Monday, October 16, 2006

Monday Rant: Lids

I'm not talking about hats or other euphemisms here - I'm talking about the plastic lids for plastic containers, most often for food storage.

Why do so many people have so many problems putting the damn lid on?

You have yourself a large collection of plastic food storage boxen. Each was purchased with its own custom-designed lid. The first step in any box-sealing action is to find the appropriate lid.

Given that the only skill required here, in step 1, is the ability to match two-dimensional shapes to each other at a level only slightly higher than expected from the average 3-year-old, this step should be trivially easy. Apparently, it's not. I have seen, far too many times to count, incorrect lid matching among plasticware.

The next step, once the correct lid has been located (and occassionally pried off of an inappropriate box), is fitting the lid to the box. Many boxen are square in perimeter - these are easy, as the only wrong alignments are blatantly obvious, even to the clueless masses - corners go on corners. Rare, circular boxen are even easier - try not to get confused by the absence of corners, though. Rectangular boxen are perhaps the toughest (given that so few boxen are penta-, hexa-, or octagonal), but there are generally only two ways - and one will work.

Finally, and this is crucial, is the application of sufficient force to render the lid attached to the box. Not "attached", as in merely resting upon the box, as in held in place only by the combination of gravity and friction, but actually attached, such that one could lift a moderatly-heavy box only by its lid.

The final step is the one most often failed. If the lid doesn't snap and / or click into place, you have failed (again). Blaming the manufacturer, the ravages of time, improper box filling, local temperatures, or your own non-standard hands are not valid excuses: you should have compensated for any and all of those in step one (lid matching).

In short: push down on the fucking lid, you idiotic mouth-breathing moron.

I'll save the optional bonus step, "placing it in the 'fridge", for another rant.


Anonymous said...

Overactive imaginations want to know how you discovered that someone needed a refresher course in Lids 101.

Scenario 1: you discover dried out contents in a container left at the back of the counter behind the coffee maker.

Scenario 2: you discover a new life form growing in a container left at the back of the counter behind the coffee maker.

Scenario 3: you have a major mess to clean up when you pick up the container whose lid was inadequately closed.

I have experienced all of the above, but my personal favorite is Scenario 3. I have learned to bring special plastic containers with me to the farmers market during berry season. Lesson 1: check beforehand that the lid is a match for the container. Lesson 2: check after filling with berries that the lid is correctly snapped down on the container. Berry juice makes a major mess.

Carlo said...

Martin, I think that such a rant must be qualified with examples of particular situations. I've obviously had many, many issues with lids in the past, but I'd like to know some humourous anecdotes.

I'd also like to add the antithesis to this: The lid that won't come off. What the hell is the deal with people making containers who's lids are on so tight that I have to smash it in order to open it up. My mother had a couple tupper-ware containers that were particularly nasty: you had to pry them open like paint-cans...

TheBrummell said...

Alright, two requests for examples.

Anecdotes to follow after I invigilate a midterm here.

I will say, JW, that minor variations on all three scenarios you propose have been encountered by me.

TheBrummell said...

OK, back from the midterm.

Anecdote 1: Plate-plus-plastic-wrap

A few years ago, while living in Victoria, I had two roommates in our basement suite. Let's call them "Mike" and "Leslie" to maintain anonymity.

Leslie had several interesting quirks derived from the extreme Britishness of her parents - such as a prediliction for baked beans. One day I went to get something from the 'fridge, and the remains of her last night's dinner splattered upon the floor, taking the ceramic plate with it. SMASH
Rather than go through the herculean effort to find a matching box-and-lid (we had about 40 in the kitchen), she just draped some plastic wrap over the top of her plate, then wedged it into the 'fridge. Not too surprisingly, when the door was next opened (by me, the next morning), the plate slipped out and went smashy. Not only that, but because it had been sitting upon other things (probably plasticware with improper-fitted lids) that were not level, and that draped (seriously, not even wrapped around or stuck down at the edges) plastic had no ability to stop baked-bean-slide, so there was mess both inside and outside the 'fridge. Imagine a little waterfall of cold, viscous baked beans sliding down through the metal wire shelves inside the fridge, plus extensive floor-level splatter, mixed with broken ceramic plate.

TheBrummell said...

Anecdote 2: Carrots go ancient

Another story from my 8 months living with "Mike" and "Leslie".

Mike was particularly prone to poor kitchen habits, mainly because he kept strange, non-standard hours and spent most of his time studying (he wanted to become a brain surgeon, and he got pretty much straight-A's, so what the hell). One day, I was tidying up a little in the kitchen, nothing too serious, when I noticed a stream of brown goo emerging from behind the stove. There was a little shelf, or discontinuity in the wall, at about 1 meter above the floor running all along one wall of the kitchen. As a result, there was a small ledge behind the stove. Apparently, some months previously, Mike had been involved in cooking a large, elaborate meal, with some other people (guests). Among the chaos of so many dishes, he'd left a bowl full of chopped, cooked carrots on top of the back of the stove, which had subsequently fallen down, onto the ledge, out of sight.
By the time I found this, some enterprising fungus had colonised the carrots, and was busy converting them into a nasty, shit-coloured slime, creeping at a glacial pace along the shelf to eventually spill down towards the floor.

