Clever cutter could have saved face

Not so long ago I passed over a summer morning fishing to painstakingly repair my plastic-wrap value pack with built-in sliding cutter.

This was because for the last couple of weeks I had been working my way around Taranaki collecting and killing wild food in preparation for a very important barbecue. It was therefore equally important I had my plastic wrap in top working order, as I could not abide improperly covered food and, without the cutter working, that is what you are going to get.

For those who don't know, the built-in sliding cutter is probably the best thing to happen to the plastic-wrap industry in the last five decades. As we all know, plastic wrap was invented by a cruel person and, in the beginning, many years ago, there was no simple way to use it without suffering debilitation of some kind.

As an example, a common method, until the advent of the built-in cutter, was to pull out the required length of plastic wrap and then use a sharp knife to cut this piece off. This is actually an effective method, but leaves long scratch marks on your mother's new Formica bench that cannot be buffed out and will therefore remain for approximately 20 years as a monument to your disappointing choices.

Another way was to use scissors, although there was always a great risk the cutting implements would become entangled in the wrap and the ensuing attempts to free them would invariably see them end up in your eye.

Hence my respect for the value pack with the built-in cutter and my anxiety at realising one morning that the aforesaid box was falling apart.

My first idea to fix it involved starting my car and driving to the supermarket. There, I discovered that a replacement value pack with built-in cutter represented very poor value indeed.

I cannot quite remember, but have a suspicion it was in the vicinity of $12 to $16, or about the same as my last pair of shoes.

I returned home, knowing if my future was to include a value pack with built-in sliding cutter, I would have to fix it myself and sacrifice a morning participating in something enjoyable.

This wasn't the first time plastic wrap had intruded on my quality of life. From 1985 to 1989, I was one of thousands of Taranaki schoolchildren lumped with funding their educational institution through the door-to- door sale of cheap plastic items such as clothes pegs, plastic bags, unbelievably useless pens and ice-cube bags.

Perhaps the most hated item to sell was the 100-metre roll of plastic wrap, which always came with the tagline "Not as useless as last year". Even though it was.

Still, the good people of my home village of Oakura bought hundreds of these rolls of inferior and overpriced plastic wrap in the belief they were helping their community. I still feel guilty for my part in such proliferation, knowing as I do that it must have led to at least one dozen divorces and four cases of mental breakdown after fruitless hours spent trying to find the edge of the wrap, which seemed to exist only on random rolls.

My most emotionally destabilising dalliance with plastic wrap came in 2002, when I was preparing to leave China for a two- week holiday in Thailand with an English girl I met the year before.

The problem was, since our first meeting, I had developed a knobbly growth on my back that looked like the twin I might have absorbed in the womb was finally trying to work its way out.

Knowing this unwelcome sibling had to be removed, I went to a doctor, but as I was in China and understood very little of what was going on around me, he could have been a cobbler.

Now, at this time this surgery had no delineation between the waiting room and the consulting room, so I had to take my shirt off in front of 30 nationals who had never before seen the naked embodiment of Western excess.

They weren't shy about commenting about my obvious culinary indulgence and crowded around in a huddle as the doctor/ cobbler used a blunt spoon to remove my twin.

After applying a small bandage to the affected area, he then brought out the plastic wrap and proceeded to wind it around and around my generous torso. I could only guess this was a cheap and ingenious method to hold the bandage on, but it felt like he was simply satisfying a long-held curiosity of what a Westerner would look like as a sausage. It was one of life's moments of utter mortification. Upon finishing my wrap, he then used his teeth to cut the piece off the roll. That was fairly common practice back then and didn't bother me in the slightest. The value pack with built-in sliding cutter hadn't been invented yet.

Taranaki Daily News