossway. They hog the shade and chat. She sits on a piece of cloth, next to a phone-booth, in the sun. (I count nine public phone booths in this section of footpath.) Her good leg is tucked underneath and her plastic prosthesis is extended into the path to draw attention, but to not block anyone, well not much. She holds her mug out in the stumps of leprosied fingers. Sometimes I drop some coins, 10 or 15Bht, or maybe a 20Bht note into the cup. No-one else does this that I have seen, not even the Buddhist Thais. I am her target demographic.

I take the SkyTrain down to Asok, change to the MTR underground and head to Silom for a day at Chula Hospital. Soldiers in camouflage uniforms, hard black hats with tight chin-straps, large guns, shiny boots and gaiters. There are security gates, metal detectors. One soldier waves me away from the glass-enclosed entrance foyer. All the doors are blocked, save one in the basement of the car-park. He indicates for me to go around. I say no: I must wait for someone here, but he insists. I too insist though I don’t have a gun to support my argument. There are some chairs near a drinks machine and some soldiers are taking a rest. I indicate that I will join them, wait here. I take a copy of the IHT out of my Samsonite satchel in order to finish the Sudoku puzzle I had started at the breakfast buffet in The Landmark. The resting soldiers smile and nod hello. One moves over a seat to give me room, moves his AK-47, so polite. The soldier who had tried to get me to go to the other door waves to say it’s OK, he smiles. The Royal Niece is upstairs having her goitre removed.

I come back via Siam Station in the early evening, change trains around 6 o’clock. Music plays over a public speaker and thousands of commuters stop, everyone a statue. It seems weird to me, this frozen state, this nationalism.

At the very top of the stairs that I take down from the Nana station is a Sootra juice and herb drinks stall with a display of brightly colored plastic bottles of juices in crushed ice, and more in a refrigerator behind the server. I indicate a bottle of the chilled passion-fruit and beetroot juice, for 20Bht. The server is on her mobile phone, talking. She is only watching me out of the corner of her eye while she places a bottle in a plastic bag and takes the 20Bht note I offer.

At the bottom of the steps another beggar, a much younger woman, is seated. She holds a cup towards me in wai-ing hands and pleads with big eyes. She has a comatose infant draped across her lap. I walk past her, glowering, whatever change I have loose (maybe 20Bht) is still in my pocket. Within a second I feel guilty for my disgust and a second after that, I don’t. I was unjustly accusing her with my glare and no doubt it made her feel bad, or maybe not. I know that while it is not her fault that she is so desperately poor that she has been given this drugged child to hold in order to grab at my sympathies and that post-colonial (not that Thailand was ever colonized) guilt, and that neither she nor the child will never see again any of the money that is placed in her cup.

As I slide past the motorcycle-taxi drivers, I hear a cackling laugh up ahead. The drivers are sauntering, hovering from foot to foot, joking with someone. It seems weird too, like there was stand-up routine and I couldn’t understand the patter. The cackle is coming from the one-legged beggar, still in her place by the phone-booth. She spoons some curry out of a plastic bag into her toothless mouth, grins gleefully back at her friends, the laughing drivers.

We are all in this together, we all have a role to play, we are all doing our jobs in the Dickensian City of Angels.


Two years ago in Rangoon, I met a toothpick-thin, boisterous young Burmese man called Somerset. He had conferred this nickname on himself at age sixteen, after renting a collection of stories by W. Somerset Maugham from one of the bookstalls on Pansodan Road. By memorizing sentences from the collection, Somerset taught himself a somewhat formal and archaic English. Then he moved on to Charles Dickens. His identification with the works of these long-dead British writers was total. “All of those characters are me,” Somerset explained. “Neither a British nor American young man living in the twenty-first century can understand a Dickens as well as I can. I am living in a Dickens atmosphere. Our country is at least one or two centuries behind the Western world. My neighborhood—bleak, poor, with small domestic industries, children playing on the street, the parents are fighting with each other, some are with great debt, everyone is dirty. That is Dickens. In that Dickens atmosphere I grew up. I am more equipped to understand Dickens than modern novels. I don’t know what is air conditioning, what is subway, what is fingerprint exam.” Dickens In Lagos – Lapham’s Quarterly