Archive | September 2021

Sealed Air

Currently, Amazon ships 2.5 billion packages in the United States annually. Fed Ex ships 3 billion packages and UPS ships 4.7 billion packages.
Try to imagine the unbelievable amount of Bubble Wrap all those packages need!

Intended to be an edgy version of wallpaper, Bubble Wrap was invented in the late 1950’s by Al Fielding, an engineer and Marc Chavannes, a Swiss inventor. Textured wallpaper was all the rage at the time. Alas, the public didn’t take to the idea of living in rooms with padded walls.

The inventors knew they had a fantastic product, they just had to find a good use for it. Frederick Bowers, the marketing expert at their manufacturing plant, Sealed Air, heard IBM was planning to ship their latest computer models to customers. At the time all that was available to cushion delicate shipments was newspaper, sawdust and horsehair. He offered Sealed Air’s bubble wrap and the rest is history.

Sealed Air’s factory is in Elmwood Park, New Jersey. The company also makes other products, such as Cryovac, the plastic that shrinks with heat around produce. The machines at the factory use resin heated to 560 degrees to manufacture the bubbled sheets, making the air in the factory very hot. If you get heat rash when the thermometer goes above 75 degrees, don’t bother applying for a job!

Bubble Wrap is used by artists to do paintings and by chocolatiers to produce a lacy imprint. You can order Bubble Wrap with bubbles shaped like letters or hearts. There’s a Bubble Wrap calendar, where you get to pop a bubble each day. I’ll buy one when the calendar provides a whole sheet to pop each day. There is a Facebook group under the name of “Popping Bubble Wrap” who claim over 460,000 members.

In 2011 Rhett Allain postulated 39 layers of bubble wrap would prevent injury when jumping from a sixth-floor window. No one has tested his hypothesis. What gave him the idea? Probably a pumpkin dropping contest a decade earlier in Iowa, where an 815-pound pumpkin was dropped from a 35-foot crane. The even organizers padded the giant’s landing site with Bubble Wrap; no word on how much was used. “Gourdzilla” landed completely intact.

Bubble Wrap appears in several popular movies. Even when you don’t see it, it’s there. Movieland’s school-attending children have their backpacks stuffed with Bubble Wrap so they don’t have to lug around heavy books as they act. If you enjoy reading about all the crazy uses of Bubble Wrap, buy The Bubble Wrap Book, written by Jim and Tim Berg, the guys famous for writing a book about the many uses of Duct Tape.

Bubble Wrap is most famous for is the good feeling people have when they pop the bubbles. In 1992 psychology professor, Kathleen Dillon did a study where she found subjects were more relaxed and less tired after a popping session. In 2012 a Bubble Wrap brand “Pop” poll survey found that one minute of bubble-popping provided the stress relief equivalent of a 33-minute massage.

I think the inventors of Bubble Wrap knew this. The New York Times reported that each Sealed Air employee received a small box of individual squares of Bubble Wrap to keep at their desk for emergency stress relief.

In 2015 Sealed Air began manufacturing iBubble Wrap, which has deflated bubbles. It’s said to be as effective as the inflated type for shipping. When Elon Musk heard about iBubble Wrap, he claimed to fear non-popping Bubble Wrap was a ‘sign of the apocalypse’. 

I think I agree with Elon Musk.


Life in a Bubble

Closing the Window on my computer monitor, I spun my office chair around to face Tammie. I’d just taken in a fresh dose of news about the three-month-old COVID pandemic and felt poisoned. “When is this all going to end?” I questioned. “Every news report is more dire than the last.”

When this COVID craziness started, I’d asked my youngest daughter, who’s able to work from home, to stay with me. She looked comfortable sitting in her remote work station, my office recliner. A board spanned the chair’s arms to give Tammie a place to rest her laptop computer. She shook her head and commiserated, “Listening to the news once a day is enough for me, too.”

Leaning back in my chair, I relaxed and confessed, “At first, three months ago, I felt panicky when I heard businesses were closing and everyone was to stay home. But now, I’ve come to realize that I feel safe at home and there isn’t a thing we can do to change what’s happening out in the world except pray. I’m so glad I’m able to visit friends and family electronically. It sure beats snail mail.”

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Mike the Chicken

Mike, a five-and-a-half-month-old male Wyandotte chicken belonged to farmer Lloyd Olsen of Fruita, Colorado. On September 10, 1945, Lloyd’s mother-in-law was coming for a visit, so Lloyd decided to chop Mike’s head off and prepare him for supper.

The axe didn’t fall true. Mike’s head was cut off, but the axe had missed his jugular vein, left one ear and most of his brain stem intact. All chickens flop and flutter around after having their heads chopped off because the pressure of the axe causes a burst of electricity to run down all the nerves leading to the muscles, telling them to move even though They are already dead.

But Mike the chicken didn’t die. He was able to balance on a perch, walk clumsily and tried to preen, peck for food and crow. He could only make gurgling sounds.

Instead of finishing the job he started, farmer Olson decided to take care of the bird. He fed Mike milk and water with an eye dropper. He also gave Mike worms and small pieces of grain.

