Sometimes when people mention how technologically advanced we're becoming I point out the stretch of highway that's gone bad with potholes almost before the original construction signs have been taken down.  Or the tremendous amount of time lost at red lights waiting for traffic that isn't there.


But today I want to talk about packaging and labels.  It's unbelievable how manufacturer seal some products to keep you out.  I'm not talking about packaging of food stuffs that have to protect us from the fellow lurking over in the cereal aisle to put a hypodermic needle in my soda when I'm not looking.  I'm talking about general merchandise that's shrink-wrapped onto the little pieces of cardboard.  Do you know how hard it is to get the item off the cardboard so it can be used?  When try separating the plastic from the cardboard the cardboard usually ends up torn in little pieces.  Unfortunately that's where the instructions were located.  I bought a blade for my band saw the other day.  I didn't know it was the wrong size until I tried it on the machine.  By the time I finally got into the package I was too embarrassed to take it back.  I had to almost shred the cardboard before I ever got a chance to touch the merchandise inside.


The only thing worse than packaging is the labeling.  During the holiday season several alcoholic beverage companies provide a few dollars back if you want to go to the trouble of getting the receipt, circling the item on the receipt, getting the coupon, filling out the coupon and then getting the UPC label off of the bottle.  Do you think that the promotion people ever bother to tell the label makers about their schemes?  Of course not.  The label makers are talking with the company that guarantees the glue on the label will keep it on the bottle come hell or high-water.  We soaked a Port wine label (god bless you Jack K.) overnight in water and in the morning the label still wouldn't budge. 


But it's not just bottles.  Why in the hell does a brand new suit come with the label sewn on the outside of the sleeve?  Do you notice the fellows walking around with the tear on the sleeve of their suit coat?  That's because they couldn't get the label off without doing permanent damage.  Now what I figure is that once upon a time these tailoring companies figured out how long their suit would last and it was too long and that meant not enough business.  Then they came up with the idea of how to destroy a certain number of brand new suits by making the buyer tear the sleeve.  I mean the only way to get the label off is with scissors or a special seamstress tool for removing stitches.  Either way you risk cutting or tearing the sleeve.


Of course you can rest assured that the store wouldn't take it off.  Sometimes they even forget to remove the anti-shoplifting tag after you buy it.  More than once we've had to take a piece of clothing back to the store to remove the plastic tab.  I've tried to get them off with pliers and a screw driver and couldn't do it.


Sometimes the people don't want you to take the tag off.  They want you to walk around advertising their products every time you wear the item.  I've always figured those people must get a check from the manufacturer every month based upon how many days they wore it.  What is it about people wanting to be walking billboards?


But it's not just clothes.  How often do you see an automobile with the dealers name attached to the back of the car?  I mean somebody pays $35,000 for an upscale vehicle and in addition they have to agree to advertise for the dealer the rest of the car's life.  Look carefully and you'll see that some of the nameplates are screwed or bolted to the car itself.  Can you imagine the laugher of the fellow as he drills holes in the beautiful finish of a brand new car to attach the sign to the back?  He's probably saying, "This'll fix that SOB.  I'll teach him to be able to afford a new car while I drive an old piece of junk."


Yet another place where companies think they have to affix labels is in the lumber business.  This summer I replaced my mother's deck with pressure-treated 2" x 6" boards.  They have more labels stamped on them then an Eagle Scout with all his merit badges.  You'd think they would put the stamps on the side that doesn't show but you'd be wrong.  And if that's not enough, the other day I was cutting some boards and put the power saw blade through a staple.  That's right, Home Depot had stapled a UPC code on the end of every board that I'd purchased.  I mean why the hell didn't they just drive a big spike in the side of it before selling it to me?  I can see it now, "Oh wait a minute sir," the cashier says, "I've got to drive this nail in your new board before you take it home."


But don't think that putting labels in silly places is a low-tech thing.  Perhaps you've noticed television programs in the last couple of years have added something new and I'm not talking quality here.  In the lower right corner of almost every network is a logo.  Oh I know the reason.  It's to track the material if there's ever a copyright question on a taped program.  But don't they know people are actually trying to watch the little space left for the program?  Some of them are less intrusive with a neutral color and somewhat transparent.  But others hang a bright red or yellow logo in the corner that's totally distracting.


Now what I really like is the split screens at the end of the programs.  On the left half is the end of the program with the characters talking.  On the right half is the credits rolling by at the speed of heat in type so tiny you have to be on top of the TV to read it.  The announcer is talking over the top of the characters to tell you what the next program is with the attitude of, "Forget about this program you need to know about the next one."  Now if only we had a storm warning crawling across the top of the screen and the logo in the lower left hand corner my viewing would be complete.  Well maybe I should be happy they haven't figured out a way to shrink wrap the program before sending it to us.