My Can Opener

Gold-can-800pxHow do I know this is the end of days?

I tried to use the hand-operated can opener that my wife recently bought at the Quicky-Mart and it confounded me.

The first sign of Armageddon is when simple things become utterly impossible.

Granted, the old opener who had served us faithfully for decades had become worn and wobbly. I can understand why she replaced it. Yet it saddened me to find it gone and an unfamiliar contraption eagerly taking its place.

The new one was as simple as the old. Its thick blue handles fit my hand comfortably and the gears and rotary cutter, though slightly different, did not seem unfamiliar – until I tried to open a can of fruit cocktail.  The jaws refused to grip and no matter what I tried, I could not get the thing to work.

I tried different angles.

I tried persuasion.

I tried threats.

I tried beating its little head against the counter.

Nothing worked.

Then it dawned on me – perhaps the opener and I had gotten off on the wrong foot. After all, it was young and eager and I am old and cranky and it takes time for personalities so mismatched to adjust.

So I stomped into living room to watch Law And Order reruns.  A couple of hours later, I returned beaming with goodwill and optimism – but the little jerk still refused to grip the can.

Again I considered violence.

It has never worked for me in the past, yet I continue to hold onto hope that one day with enough screaming and thrashing about I might make a break-through.  But on this day, before tossing the opener under my truck and repeatedly driving back and forth over it, I called my wife at work.

“Honey,” I screamed into the phone, “how does this flipp’n can opener work?”

“The first thing,” she said, “is that you must be smarter than the opener.”

“Not gonna happen,” I told her.

“Then read the booklet on the counter. It will show you how to use it.”


Like I said, it is the end of days.

When it takes an instruction manual to operate a basic can opener, there is no future for humanity. Sure enough, the instructions told me what I was doing wrong. The opener must be placed flat against the top of the can instead of aligned with the side.

This style of opening slices through the wall of the can, instead of puncturing the top.


I cannot for the life of me understand why simple familiar things must be changed. Do not get me wrong, I am not adverse to change but humanity must strive to keep simple things simple and familiar things familiar – that way we can concentrate on more complex things.

What next? A sixteen page manual telling us which end of the broom to use?  If this continues, one day we may never get out of the kitchen.

So I positioned the opener against the fruit cocktail can precisely as illustrated in the manual and – nothing happened.

It still would not grip.

But before resorting to fits of violence, I remembered something…. about a decade ago, the simple and familiar extruded aluminum can was redesigned so that only one end has a cap.

With that in mind, I flipped the can over and Viola, it worked.


Now that I know how to use the can opener, I can focus on far more complex problems, like why I need a separate TV remote to change channels on the satellite box and another to adjust volume on the TV.

Author: Almost Iowa

51 thoughts on “My Can Opener”

  1. My male parent was an engineer who, for a great part of his career, designed both packages and the assembly lines that put them together, as well as put the products within them. When I was young, I thought he was mildly insane when I would see him suddenly begin ranting about the p*ss-poor design of some store-bought box or another he was trying to open.

    Then, about a decade ago, overnight, all across America, the Masters of Aluminum Foil decided the average person didn’t know how to tear off aluminum foil. Aluminum foil boxes, used to have the metal tear strip on the larger, and therefore sturdier box bottom–one would tear the foil downward against the toothed metal strip. These were redesigned. The metal tear strip was discarded entirely. A serrated edge was added to the flimsy flip-up top of the box, and one was now supposed to tear UP against this box lid while simultaneously holding the lid closed.

    Obviously, pressure on the lid to keep it closed, combined with the upward pressure of the tearing against its shallow self, caused the lid to buckle where the customer’s fingers were pressed to hold it. Making the lid next to useless from then on, in turns of a tearing device.

    To address this design flaw, did the Masters admit their error and return the tear strip to the box bottom? Of course not. They deepened the box top slightly. It still buckled, but it took more tears before the buckling happened.

    This was declared a successful design, and it was duplicated to plastic wrap.

    I understand these Masters of Foil and Wrap are part of the evil cabal that redesigned can openers. They wished to prevent anyone from sticking a can of leftovers in the fridge and tapping the partly-open lid back down. Thus, the side-slicing opener, which eliminates this possibility, and increases the need for plastic wrap or foil to cover leftovers transferred from ruined cans.

    1. “Aluminum foil boxes, used to have the metal tear strip on the larger, and therefore sturdier box bottom–one would tear the foil downward against the toothed metal strip.”

      If I were a betting man, I would bet this change came out of a risk-assessment meeting with the legal department… “But someone COULD argue that we negligently allowed their finger to get scratch.” Keep in mind that liability laws are written by (trial) lawyers.

      1. I am the happy owner of a newly-purchased box of Reynolds foil with a restored 1960 design–metal tear strip and all. Until one evil suit-happy family realizes it can separate said strip from box bottom and mildly (or not) slice and dice, and sacrifice, one of its more photogenic younger members–one at the crawling stage, all the better, remuneratively speaking–

        I shall retain this box for untold years to come, buying generic refills of foil and plastic wrap, enjoying that pleasant *snap!* as the wrap actually tears when, and where, I want it to.

        By the way: I DID write a brief letter to Reynolds long ago, ragging them on those poor designs, adding it was why I bought p*ss-poor quality generic foil instead of what Mom and Grandma always used. While few letters I write ever have their desired outcomes, maybe Janet the Cleaning Lady saw this one in some Customer “Service” office round bin and redeposited it into the rectangular bin of the the only woman on the Reynolds Board, where another low-status person’s words stood a chance of being read and acted on if they held merit.

