Open at Your Own Risk

I am annoyed with an industry that, in an effort to keep us safe, leaped from reasonable to ridiculous. It started with the manufacturing of difficult-to-open, hermetically-sealed medicine bottles and lead to me devoting huge portions of my life to assaulting pill bottles.

Worse than pill bottles are pill cards. Twenty-five pills are placed, individually, into 25 little divots on a sheet of clear, hard, plastic. Tinfoil is then laid over the pills, followed by a sheet of cardboard. Both foil and cardboard are then glued to the hard plastic. To get to a pill, you must attempt to pull back a corner of cardboard and latch on to an exposed fleck of foil the size of a dust particle. I have never been successful. The only thing I've found that works is thrusting an ice pick through the cardboard and foil, then gathering up the shattered particles of pill.

While there may be a modicum of logic in attempting to safeguard our medication, I see no reason to protect CD's, batteries, or toys. I had to remove a child's set of 19 individually-sealed miniature toys from its packaging. It included several one-inch dolls, their teensy-weensy wardrobe, itsy-bitsy shoes and Lilliputian tables, chairs and beds. Each piece was behind hard, sharp plastic, anchored to another hard piece of plastic with heavy duty wire, the strength and girth of what you see hanging between telephone poles. I used my teeth and my nails, but couldn't break in until I used a pair of heavy-duty 10-inch shears. By the time I removed each National Treasure, I needed a shower, a dental appointment and a tourniquet around my left palm.

The worse experience I ever had, however, was trying to get into medication when I was sick with a virus that required antibiotics for infection and suppositories for nausea.

There I was with a raging fever, a spinning head and a churning stomach. The clock indicated I could, at last, take a suppository. Each one was individually wrapped in aluminum foil. Not the kind of aluminum we used to peel from Juicy Fruit gum wrappers back in the '50s. Not the kind we line our baking pans with, but the kind used to build Boeing 707's.

With weak hands, I searched for a seam in the foil so I could remove the one-inch wax bullet to perform a degrading act on myself. Neither my nails nor scissors worked this time, so I called my husband, Mighty Marc, who continues to be a fine example of virile manhood. At 79, he still cuts his own meat and chews with his own teeth. If anyone could do it, he could.

Beads of sweat formed on his forehead. Arthritic hands trembled, and I'm pretty sure I saw blood droplets on his lower lip from biting down so hard. It was like trying to pry open the seam on a can of paint. To open it without squashing the suppository, required iron hands, a velvet touch and an act of Congress.

Finally, one foot on a chair, elbow on his thigh for leverage, body quaking and a stream of obscenities flowing from his mouth, he succeed in squeezing out a lump of what looked like mashed potato. Then he handed it to me and headed for the vodka.

Not long afterward, we were on a cruise out of Manhattan during a February snow storm. Seasickness sent me to the infirmary, where I was handed a suppository for nausea, and told, "This is not to be taken orally."

I laughed. "I can't believe you thought you had to tell me that."

"You'd be surprised how many people don't know the correct way to use these," the nurse answered.

I, of course, knew the truth. After 20 minutes of trying to open a suppository, only to have it liquify in your hands, most people would agree it's much easier to swallow than insert.