On the topic of toothpicks

There’s a bit in “So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish” where the main character is asked to reflect upon a society that feels the need to include instructions in a box of toothpicks.  Nowadays we have actually regressed even further, to the point where that would probably be replaced by a URL to a Youtube video where one could watch a five minute presentation on proper toothpick use, of course, but it’s still one of those little absurd moments that sticks with you.

I find myself looking for toothpick instructions a lot.  Not specifically TOOTHPICK instructions, mind you, it’s a metaphor.  I think it’s a metaphor.  I’ve never been great at categorizing literary devices.

Take, for example, this package of “Chip Star” brand potato chips from Japan.  I was recently making up an order with j-list and they had an offer where spending slightly MORE money than you otherwise intended to spend would result in a discount on your entire order, meaning that you would spend less money by buying more stuff.  Something like that.  In addition to my issues with literary devices, I’m also not particularly good at math.  Anyway, I wound up padding out my order with assorted snack products from Japan – mostly CalorieMate, which I can’t find locally, but also a couple of packages of Avocado & Mayonnaise-flavored potato chips because they sounded delicious.

For the record, they are amazing, and Lay’s needs to get right on stealing the formula for something I can buy off a shelf here.  Or maybe they shouldn’t since I should probably be watching what I eat a little more carefully.

I am not, however, here to review the chips themselves, though I suppose I’ve already mostly done that.  I’m here because I was putting one of the packages into the recycling bin and happened to actually read the top of it while I was doing so.

If my Japanese degree is of any use to me, it’s a warning to be careful not to cut yourself while taking off the lid.  On examination, I can report that the bottom edges of the lid are… well, they’re cardboard, and a little sharp I guess.  It’s not entirely unreasonable that you might twist it and wind up with a paper cut.

On reflection, I’m not sure whether this is closer to toothpick instructions or whether it’s more along the lines of the “may contain hot liquid” that you see on the sides of paper coffee cups.  It’s possible that someone accidentally cut themselves on the packet of crisps they were opening on the train on the way to a MAJOR client presentation and wound up bleeding all over their suit and didn’t have time to change before they got to the client site and the executives they were presenting to were so weirded out by the whole bloody shirt thing that they just threw the guy out and then they lost the contract and the company went under and hundreds of people were out of work and the CEO wrote a very strongly-worded letter to the potato chip company as a result.

I mean, it’s within the realms of possibility.

Or maybe someone just said “hey, we should put a warning here” and everyone secretly thought it was a little silly but nobody could come up with a really good REASON not to have a warning here and it came to happen.  A lot of design decisions happen this way, from my admittedly jaded experience.

Or it’s entirely possible that I have spent more time writing up a post talking about this safety instruction than I really should have and I should get to finding something productive to do with my day.  No, I think that’s a certainty.


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