abre facil

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What's up now? Here's Big Mouth again, with another unstoppable rant. Something to do with design, apparently.

Design? Pah. Anti-design more like. It makes me livid! Really, it's just…let me pull up my barstool and tell you.

It must have happened to you: the supposedly semi-punched line on a carton, which is supposed to tear neatly with a single tug. The cap on the carton with foil beneath but the tab to pull it off is about 2 mm long and breaks off. The pull out carton 'lip' that actually spurts milk or fruit juice onto the floor or down your sleeve when you try to pick it up to pour.

In Spain insult is added to injury with the printed legend “Abre Facíl” (easy opening) adorning the silly plastic tops. Abre facíl my backside! “Abre facíl” has come to mean “flaming stupid” to me. These are the infernal meddlesome items that some imbecile in marketing has decided will make a standard product look a tiny bit different, without reference to 1. A designer, or 2. Common sense. I mean, how hard can it be to design a carton opening that works well? Or a ring-pull? I have nothing against ring-pulls. Just an ordinary ring-pull; a bit of metal with flexibility but strength, shaped to help you open the can, without messing about with a can-opener? So there I am getting ready for a beans-on-toast supper and the ruddy ring-pull is impossible to lift: I have to get a knife out if I don't want to split my nails. When I do get the ring up, the lid doesn't want to pull off: I yank at the bloody thing and get beans all over my shirt and a cut thumb.

Trivial? Yes. But mostly stupid: stupid because they could so easily work. There are millions of trivial things we use unthinkingly every day (toothbrushes with no cap, mobiles with minute buttons a spider would find too small, un-cleanable shavers, remote controls that have to be at exactly the right angle and distance, TVs with no off button, computer mice with no centre button, etc., etc., etc.) that are supposed to make our lives easier and don't.

Interestingly some of the really annoying 'abre facíls' here in Spain seem to be an equal but opposite match for their British equivalents. Is

this a symptom of some significant cultural difference? Here are a few examples:


BRITAIN
Safety caps only Arnold Schwarzeneggar can get into: grip like a vice, push down with all your force and twist at the same time. E.G. pill boxes; if the pills are for the arthritis in your hands, you're in trouble.
Fiddly foil over toothpaste tubes. Very hygienic, I am sure, but just how much contamination is going to get through an unopened box and a cap into a new tube of toothpaste?
Duvet covers you have to wrestle with like a manic or climb half into yourself to get the six foot duvet through. Can't they just popper without foot gap, the whole of one end?
All those healthier, greener, kinder, juster, products I ought to buy, which are often very good, but always much more expensive.


SPAIN
No safety caps. Bleach, knives, rat poison, are displayed in bright, highly coloured boxes, at child height. And, for once in a way, the caps really are easy to open.
Bathroom stuff with no pourer: half the gel gets stuck in the bottom and sides and by the time I've shaken the damn thing about upside down, the shower is running cold.
Double bed bolsters. I like to move my own pillow, flip it over and pull it down, all without disturbing any sleeping companion I'm lucky enough to have. Why don't they sell single pillows here?
It being almost impossible to find green or organic or sugar free products, except (of course) in specialist import shops. Where it’s always very expensive.


That's off the top of my head. Do you see a theme here too? The fussy, over-controlling items on one side versus the sloppy, devil-may-care attitude on the other? It's not always an opposite though: the minute mobiles my fingers are too big, and cameras with screens but no viewfinders are completely international. All this moaning may be a bit Victor Meldrew, but on a bad day, when you are over-tired, stressed by work and hung over from the night before, an 'abre facíl' is just the last straw! How about you? What drives you up the wall? And is it British or Spanish design? Answers on a post-card please

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