Only In America . . . TM

Copyright 2002 Frank G. Van Atta. All rights reserved.


There are approximately 28 billion things in this world that, given half a chance, will drive even a sane person to take up permanent residence in a rubber room. Just over 100 of these irritants are natural to the planet--the remainder are man-made.

History may well record that the foundations of modern civilization as we know it finally began to crumble the day a patent was issued for the Child Proof Cap. This insidious device can reduce grown men to tears of frustration in 17 seconds flat, and may have done more to impede progress in the western world than the hula hoop, rock video, and television commercials combined. The worst part is that the thing is now so firmly established in our American way of life--as mandated by the EPA, EEOC, HUD, OSHA, and ETC--that it will be harder to eradicate than warts.

My first encounter with this fiendish contraption occurred when I tried to open a bottle of aspirin that my wife had just brought home from the drugstore. At first, I thought the cap was broken.

"There must be something wrong with this cap," I complained. "It just spins around instead of unscrewing."

"It's one of those Child Proof caps," my wife explained patiently, "you have to push down and turn at the same time in order to open it."

"Read the instructions on the cap," she gibed in a high voice, "like you're always telling me to do."

Ignoring the obvious taunt, I examined the cap of the aspirin bottle more closely. Sure enough, there was something written on it. Actually, it was embossed--in microscopic type exactly the same color as the rest of the cap. This clever camouflage is no doubt intended to keep the more precocious children from reading the instructions. It serves the double function of keeping adults without access to an electron microscope from reading them either.

For the next thirty seven minutes that aspirin bottle was given a thorough going over. I alternately, pushed, pulled, twisted, turned, shook, rattled, cursed, beat, pummelled, pounded, unscrewed, stomped, cursed, threw against the wall, soaked in hot water, soaked in cold water, contorted, cursed, rotated, squeezed, mashed, distorted, battered, manhandled, abused, disfigured, and cursed that cap. Then I did it all over again in reverse order. At the end of this terrible ordeal I was bruised, battered, and beaten--and the cap was still intact and in place. The bottle was pristine and unblemished, it's contents inviolate. And my headache was considerably worse.

This was starting to get serious. Sterner measures were definitely called for. After a few minutes of creative thought, I took the thing out to the garage, popped it in the vise on my work bench, and squeezed it as hard as I could--to no avail. It's not bad enough that you can't get the cap off; they have to make the bottle out of unbreakable plastic, too! My headache got worse. So I dropped the aspirin on the floor, got out my sledge hammer, and smashed the bottle as hard as I could! The sledge bounced so high it almost hit me in the head, but that bottle of aspirin didn't give an inch. Now I was starting to get desperate.

Then I had an inspiration! I went outside, put the stubborn bottle under the rear wheel of the car, and backed over it. Then I ran over it forward. I repeated this operation 17,914 times before I ran out of gas. But the aspirin bottle was still unsullied. And my headache was considerably worse. Exhausted, I sank down beside the car in defeat. I was so busy wallowing in self-pity and despair that I didn't notice the little boy from next door until he spoke directly into my left ear and scared me half out of my wits.

"Whatcha doin', Mister?" he mumbled around a grimy, half eaten sucker.

"Just restin'," I answered after I got my heart back down out of my throat. I leaned my head back against the rear fender and closed my eyes. If I just sat here and didn't move, maybe my headache would go away in a week or so . . .

"You dropped somethin'." I opened one eye and glanced to my left. The kid had found the aspirin bottle where I had left it on the driveway. I started to say something, then thought, "what the heck, he's only a kid! If I couldn't get the top off of that bottle, I sure don't have to worry about a four year old getting it open."

Six seconds later the child said, "Uh oh!," and 500 aspirin tablets were rolling around my driveway and out into the street.

Society will go to any lengths to protect it's young.

Copyright 2002 Frank G. Van Atta. All rights reserved.