Man versus Can

To the CEO of the Manischewitz:

How am I supposed to eat your delicious sardines when I have to solve a jigsaw disguised as the pull open tab on your cans?  If I wanted a brainteaser I would stick with Sudoku or the metal puzzles at select chain restaurants.  Instead, I find myself battling with a can containing two ultra-sharp edges capable of eviscerating the radial index artery in my finger resulting in massive blood loss, the onset of sepsis, and an early grave for a dedicated Season’s customer.

I work out.  I can bench press my body weight, run nearly a 20 minute 5k and, in my mid-30’s, leaned down to 10% body fat.  However, opening your cans is an arduous task.  On more than one occasion, I have forced open the tab while losing complete control of the base of the can.  Oil sprayed all over my work desk and splattered on my heavily faded, medium-quality Gap shirt.

The oil that did not land on me oozed onto the tabletop.  Despite numerous attempts to wipe down the table, the lingering smell of dead fish repulsed my co-workers resulting in an onslaught of insults directed at your product and me.  I am used to the verbal abuse from them, but I took great offense when they attacked the healthy snack your company makes.  I attempted to defend the nutritional value of your sardines with their heart healthy proteins and fats.  My rebuttal was ignored as their complaining persisted until the next day when the overnight cleaning crew was able to use industrial strength chemicals to remove the remnants of the fish oil.

One time I pried open a can and strained a muscle in my forearm.  I have already explained how I am in excellent shape.  I can only imagine what levels of exhaustion and injury normal people, of average strength and aerobic condition, must endure when engaging your pull open tabs.  Although the directions for opening the can are clear and simple to read on the box, the act of opening a can is of a Herculean magnitude.

I appreciate the value of your sardines.  For less than the price of a pop and bag of chips, I can enjoy a natural food that is easy to carry to baseball games, winter campouts, and hikes in the forest.  I eat your pilchards five to six times a week.  If the Frenchman, Nicolas Albert, the originator of canning, could taste your product he would be impressed.  I feel his approval of your container would fall short of his eighteenth century expectations.

“Your best teacher is your last mistake” – Ralph Nader

Admit it.  Manischewitz screwed up.  It is OK.  There is still hope for your product’s container.  Prior to switching to the metal lid, you used a foil lid.  I implore you to bring back the foil lid.  It is easy to open and kid friendly.

Sincerely,

Power user

Enclosure:  a picture of my pantry with 100+ cans of sardines

My sardine stash

UPDATE 5/31/17:  Bonnie, from the Manischewitz company, responded on behalf of the CEO.  She came with the great news that my sardines are now packed in a foil lined can.  She also included 12 cans of their delicious sardines, numerous coupons for sardines, and a very nice letter thanking me for being a loyal customer.  

How To Thrive at Your 20-Year High School Reunion

  • Don’t wear your letterman jacket to your reunion.  It doesn’t fit anymore and you will look about as cool as that high school wrestler who wore it to the college bars after losing in the state finals.
  • People look a lot different.  20 years of food, drink, and bad life choices will drastically change relatively innocent people into middle-age adults with real problems.  For some reason, their smile and laugh allow you to see through the baggage taking you back to a happier time where the most important thing in your life was keeping the French-roll in your pants tight.
  • Leave your W2 at home.  No one cares.
  • You will not recognize half the people.  They don’t recognize you either.
  • Remember that quiet girl who was like Laney Boggs from She’s All That before she took her glasses off and became smoking hot?  Well she took her glasses off somewhere between the ages of 20-28.  Don’t start creeping on her now; you missed the low tick on that one.

