Hostile Packaging and Other Provocations by the Cult of Repressed Anger


by Katharine C. Otto


I bought a lawn mower blade awhile back. Getting through the plastic package was harder than installing the blade. Don’t buy a “Power Care” universal blade from Home Depot unless you have the tools to crack its shell. Scissors don’t work. You’ll need tin shears, at least, or a utility knife. Make sure you have gloves, too, because if you use a utility knife, as I did, you’ll have to brave the plastic’s rough edges and risk slicing your fingers off if the knife slips.

Hostile packaging is one of many weapons used by the Cult of Repressed Anger, a terrorist organization dedicated to proving you’re paranoid. Hostile packaging thrives on retail shelves everywhere, wraps itself around batteries and printer cartridges, encases toys and clocks, clings to CDs. Any wrapping that requires tools other than fingernails or teeth qualifies.

The Cult of Repressed Anger doesn’t rely only on hostile packaging, though. It uses excess packaging, as well. Here, Styrofoam-filled boxes and plastic wrapping inside plastic wrapping attest to the organization’s subversive nature: to increase dependence on oil by overuse of plastics. The 24-roll pack of toilet paper has six inner packages of four rolls each. And now Kroger, last bastion of naked vegetables, encloses its green leaf lettuce in cellophane.

The Cult of Repressed Anger is heavily funded by hidden costs. These are the sly little insertions in bills, bank statements and special deals. These are the bar codes instead of price tags, and the disconnect between the advertised price and the cash register. We get the little stickies on fruits and vegetables. The Cult also gives us the frequent flyer miles that disappear into mysteriously into hyperspace.

Each transgression is too small to fight – you feel petty when you try, or it takes too much time – but they add up over the day, and you wonder when you get home why you’re so irritable.

The Cult showers you with excess, forcing you to sort through the confusion and dispose of the trash. It attacks through your mailbox, e-mail, television, telephone. When it isn’t seeking you out, it’s lying in wait for you, pouncing on your time with extensive telephone menus that don’t address your problem, or assaulting you with cheerful, self-promoting propaganda while you’re on hold.   It buries instructions on how to use the stuff in exhaustive small print telling you how not to use it.  It drowns you in paperwork that someone in authority believes is necessary. This is part of its plot to destroy all the trees on the planet so oxygen will go the way of natural gas and water, and become a limited resource, for sale by the cubic foot.

The Cult delights in camouflaged concrete islands, speed bumps and roadside hedges that block your view of oncoming traffic. It places signs that give street names behind signs that sell real estate. It puts the large white arrows indicating a “turn only” lane under the cars in front of you. But the sign that tells you the street will be closed if it floods stands in the open, visible to all.

No one is safe from the Cult’s sinister reach. It feeds on itself and generates new converts every hour. It lurks within the hearts of your closest friends, your family, your spouse. Even your children can’t be trusted.

I surrender. I’ve lost the war. I’ve joined the terrorist Cult of Repressed Anger and have become a human bomb. If I explode and shoot off my mouth the next time a government drone extorts my Social Security number and thumbprint in exchange for my license to drive, don’t say I didn’t warn you first.

*Published in the Savannah Morning News June 30, 2003

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