Back in the previous millennium we would keep a list of things our friends in France would ask us to bring back with us from the US, like peanut butter. That’s off the list now, as peanut butter is readily available these days. Our American friends, likewise, would ask us to bring home Nutella, but that’s off the list now too, since Nutella is available almost anywhere in the US from grocery stores to car dealerships. We still keep a list but it’s mostly for ourselves, as living here and maintaining a household brings to light some very specific needs.
A previous post has already detailed the need for Genuine American Heavy Duty Trash Bags; French bags being, as the Brits would say, rubbish. Being neither heavy duty nor capable of handling trash, they forced us to take up precious weight allowance and packing space in our luggage to import pounds of plastic trash bags into the EU.
France is a country of enormous contradictions (which I’m sure the French can say as well about the US). Nevertheless, it is a head-scratcher. There is a deep cultural commitment to being “green”, to being ecologique, to using the absolute minimum material to get the job done (except for butter) to the point of self-defeating absurdity. You simply use twice as much, defeating the purpose. Anyone who has found an efficient, effective way to patchwork aluminum foil or plastic wrap, please tell me. Origami doesn’t count. So add plastic wrap and aluminum foil to The List.
Give credit where credit is due. I had no idea one could manufacture plastic wrap and aluminum foil so thin that it has only one side. See-through aluminum foil is something to behold, if barely. French plastic wrap, even what purports to be “heavy duty” has less tensile strength than a papyrus gingerly taken from a 3-thousand-year-old Egyptian tomb. It is so fragile as to be utterly, maddeningly useless. Just getting the edge of the stuff in hand to begin unwinding it can take hours, eventually causing you to give up in disgust (c’est ecologique). It clings to itself as if it was welded there. If you manage to get any of it off without shredding to confetti, once placed on the bowl or the leftovers you wish to preserve, it holds NOTHING.
The stuff is so completely unworkable that I have found myself in the kitchen cooking, or perhaps clearing up after a meal, muttering to myself, ”Oh please god, please don’t make me need to use plastic wrap”. I thought I was alone in having been driven that close to the edge, when Beloved Wife recently heard me and admitted she whispers the same prayer. None of this even addresses the packaging.
In keeping with the nanny state gestalt, looking out for you to keep you from hurting yourself or anyone else, the cutting edge that is a necessary part of the packaging of a roll of aluminum foil is universally incapable of cutting anything. Like, nothing. It makes a lovely crease in the foil, I’ll grant you, but that’s it. Which is astounding considering the stuff is practically see-through. And yet it does not tear in a clean line, oh no. It shreds. Hence, the Aluminum Foil Prayer, much like the Plastic Wrap Prayer. Note that such tearing edges eliminate the non-essential non-ecological use of metal—they are a serrated cardboard edge.
I believe the time will come in the very near future when I will find Beloved Wife standing atop the church, looking down on a gathering crowd of curious onlookers in the village square like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, raining rolls of plastic wrap and aluminum foil down on the crowd, shrieking, “I’ve had it and I can’t take it any longer!” A gendarme will approach and ask, “Madame, Qu’est que le problem?” to which she will shriek, “IT’S THE PACKAGING. THE PACK-AG-ING!” I expect to be beside her, handing her the next roll to throw.
While we’re at it, add ibuprophen to the list. And Tylenol and a host of other over-the-counter meds. In the US, you can purchase a two-pound jug of ibuprophen at the local CVS. Not here. Things like ibuprophen and a Tylenol equivalent and other such items are kept behind the counter, and are dispensed practically by the pill. They come eight or ten pills in a cardboard package with a lengthy bit of paperwork stuffed inside, and the pills individually encased in those pop-out blister sheets that require a cutting torch and chain saw to open, allowing the pill to fly across the room and under the bed. I do believe that if there is Karma in this world the man who invented this system is currently enjoying the fires of hell.
It is much the same for any prescription drug. I have a sizable list that I take routinely and re-upping the prescription entails a sit down at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee for a pill-popping session, as I wrestle the little buggers out of their armor-encased, hermetically sealed cards and try to keep them from escaping under the fridge.
That’s if you can get the product without a prescription, or at all. Nexium or equivalent? Nope, prescription. Antihistamine? Prescription. Benadryl? Only prescription and only for veterinary use. OK for Bumpus the cat, but not for me.
“Say, Bump. Can I score one of your Benadryls? My allergies are acting up.”
And then there’s this: a one-month supply of meds as filled by the pharmacy is usually based on the premise that a month consists of four weeks. Seven days in a week, four weeks in a month, so a one-month supply of meds is good for 28 days, not 30. Even though only one month of twelve is 28 days. And when you are done, you ecologically conscious green warrior, you find yourself sitting in a large pile of cardboard boxes, redundant paper, and a mound of punched-out cardboard and armor-plated pop cards. If you have a lot of prescriptions, they all run out at different times. The solution is to BYO, remembering that long ago Anthony told us in passing, “If the package says “C’est facile a ouvrir!” just run away.
I’m in the other room, but I can hear it from the kitchen; a miasma of muttered oaths and Polish invective from which I faintly make out something about “that damned French packaging” from Beloved. Hoping to be helpful, as I always do, I call out, “Put it on the list!”
She offers an alternative place to put it.