Friday, October 31, 2008

Salt Shaker Blues

Charlie, Ray and I, the tres retired amigos, took a road trip the other day out to Famous Cigars in Easton, Pa.

After loading up on enough stogies to smoke out an anti-Bush rally, we headed for lunch at a local burger joint.

When our food arrived, my first move, as usual, was to reach for the salt shaker. Don’t tell my doctor, but I put salt on everything. I would even salt my ice cream if it wasn’t for that whole melting thing.

Now in my 63 years, one thing I thought I had mastered was the use of a salt shaker.
As is my wont, I inverted the shaker and shook. Nothing came out. I realized that this was a salt grinder, not a shaker. This was something new to me. I also noticed that it had a McCormick label on it. I turned it right side up and twisted the top as one would a pepper mill. No salt was forth coming for the simple reason that there were no holes in the bottom. So, I turned it upside down and vigorously twisted the top. In the dim light, I thought I could see salt landing on my burger. Satisfied, I dug in.

Soon after, Ray, who apparently had some experience with this sort of contrivance, picked up the shaker. He turned it upside down and removed the cap. Approximately a teaspoon of freshly ground salt landed in a pile on his potato chips. “Well”, he said, “There’s all the salt Jerry ground into the cap.” This was not said in a critical or reproachful tone, but just as a statement of fact. Chagrined, all I could say was “What do you expect? I was an English major in college?”

Later, the more I thought about this the angrier I got. The old system worked for me: a couple of holes in the top of a container. No password, no PIN, no technological ability required. What is the advantage of freshly ground salt? It’s laid in the ground for a few million years. How fresh can it be? What I don’t need in my life is more opportunities to embarrass myself.

I decided, because I was mad and because I have too much time on my hands, to take this up with the folks at McCormick.

Here is a summary of the e-mail I sent them:

Dear Sirs/Madams,

I recently had an unfortunate experience with one of your products while lunching at a restaurant with my friends, Ray and Charlie. (Here follows a description of the tragic events) The teaspoon or so of salt I had ground into the cap landed on his burger rendering it inedible. Charlie was so traumatized by this that he could not finish his lunch. I, mortified by my failure to realize there was a top and for being the cause of ruining Ray’s meal, was similarly indisposed.

Now I am not seeking compensation or a free supply of McCormick products for my friends, but I would like you to explain why you would unnecessarily complicate what had always been a very simple task: salting one’s food. Do we not all face enough complications in life without adding new ones?

I would appreciate a quotable response as I would like to include in my widely read blog.

Thank you for your prompt reply.

Jerry Andersen
Wry Bother

Now let’s examine this letter which I think is a masterpiece. Ray’s meal was not rendered inedible. The salt landed on some chips which he shook off and consumed. Charlie was not traumatized, unless mild amusement is traumatic. And nothing puts me off my feed, certainly not embarrassment. This is what I call Strategic Misrepresentation, because contrary to the next paragraph, I am, in fact, seeking compensation and/or freebies. Hey, I just priced out some McCormick’s dill and they want four bucks for a jar of dead weeds. Who’s conning who?

If I had said I was seeking compensation or free stuff, the letter would land on the desk of some lawyer who would do what all lawyers do….nothing.

By sounding like a journalist seeking the truth, they might decide to schmooze me by sending a few crate loads of over-priced herbs and spices. Pretty slick, huh?

The reference to my “widely read blog”,however, is not a Strategic Misrepresentation, but a big, fat lie.

It has been two hours since I sent this and I have still not had a reply.

Since you are probably as anxious as I to drop this subject and move on, here is what I imagine their response might be.

“Dear Mr. Andersen,

We regret your difficulties with our new Saline Delivery System. This device was extensively tested on animals in our lab before it was released into the market. Our standard is that if a chicken can operate it, the average consumer should have no problem.
In this case, we did not feel that chicken had the manual dexterity to operate the grinder so we sought out the dumbest primate we could find, in this case, the Malayan Lemur.
After one demonstration, the lemur successfully salted his nuts ten times.

While we cannot offer you free products at this time, we can offer you a position in our test lab as the lemur succumbed to hypertension.

Here is a step by step explanation of how to operate the devise (if there is a big word you don’t understand, let us know and we will send you a simpler one.)

. Remove cap by pulling upward (^)
. Turn bottle upside down (The M in McCormick should now resemble a W)
. Twist bottle neck in any direction you prefer.
. The appearance of white flakes on your food indicates salt is being dispensed.
. Reverse the procedure and replace bottle next to the pepper.”

That’s what I would write if I was their PR guy, but they may not be as snotty as I. Anyway, I have to sign off now and see if I can figure out my new talcum powder grinder.

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