    Another missed opportunity.
    Another missed opportunity.
  • Someone at the reunion still lives in a rocket ship bed in their parents’ basement.  You do not.  Next time you’re thinking about hooking up the hose to the exhaust pipe in the garage, remember this guy.
  • People will bring spouses.  The tagalong feels as awkward at this event as you did through your four years of high school.  Go talk to them; they are probably more interesting than the people who graduated in your class.
  • There will be at least one totally bald dude.  He was also the same guy who was shaving in seventh grade.
  • You learn that everyone, from the science club kids, to the tight-end on the football team, to the potheads sparking up behind the field house, to the honor roll dorks, to Magic card playing weirdos, to marching band members, to the Marlon Brando looking guy who drove a Triumph motorcycle, all hated high school as much as you did.  Take solace in this.
  • Don’t try to get your comeuppance by laying out the guy that picked on you a generation ago.  He really did turn into a nice guy and was about to apologize for ruining you during high school.  Instead, you punch him in the head before he can make peace.  It turns out he is a regional champion MMA fighter and puts you into a hammerlock.  You end up facing assault charges while going to the hospital handcuffed to the gurney.  History doesn’t change and neither do you.
  • You will have at least two conversations with people who have no clue who you are.   They are trying to make friends to get ahead of the 30-year reunion or back fill some void from high school.  After seven “So how are you’s?”, it is time to move on to a person that you actually talked to in high school.
  • If a girl offers you a ride home at the end of the night, take it.  Unlike high school where you had to wait until prom before you rounded second base.  You might actually get some action within the hour.
  • Gone are the one-upmanship games and shot-for-shot contests at the bar you experienced at the 10-year.  Most everyone has matured to the point where they really care about you and your life.  Pre-conceived judgments are passed over and real conversations happen.  Social cliques are disregarded and people are treated as equals.  That said, there will still be some toolbox who talks all night how he gave the keys of his leased Aston Martin to the valet and got the spot in front of the restaurant.

Walt’s Juggernaut Defeated Me

I surrender.  Next time my family needs a vacation, we will be at the local Holiday Inn using day passes for their pool while I ignite five grand in cash in the lobby fireplace.  Any disappoint I feel from burning through the seed money for my kids’ college education will be more than offset by knowing that another magical Disney adventure has been postponed indefinitely.  Why do I have such despise for the happiest place on earth?  Allow me to recount my experience.

Upon entering Disney World on our first day, my daughter spiked a 101 fever.  After hooking up the IV bag to the stroller so she could mainline Motrin, we pressed on.  Damn the influenza.  We didn’t travel 2,000 miles to sit in a hotel room.  After resolving the fever situation, my son stood in front of the most magical castle in the world and whined that he wanted to go to the hotel pool because it had a waterfall.  I explained we had only been in the park for five minutes and that Disney had Splash Mountain, a waterfall you could ride.  His complaints persisted.

The park had not officially opened and my children were irritating me to the point where I questioned more pleasant situations such as being stranded at a North Korean airport, running out of oxygen in a sinking submarine, or undergoing anesthesia awareness during a major surgery.  Yes, things could be better, and my optimism for the rest of the trip was starting to fade.

Being unfamiliar with the race to the rides after Mickey and his crew do their welcoming ceremony in front of the castle, we were nearly trampled like Who fans as seasoned Disney ticket holders surged when the gates opened.  Joy turned to urgency, which transformed to panic, as parents rushed their children to move faster to be the first on the Seven Dwarfs’ Ride.  Like refugees, fleeing their homeland for safer grounds, strollers were abandoned, crying children were left for security to be claimed later, and the practice of “women and children first” was disregarded.  The rest of the day oscillated between chasing down Fastpass windows and suppressing my children’s vocalization of them hating on the Magic Kingdom, their family, waiting in line, and their legs hurting from walking.

I was not alone in my struggle.  A random father told me “I want to get separated from my family.  Then I’ll be happy.”  Arguments, from what seemed like normally sane couples, erupted as we navigated the park.  If I were to make one suggestion to the corporation, I would urge Disney to offer divorce kiosks throughout the park advertising “Get Divorced Here in Under 10 Minutes!”  That business would be a boon to the bottom line.  My marriage, approaching ten years of wedded bliss, has been through a lot, but nothing as trying as the asphalt labyrinth where an oversize rodent is king.

Mickey Hell
Worst Idea Ever

After two days of chicken nugget lunches, we took a day off.  We stayed back at the hotel.  The children laughed and swam in the pool.  One of them voluntarily took a nap.  My wife and I enjoyed a conversation without passive-aggressive undertones or an assumption of self-destructive behavior on the other’s part.  We ordered pizza; compared to Walt’s prices, it felt like it was free.  The kids went to bed at a normal hour.  Life was good, until we realized we still had one more day of pixie dust and Dumbo rides ahead of us.  We debated eating the cost of the tickets and driving over an hour each way to the ocean, but Disney’s invisible hand beckoned us.