Lloyd toured the country with Mike the headless chicken to display him at side shows. Mike the headless chicken became famous. The income he earned the Olson family amounted to a lot more than chicken feed.

     One night when Mike was two years old, he choked to death on a kernel of corn. That still wasn’t the end of Mike, though. The town of Fruita, Colorado celebrates “Mike the Headless Chicken Day” each May with a “5K Run Like a Headless Chicken Race”, egg toss, “Pin the Head on the Chicken”, “Chicken Cluck-Off and “Chicken Bingo” in which chicken droppings on a numbered grid choose the winning numbers.

I hope Lloyd shared his new-found wealth with his mother-in-law!

Dinner on the Run

Four of our largest kettles filled with water sat on the stove. The burners beneath them glowed red. Mom ordered, “Let’s hurry up and eat. The water will be boiling by the time we’re ready to scald the chickens.” I glanced at the stove after Daddy, Mom and I finished blessing our meal. I saw a small thread of vapor rise above one of the kettles.

In half the usual time it took to eat, Daddy put down his fork. Anticipation had taken away my appetite. As Mom began to clear the table, Daddy commanded, “You come with me, Kathy. I don’t want you underfoot when we carry out the boiling water.” He led me out into the farm yard where he had placed a large block of wood next to the driveway. He instructed, “Stay right here. Mama and I will be with you soon.”

The cotton scarf tied under my chin felt loose. I pulled it tighter and looked around. Clouds in the sky blocked out the sun and a cool wind made the day feel as if it wasn’t really spring. There were long stalks of browned grass along the barn and house foundations. They nodded and dipped with each breeze.

I felt sorry for my brothers and sisters, they were at school and missing out on today’s butchering of the chickens. It made me feel sad that next year I would have to attend school, too. Staring at the block of wood, I wondered what it was for and what Mom meant when she said she’d scald the chickens.” 

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Sunset Sails

I glanced at the buildings along the road and asked with concern, “Are you sure we’re on the right highway? By now I thought we’d see Green Bay’s water. I don’t even see the big bridge we have to cross.”

My daughter Tammie answered as she confidently maneuvered through heavy traffic, “We’ll be seeing all that in a few miles.”

All summer long we had looked forward to our vacation in Door County. Today it felt so good to finally be on our way. After rounding another curve in the highway, the blue painted bridge suddenly loomed up ahead. From the driver came a soft, “Told you so.”

Tammie is extraordinarily good at making vacation plans, so after she asked me a few questions, she scheduled our activities for the next seven days. She’d done this before for other vacations. I’ve never been disappointed.

Later that evening, as I sat waiting for the movie” Jungle Cruise” to start, I looked around at the other cars parked at the Skyway drive-in movie theater. Smiling, I enthused, “The motel we’re staying at is really nice. Pelletier’s fish boil was fantastic! When the boil master threw kerosene on the fire to make the cauldron boil over at the end, I couldn’t believe how hot the flames were. I was standing a good 15 to 20 feet away!”

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Wild Snails

There was no doubt. The next driveway to the right was the Door Country tour depot. Rows of bright red trolley buses bordered the big square building. As she pulled into the driveway, my daughter Tammie remarked, “I hope they haven’t left without us. We’re a little late.”

Inside the depot a gift shop and several shoppers distracted us. We began to look around. A man with a clipboard stepped out of the office and announced in a loud voice, “I’m looking for the Richardsons.” We turned toward him as he said, “It’s time to board the trolley for your Premier five-hour winery tour.” As we boarded the bus, I hummed the theme song of Gilligan’s Island. Obviously in a party mood, or relieved by our tardy appearance, the other passengers cheered and clapped.

In the short drive to our first stop, Tammie researched restaurants for our evening meal. Looking up from her phone, she laughed, “The menu at this restaurant offers wild snails.”

I silently stared at her for a moment before peppering her with questions, “Does that mean people actually farm snails? I wonder what they eat? What is a large gathering of snails called? Several crows are called a murder of crows. Would it be a slime of snails? How in the world does a person hunt for wild snails? Are wild snails even a real thing?”

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Holding my Breath

Holding Breath

I heard birds busily twittering and pecking at seeds in the birdfeeder when I returned to the living room. My 90-year-old mother sat in her upholstered rocking chair holding a baby monitor in her lap. From the neighbor’s farm, we heard the distant crowing of a rooster. Laughing, I marveled, “That baby monitor picks up everything! It’s like actually being outside.”

Mom bragged, “It’s better than being outside. We hear what’s going on inside the birdfeeder.”

I agreed with a nod, “That’s true. Until now I never knew how noisy pecking is, or how much birds squabble while they eat.”

Macular degeneration had taken most of my mother’s eyesight the year before. To help her, I’d started bathing Mom every Friday evening, refilling her pill box, paying bills and doing her laundry. My teenaged daughters often came with me to spend time with their beloved Grammie.

Years before, my two bachelor brothers who live with Mom, had bought a baby monitor system. They fastened the microphone half of the device under the roof of the bird feeder and gave the receiver to Mom. She could turn it on and listen to the birds whenever she wanted.

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