This is a little like JW's Scenario 1, except instead of "dried out" we have "moist and gross". And instead of behind something small like a coffee maker, it was behind something large (and heavy, and difficult to get behind), the stove.

TheBrummell said...

Anecdote 3: Exploded leftovers of doom

A couple of years ago, living here in Vancouver, I had brought in some "bachelor chow" (leftover pasta) for lunch. I had cooked a large amount, so I didn't finish all the leftovers at lunch, and returned the container to the lab 'fridge (not the same one we keep nasty chemicals in, we have another 'fridge for food).

A lab-mate, who will remain nameless, decided that space in the 'fridge was required for other items. So my container was removed, but first it was bounced off the floor (damn you, gravity!), dislodging the lid.

I neglected to carefully inspect my by-now spoiled leftovers, and packed the container into my backpack, in a plastic grocery bag.

Foolishly, I failed to deal with the contents of my backpack immediately on reaching home, and spent the weekend blissfully unaware of the evil gestating therein.

On Monday morning, I excavated, only to discover a particularly foul-smelling and slime-prolific specimen had colonised the leftovers, and had spread some slimy *joy* all over the outside of the container, the inside of the bag, the outside of the bag (via a small hole), and a clipboard holding several (fortunately non-critical) documents. Total write-off of backpack contents (actually, the container itself was salvageable, with judicious application of ventilation, hot water, and strong detergent), and a hose-out for my backpack.

That one was at least half my own fault (for the time-neglect and failure-to-inspect), but was predicated (in my mind) on the failure of the still-unnamed lab-mate to comprehend the intricacies of the lid-box interface.

TheBrummell said...

Anecdote 4: juice jugs don't have good lids

I drink lots of fruit juice, more than most other people I know. As a result, I almost always have two two-litre jugs in my refridgerator at home containing fruit juice.

When friends visit, they are of course welcome to a beverage of their choice, and many of my friends have opted for juice.

Years ago, living in Victoria, before I lived with "Mike" and "Leslie", I was living with one other roommate in a basement suite. "Matt" was a decent roommate, and we had very few conflicts of any kind. A friend, lets call him "Kurt", visited one day, and opted for the juice.

Seeing that the lid on the jug was in place, and rotated so the opening was not adjacent to the spout, Kurt assumed (wrongly) a magical, air-tight, pressure-resistant seal between the lid and the jug. He swirled the juice, vigorously, to mix it, and was quite upset when fruit punch deposited itself all over his shirt, the floor, the open 'fridge (!), the wall, and the stove-top (it was a small kitchen). Then he yelled at me, implying this mess was somehow my fault because "the lid was closed!". Um, have you *ever* met a plastic lid on a liquids-container that could withstand, say, inversion?

Jug lids do not seal because they have to be free to rotate - and not cost huge due to intricately-engineered moving seals.

TheBrummell said...

Anecdote 5: Garbage cans

My current landlords, a childless couple in their late thirties, are generally pretty good to me - they don't make unreasonable demands, they don't invade my privacy, and they take care of the chronic small maintenance requirements of home-ownership.

However, perhaps because they are from someplace without North-American style wildlife, they seem to have a blind spot when it comes to the lids on garbage cans. In my mind, garbage cans are just extra-large plasticware with all the usual lid issues - with the caveat that many garbage can lids are equiped with locking mechanisms specifically designed to thwart the scavenging efforts of corvids (eg Corvus caurinus) and procyonids (Procyon lotor).

For some reason, perhaps relating to their joy in encountering N.A. wildlife, my landlords are pathologically incapable of matching lid to can. We have three large, plastic garbage cans, a light-blue one with a light-blue lid, a brown one with a black lid, and an extra-large dark blue one with a matching dark-blue lid and lid-locking handles. I have repeatedly emerged from my basement cave to deposit waste to find the dark-blue lid jammed onto the light-blue can, the dark-blue lid open (normally half-full of yard waste), and the brown can absent.

One day, I came home in the late afternoon to find my trash spread across the back yard - my garbage consists primarily of inedible food-parts (potato skins and the like) and food-packaging (so. much. plastic.). My immediate assesment was that one or more raccoons had spent a delightful afternoon in and among the cans.

My landlady emerged from the back door to hang some laundry on the line, and remarked "naughty raccoons". No, the raccoons are just doing what they are supposed to do - scavenge for food to survive. She and her husband are the "naughty" ones here, since the locking mechanisms on all three of these cans are actually sufficient to keep out all but the strongest and smartest raccoons.

Fortunately, the look on my face seemed to convince her to clean up the mess, so I didn't have to.

Now, before I leave in the morning, I usually quickly survey the cans, making sure that lid and can match, and that more than gravity and friction are on guard against scavengers.