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New packaging makes it tough to be thrifty

I think I've found it! I've been looking for years for the worst possible job of packaging imaginable.

There are the impossible, oversized plastic encasements of electronic trivia. There are the salad dressing bottles with such narrow necks that the actual merchandise is caught in the bubble underneath. All summer we tackle both ketchup and mustard containers guaranteed to ruin our day and our clothing by inappropriate spouting from plastic containers, not where one wants the condiment, but where it is most inconvenient.

And then there is makeup, women's facial color that comes in bottles that defy emptying. The one I'm currently fighting with is wide at the bottom, and narrows to meet an ordinary lid. It looks tempting on the shelves. One picks it up and finds exactly the right color, pays a week's salary for it, brings it home and tries to use some of it. And what do you know? It doesn't pour. Cotton swabs do not reach the body of the remaining substance. Turning it upside down does no good, because the stuff does not move from the suspended bottom.

Deodorant has its own private form of torture. It dries out after a promise of a creamy rosy-smelling future. Suddenly the stuff is dry and drags on the flesh. It doesn't protect anything. You can almost feel the ingredients holding back their efficacy. ("No, go around smelly or buy more. It's up to you!")

You have to realize that I stomp on toothpaste tubes to get the last drop. Halfway measures are almost as frustrating as the original problem. Actually, toothpaste tubes in themselves are a culprit. It is very distressing to smell the minty stuff, wish it were in the mouth, see its tempting green and have no way to finish the tube before beginning a new one.

But the prize for the absolute worst job of packaging comes from a leading manufacturer of children's toothpaste. This stuff contains a gel that is excellent for dental health. It is ample in the amount supplied, and kids seem to like it well enough to use it -- if they could.

But this gel is packaged in a plastic container the shape of a bottle with an extremely narrow neck, an opening that one would expect on an easily squeezed tube. But easily squeezed it is not!

It is the texture of any secure plastic container, the same texture that holds and resists the pouring of ketchup and mustard, the texture commonly known as plastic. A tube it is not. The toothpaste comes in a generous amount, six ounces, for a generous price. The only hitch in this scenario is that the gel is virtually impossible to get out.

Total frustration. Imagine it is a school morning. The bus is coming, breakfast was late and Junior must brush his teeth and get out to the corner to catch the bus in five minutes. The plastic container has been squeezed to its limits. The container is still better than half full, and Junior has been well schooled in the wisdom of good dental care. The scenario is fodder for a total parental breakdown.

I suppose it is, indeed, the Great Depression that leaves me unable to waste anything. I reuse paper napkins, although I am generous in tossing out tissues. I insist on using the last drop of oleo in the carton. I keep fresh flowers until they are museum pieces, and never leave a penny at my feet.

And what does all of that thrift get me? Ulcers!

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Terri Mudd, who lives in Lewiston, finds it hard to use many of today's plastic containers.

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