On our third day, we were like downtrodden, weary soldiers going to battle long after the adrenaline had exhausted our systems.  In the parking lot, we traversed to the yellow line to await our tram when a vision appeared before me.  With a banging body dressed in butt-hugging Adidas warm-up pants and a white tank, a woman with red dyed hair broke the monotony of the vacation spawned from the underworld.  I expected to see a vixen of this caliber flaunting her goods at the Spearmint Club in Las Vegas, not in the humid state where retirees go to die.  I enjoyed the respite while ignoring my children open-hand slapping each other as they yelled insults in the key of excrement.  I tuned out my wife’s nagging that we didn’t bring enough cash for the twenty fold marked-up light saber souvenirs.

The tram pulled up with the driver blaring, “You are in the Simba lot, remember this or be lost in our sea of 15,000 parked cars.”  I hustled the stroller and our backpacks onto the tram when a voice exacerbated the drudge of my Disney week, “Simba?  You guys hear that? Let’s do it guys!”

I begged for it not to be my Ariel inspired stripper.  My head rotated to find my fantasy destroyed as she led her family of six in an acapella version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”.  Even the dad got into the rolling baseline of the tune.  I don’t know what was worse:   that the family prepared their whole life for this performance or that I used to identify with that idyllic clan only days prior.  I downgraded the woman, who I previously wanted to slather in dollar bills, to just another customer of the forced family fun machine.

My wife made eye contact with me as she mouthed, “It’s their first day”.  Her deadpan comment united us again on a deeper level.  It was the first time on Disney property when we connected in a meaningful way.  Then reality set in that we still had to endure a final day in happy prison.

UPDATE (4/12/17):  After Disney received this letter, I was contacted by a Jessica, a Disney rep, who was very attentive and discussed with me the finer points of my letter.  She offered me 5, 3-day Disney tickets, free of charge, that do not expire until 2037.  Initially I refused, but she insisted I take them in case I changed my mind about returning.  Please keep in mind that Disney really does care about making its customers happy.  

Underage Bar Fighting with Special Mention of the Marlboro Man

Back when men worked for scale and magazines still allowed ads with the Marlboro Man, my father used to regularly take me to “Kathy’s Bar” at Damen and Lawrence.  I was only four, but I realized that this working man’s bar would be my Friday nights of the future if I didn’t graduate from eighth grade.

After a long day at preschool, I was at Kathy’s throwing back a Coke and snacking on peanuts.  A commotion arose from some of the regulars by the pool table.  Two ironworkers came to the forefront of the group and squared off in the center of the bar.  The intensity of their slurred speech and violent finger pointing told me this was not an argument over the Cubs game.

Make it a double
Make it a double

I knew this wasn’t normal bar behavior and I looked to my father for how to respond to this potentially life threatening situation.  My father abruptly turned his chair.  He was now in the perfect position to watch the throw down.  I was so close to the action, the spittle could land on me.  I kept glancing back at my dad for clues to run out of the bar for our safety, but my father was ordering another beer from the waitress as if he was sitting ringside at the Spinks-Holmes fight.

“Dad, dad, what’s going to happen?” I asked as my spine tensed up and adrenaline pumped throughout my body.

“They’re going to fight,” he retorted while tossing some popcorn in his mouth and leaning back in the chair as he perched his shoes on top of the table.  “If you don’t turn around, you might miss it.”

I had seen preschoolers bitch slap each other on the playground, but this was a real, unsupervised fight.  There were no teachers to break it up, no helicopter parent able to airlift Little Billy out trouble, nor a code of honor to stop once one boy starts crying.  These were two full size dudes about to go full tilt drunken bum fight.

Suddenly, a maiden appeared between the men. I wondered if they were going to beat her up too.  I glanced back at my dad.  He stood up and walked away.  What was he doing?  A real life version of Van Damme’s epic movie, Bloodsport, was unfolding in front of me.   My dad abandoned me.  Was this one of those early manhood tests?  Survive a bar fight and become an adult?  If I could survive, I knew what story I would be sharing at ‘Show and Tell’ on Friday.

The standoff, like two wild elks squaring off over a mate, continued.  They circled each other while the woman stood in between begging them to back down and resume the pool game.  The intensity built as one of them grabbed a beer bottle.

