Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Die, Packing Peanut, Die!

Several months ago, an internet-meme-turned-real-life-enterprise surfaced to “ship your enemies glitter,” ostensibly because glitter makes a terrific mess, and everyone except Boy George impersonators, the producers of “Disney on Ice,” and six year old girls hates glitter.

Well, there’s something you can ship that's even worse than glitter, and it's sent to people every single day all over the world, be they friend or foe: The packing peanut.

The packing peanut is an unholy abomination, and it must die.

My grandparents lived in Tokyo for many years. During their time in the Land of the Rising Sun, they amassed an enviable collection of Japanese furniture, dolls, and other assorted bric-a-brac. When my grandmother died last year at the age of 98, my aunt kindly and spontaneously sent me one of the dolls: A delicate, foot-tall sort of “Geisha Barbie,” if you will, mounted on a wooden pedestal and posed in a rectangular glass display case. 


As soon as I opened the giant cardboard television box on my doorstep, I could see that a great deal of care and thought had gone into ensuring that Geisha Barbie made it from New York to Alaska in one piece. Every single tiny, delicate part of the doll and her glass case was individually entombed in bubble wrap and packing tape, and everything but one tiny, dangling silver earring on Geisha Barbie's left ear had arrived intact. 

It was a feat of familial thoughtfulness and a triumph of modern shipping, and I was pleased to have something of my grandmother's. But Geisha Barbie was also a source of minor domestic strife and discord, mostly due to the massive quantity of packing peanuts that exploded from Geisha Barbie's box all over our living room.

Too big to vacuum and too small to collect by hand, the packing peanut, made from polystyrene foam, is a “common, loose-fill packaging and cushioning material used to prevent damage to fragile objects during shipping." Packing peanuts are "shaped to interlock when compressed and free flow when not compressed.”

“Free flow when not compressed?" That’s one way to put it, I suppose. I might say "explode when unleashed" or "scatter to the four winds when loosed," or something a bit more descriptive and accurate. 

But whatever. Semantics.

Point being, the arrival of what turned out to be two black hefty bags worth of light pink packing peanuts was problematic. Geoff protested through each tedious moment of unwrapping Geisha Barbie, grumbling about where we were supposed to put her and how long it was taking to liberate her from her plastic cocoon. I defended Geisha Barbie's honor, saying she would look "perfect" in the recessed alcove to the left of our front door. "Oh, I know the perfect place for her," Geoff muttered under his breath in a menacing tone, and I instinctively kicked the kitchen garbage can aside and placed my arms protectively around Geisha Barbie's display case.

Notwithstanding our divergent affections for Geisha Barbie, both of us cringed equally as we watched our children scoop up huge handfuls of packing peanuts and toss them about with delight as the little, non-biodegradable, here-until-humanity-goes-extinct-in-the-zombie-apocalypse styrofoam turds clung to every fabric, hair, and static-electrified surface of our home and persons.

"Please can we just recycle them?" I begged. No, they're not recyclable, Geoff told me, and anyway, we were going to "save them for an art project." I had heard this before. We had "saved" several large styrofoam boards that came with a rocking chair from Target, for "art projects." In other words, we shoved them into the crawl-space style closet under our stairs, only to dig them out and dispose of them years later, to make room for more shit, quite possibly more styrofoam. Whatever it was, it certainly wasn't art.

Knowing that the under-the-stairs-closet would just be a purgatory for the packing peanuts en route to the landfill, and that the peanuts would ultimately meet the same fate as their board-shaped brethren, I pleaded for reason and their immediate disposal. But no, Geoff held firm that we were saving them, so into the closet they went.

The peanuts were out of sight out of mind, until two months later when the kids decided to play "airplane," as they are wont to do, inside our under-the-stairs closet. This closet is the equivalent of every closet in every cartoon and sit-com--the one you open up and everything from old skis to wooden tennis rackets to broken video-games comes tumbling out all at once. Choice and noteworthy items in our version of this closet include (but are not limited to): sleeping bags, tents, Rubber Maid action packers full of old VHS tapes, spools of wrapping paper, empty suitcases, and outgrown car seats. In other words, it's a kid's pipe dream for "airplane."

Retrieving the children and their friends for dinner one night, I was chagrined to discover the contents of the two black hefty bags full of packing peanuts strewn about the entire crawl space and every object inside. Enraged, I screamed at the top of my lungs asking what the fuck had happened here. Perplexed, I inquired in a calm and measured way as to what precisely had transpired. 

I was informed by dispatch that there had been a serious weather event en route to Seattle, and that the peanuts were the "hail stones" that had prompted an emergency landing in Ketchikan, where all passengers were now safely on the Tarmac. I shooed the passengers out of the jetway, and sent them upstairs for dinner in the departures lounge as I attempted to collect the "hail stones" and place them back in their "clouds."

All the while, the same four words kept running through my head in an endless loop: Die packing peanut, die.

1 comment:

  1. Drop them off with a store in the tourist district! They can use them when they ship mugs and whatever else to the Lo-Fo!

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