originally published March 8, 2013
The beauty of subjecting oneself to the fickle cough of Wikipedia’s ‘Random Article’ button is that sometimes the end result reveals a fascinating slice of history, or a deliciously sparkling canvas for low-brow comedy and pop culture references. And sometimes, you simply end up with Fugitive Glue.
“Am I really writing about glue?” I asked myself.
“It would appear I am,” I replied, drawing deeply on a mentholated cigarette, which is weird because I don’t smoke. I decided to stop conversing with myself right away, lest I develop any more bad habits.
Fugitive glue, also known as E-Z release glue, gooey glue, or booger glue, is that malleable gob that affixes credit cards to paper, or paper to other paper. It’s a one-time slab o’ sticky, peeling cleanly away from each non-porous surface without leaving a residue on either side. The good stuff is made from latex, not oils, tastes mildly like chicory, and can be used in a pinch to stuff a pillowcase for a comfy night’s sleep (note: you’ll need to order a lot of credit cards to get enough for this).
If you’re looking to use fugitive glue for a prank, it’s easy to string the peeled-off scraps from the back of your card and use them to make it look like you sneezed on someone’s sandwich. Not a great way to make friends in the cafeteria, but it’ll earn you a laugh.
In 1957, two inventors decided they wanted to invent a 3-dimensional plastic wallpaper. I have no idea why they decided this should be a thing, or what sort of home décor would be improved by plastic protruding like transparent blisters all over the wall, but it was the 50’s, and their visions of the future were not known for being wholly accurate.
Alfred Fielding and his buddy Marc Chavannes never realized their twisted sci-fi dream of 3-D wallpaper, but they did find something they could sell as packing material. They also invented a material that inexplicably became associated with the most fun you can have in the shipping department, aside from drunken forklift chicken matches.
Bubble wrap is its own reward. Like the smell of bacon or the sound of a laid-back ocean slapping skin with the shore, the feel of bubble wrap between one’s fingers incites a primal tranquility, teetering on the edge of pure joy. Fielding and Chavannes didn’t invent bubble wrap, they invented bliss.
And for a great prank, hang around someone who has recently testified and helped put a dangerous criminal behind bars. Pop some bubble wrap and scream, “Look out!”. Endless chuckles.
As we progress down the aisle of our favorite packing materials, we’ll need to have a look at plastic wrap, also known as cling wrap, food wrap, plastic film, cling film, Saran wrap, or – in a pinch – emergency condom alternative. I’m kidding of course; nobody calls it ‘plastic film’.
Most of the plastic wrap on store shelves is made from PVC, the same stuff used to make that Oingo Boingo record you just listened to, that S&M zippered facemask you wear, and the catheter tube dangling liberally from your wang. The problem with PVC plastic wrap is that it contains plasticizers. These are additives that increase the fluidity of the wrap, but may also seep into your food and transform your internal organs into those of an action figure. Don’t worry, if it hasn’t happened yet, you’re probably… well, I don’t want to say ‘safe’, but you’re probably something.
Luckily, a lot of companies are switching over to low-density polypropylene, which is considerably safer. I should give a shout-out to Glad Press ‘n Seal, which is kind of the superhero of plastic wrap. It’s a sticky plastic, but held at bay by a layer containing a tapestry of little dimples. When you push on the outside of the wrap, the adhesive oozes through the dimples and sticks to the side of the bowl / plate / animatronic Abe Lincoln head / whatever.
The best part about Press ‘n Seal is that if you’re low on groceries, the adhesive is completely edible. I wouldn’t serve it as a main course, however I’d imagine it would complement a curry-based dish, maybe something involving fish.
Six pack rings, whilst often embracing the vessels of sweet, sweet hop-based nectars, have been an environmental concern for the past thirty or so years. As a kid, I remember snipping apart every ring, even those little mini-ring spaces in between where the cans go. I thought with every cut I was saving a fish’s life. Then I’d toss the limp-noodle scrap of plastic that remained into the trash, confident that it would merely pollute the ocean without choking out a single piece of aquatic life. I was a hero.
But not really. Six pack rings are built to photo-degrade within 90 days, some within 30. There aren’t a lot of pathetic-looking tuna thrashing about in the noose that once held someone’s Keystone Light. A much larger problem is that of fishing gear and carelessly disposed plastic waste. I will receive no medal for all that snipping.
I love the foam peanut. I know, bubble wrap gets all the public adulation, the exaltation, the online virtual simulation. But there’s nothing so satisfying as squishing a pair of foam peanuts together until they burst. Grab a handful and they’ll make a crunchy comfort sound that cancels out any cacophonous swill polluting your ears. And what’s amazing is that they aren’t even made of foam anymore.
Dow Chemical’s patented polystyrene resin peanuts went passé in the early 90’s when starch-based peanuts hit the market. These ones are friendlier to the environment, made from sorghum (which could be used to feed starving people, but will also protect our Playstations from rattling around as they travel to us) and corn starch. These peanuts aren’t toxic, though if you’re really that hungry, just get some regular peanuts. Or some Glad Press ‘n Seal.
Foam peanuts – the polystyrene kind because those won’t dissolve in water – can still be found inside a number of popular beanbag chairs, which comes as a shock to those of us who took the furniture’s name literally. Don’t believe everything you read, I guess. That rule should give me a lot of leeway as a writer.
So no, other me, I won’t be writing an entire article on glue. Other packing materials deserved a bit of the stage as well. Now if only I can find a prank to play using all my extra foam peanuts.