By Jeff Keeling
I have a message for small, simple mechanical household tools. You know the type – screwdrivers, sink stoppers, pizza wheels, can openers – especially can openers. It’s a message filled with chest-thumping bravado, and it goes like this: You can’t stop me. You can only hope to contain me.
Of course, we all know that utter incompetence often lurks behind chest-thumping bravado. Such was the case when it came to my recent misadventures with a new, “quality guaranteed” $10 can opener made in Taiwan, distributed by Inter-American Products, Inc. and purchased last week at Kroger.
The lovely and talented Angela and I had seen yet another $7 or $8 can opener bite the dust within a matter of months, flaming out at last as I opened a total of eight cans of beans and tomato products while making chili Oct. 8 (remember, that was back when summer was over). Carpal tunnel was setting in as I struggled to get the wheel to turn as the gears stripped completely.
“Honey,” I said. “Why don’t you look online or go to one of those fancy pants stores and get us a can opener that isn’t going to quit working after three months. I don’t care if you have to spend 80 bucks on it.”
The extravagant can opener purchase never came, or hasn’t yet, anyway. As the family’s primary grocery shopper, I noticed it last week, all white and sleek, an “Everyday Living” 4-in-1 can opener.
Intrigued, I read the novella on the back of the packaging. Not only did it tell me that the “exclusive” 4-in-1 opener was the only opener I’d ever need, it let me know the ergonomically designed turn knob provided smooth and easy operation. The rest of the verbiage did not mention durability, so I wasn’t sure the specific opener I was holding in my hand as I debated whether to purchase it was “the only opener I’d ever need,” or whether that claim referred simply to Inter-American Products item #60306 and I would be back in six months or less after this one quit working.
What Angela and I both would learn soon enough, though, was that the opener would have to start working before it could quit working.
We had come in from a joyous bicycle ride with our grandchildren, the ebullient Owen (6) and spritelike Emmarie (3) Saturday afternoon, and Angela was going to whip up a gourmet fish curry in broth. Diced tomatoes were an important ingredient, so she prepared to take our new opener on its maiden voyage.
Would the knob turn like a knife through butter, providing the promised “smooth and easy operation?” I could hardly contain my excitement. She rested the metal guide bar on top of the can as instructed, waiting for the cutting wheel to automatically engage once the knob started turning.
No dice. No diced tomatoes, either. It just wasn’t cutting into the top of the can. We wrestled with the thing for 10 minutes, our frustration mounting. It was farcical. I finally determined that the thing just didn’t work. I would return it to Kroger for a refund. The fish curry in broth turned out to be fabulous, even without tomatoes, but that’s just how good Angela is.
I came home for lunch Monday and wanted to fix a tuna sandwich. I realized that wouldn’t be possible, but decided I’d just give that thing one more try before returning it. I rested the guide bar firmly on top of the can and turned the knob clockwise. The can began turning, though no perforations showed. I continued for the full 360 degrees. The lid came right off, cut on the side, not the top.
I retrieved the poor, abused tomato can. Sure enough, there was a partial cut along the side just below the top.
I think I’m ready to remodel the kitchen now. Surely it can’t be that hard for a man with my skills.