“Please there are children here!” she shouted as her missing teeth came into my view.  No longer part of the peanut gallery, I was involved.  With that desperate plea, the men backed down.  They exited with a few vulgar words as the bar returned to its normal state of affairs.

My father returned and sat in his chair.

“Dad, where did you go?  These guys fought each other,” I exclaimed as the intensity in my voice had yet to subside.

“I went to the bathroom.  And these guys didn’t fight,” he calmly stated as he took a pull out of his beer, “as soon as a girl gets in the middle of two guys arguing, it’s never going to happen.”

I took in this vast wisdom.  Other classmates of mine where playing with Legos and watching Sesame Street with that stupid yellow bird.  I was learning how the real world works.

“Besides,” he continued, “there was way too much talking.  Real bar fights happen with a punch, not a bunch of yelling.”

Kathy’s Bar is now a T-mobile, the Marlboro Man has retired to that great cattle ranch in the sky, and the union worker has faded into the history books much like Jack Dempsey.  However, I still have the memories of surviving my first bar fight.

A Short Lesson in Pronouns

I was in your office last week and I overheard this conversation between two co-workers:

“We smoked them last night”

“They did a great job running, but we just couldn’t punch through their defense”

“You’re right; we lost that game because he can’t coach.  Next year they need to focus on their back office and not on our franchise guy”

“You played a great game, congrats on the ‘W’!”

Confused?  Both of these guys walked away thinking the conversation was transparent.  In reality, one guy was talking about his kid’s debate team and the other was talking about an amateur jai alai match played in 1992.

More heart attacks occur on Monday than any other day of the week (We site sources here at skiingingjeans.com).  I once flipped through the pamphlet “Diabetes and You,” so I am qualified to tell you that listening to conversations like the one above is the primary reason you will end up in the supine position on a gurney headed to the hospital.  Your brain overloads with so many synapses firing to attempt to understand the ill-connected pronouns that your heart implodes.  On the way to the hospital, some nineteen-year-old, pre-med EMT trying to become the next Doogie Howser will break your ribs doing chest compressions while slipping you the tongue as he treats you like a Resusci Anne doll.  This near death experience is much more enjoyable than listening to Chuck tell you how he threw for 350 yards, went 12-15 from the line, scored an empty net goal, and held Derek Jeter to only one hit over the weekend.

At the hospital, you will probably overhear two doctors having a similar, pronoun filled conversation that you just had with your co-worker.  You will fall into another cardiac arrest and the staff will run for the defibrillator.  They will yell “Clear!” and bring you back to life like Mark Ruffalo in Just Like Heaven.  Please note the medical team doesn’t yell, “You get clear,” “We got clearance,” or “They need to get clear so y’all can blast him.”  They just yell “clear.”  No pronouns are used and it is crystal clear, right?

Newsflash:  You are not on the team.

If “your” team wins the championship and you do not receive a trophy, ring or other item that will later be hawked on eBay when you’re headed for bankruptcy, you are not on the team.  Yes, the owner, the players, and the groundskeeper all say, “fans are a part of the team.”  That is marketing 101.

Aside from the fact that you are not on the team’s payroll, the logic of claiming any type of ownership is bewildering.  Next time you’re at the ballet try to catch yourself saying, “We almost stuck the landing in the third act, but that fall probably cost us the rest of the season.”  In both cases, sports and ballet, you are the consumer.  You expect to be entertained for the money you pay for a ticket, but don’t expect any fanfare for you when they do well.

No sane person will venture outside to get the newspaper with wind chill levels reaching sixty below zero.  However, lunatics, using ice picks to break up frozen beers while losing fingers due to frostbite, will gladly fork over $150 a ticket to watch twenty-two meatheads play catch in an arctic blast.

“Being a Packers fan is in your blood, hereditary even.”

In your blood?  Flight or fight is in your blood.   Wisdom teeth are in your blood.  Sickle-cell anemia is in your blood.  Cheering for a sport created a hundred years ago is not an evolutionary feat.  Until hockey players grow gills and live underwater, sports are still a fad in the annals of man.

Save yourself a trip to the hospital for cardiac arrest and keep your fingers intact by avoiding pronoun abuse.

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