        Bless you, Janet.

  2. I think that most companies hire a small number of people who truly hate the rest of humanity, put them on a committee and assign them the task of redesigning all the things that work for us. Hence the multiple remote controls, can openers that turn cans into lethal objects and “new and improved” just about anything. Great post, as usual. It helps to know there are others as frustrated as me!

    1. They call these people, The Brain Trust The rest of us have a more suitable name – which given the family nature of this blog will not be written here.

  3. My uncle had one of these super old, skinny can openers (just plain silver) no fancy handles…and for the life of me, I couldn’t get the darn thing to latch onto the can. I gave up. I would have never figured yours out either. I probably would have banged it on the counter top too, and end up chipping the tile or something.

    Or you can do what I did- pack can opener away…don’t move right away, have to hunt several boxes for said opener for a period of days… finally find it…just to realize the can you are trying to open is a pop-top lid. That’s your answer, only buy pop-top/pull-tab cans from this point forward…

    1. “pack can opener away…don’t move right away, have to hunt several boxes for said opener for a period of days…”

      “That’s what I would do! That’s what I would do! That’s what I would do!” he shouts while running frantically in circles and waving his hands above his head.

      1. OMG. You have no choice but to laugh at yourself. Cuz you’re completely ready to throw the can at the wall. Damn it, everyone just lick the contents off the wall. It’s art dinner theater. Fun stuff.

    1. A person who knows these things told me that the word “can opener” can be found in Revelations. She is pretty sure it is in the chapter on Zombies.

    1. There is no solution – but that is the beauty of it. Whenever she tells me to get busy on the Honey-Do List, I tell her I am working on the remote thing. That is still, and always will be, her top priority.

  4. Thank you! Thank you! I had purchased an apparently not dissimilar can opener about a month back. I refuse to read instructions, and now (until now) I’m starving.

  5. Aghgh! Shall I rail against the wonder of no more cut fingers on the lid and a gazillion from the can itself?. My friends and I were convinced those new openers must have been designed by men, but I think your end times theory may be more convincing.

    1. I will bet they were designed by a committee. I can just imagine how the can opener design session began:

      “Okay everybody, I want you to think out of the box.”

      “But that would be stupid. Can openers work just fine.”

      “See that is what I am saying, you have to think OUT OF THE BOX.”

  6. I hear ya. If it isn’t can openers, it is Microsoft with their (%$3@) Windows 10. Just when I got Windows 7 to obey my commands, they come along with Windows 8 and 10 (don’t know where 9 went) and nothing works, not the printer, not my 300 online books, not the music, not the emails, not the (splutter, splutter, splutter). So I removed Windows 10 and went back to Windows 7. And then to be sure I removed the Automatic Update. Yes, yes, I know, I am likely to miss out on games and apps for toddlers. But I’m prepared to live with it.
    As for can openers, I think you may have solved the conundrum of why they don”t work for me either. By the way, is there a left-handed can opener?

    1. I have had the same problem with Windows 10, the peripheral vendors have not provided the drivers to run thing like the large monitor and printers. I doubt they ever will. Their thinking is: why give something away when you can make the customer buy a new one?

      As for the left handed opener….geez, I never thought about that.

  7. Yesterday I summoned the husband to the kitchen to open a can of biscuits for me, you know the kind where you slam the cardboard tube against the edge of the kitchen counter and POP, the container shoots open. Didn’t work. So he resorted to violence, stabbing the seam with a knife. Still no success, which proves your point about violence. Eventually, with much twisting, the can popped open.

  8. I find that the JES principle is helpful in many balky equipment situations. You seemed to be ready for it. Upon having the item not no what is expected, stop trying. Breathe smoothly and consider the optimum location to apply a forceful yet Justifiable Equipment Smack to the said item. It might work. Plus, it’s good to get those feelings out.

    Our ‘new’ Made in ‘Murica USA opener seems to work ok. I’ve found some can rims are different and hard to open.

  9. hahaha I got one for you: hands free battery operated can opener! Truth. It took me weeks to figure it out (no instructions, inherited from my Mom). Just rest it on the top of the can, press the black button and walk away. It wiggles all around until the can is open. No kidding!

  10. Great post, Almost Iowa! I think I had the same newfangled can opener when I stayed in a cabin with a kitchen while on vacation this summer. Took me about a half hour to figure out how to use the thing. Stupidly turning simple into complicated can also describe today’s Pearson math worksheets for elementary-school students, but that’s another story…

    1. Isn’t it humiliating to have epic struggles over simple things? And even more humiliating when someone says, “watch” and it works for them…. 😦

  11. Thanks for the chuckles, but you might want to keep the truck warmed up. I bought my wife one of those side-slicing deals several years ago. Unless they’ve improved the design, there were two flaws. The opened can lost much of its structural integrity and gained a pretty sharp edge in the process. I don’t remember if it was an epic spill or a blood letting, but that can opener will never see the light of day again.

    1. “The opened can lost much of its structural integrity and gained a pretty sharp edge in the process.”

      Precisely, I noticed that on the first can. Isn’t “better” the purpose of “new”?

  12. Some years ago, I bought my mother one of those can openers with the larger, padded handles, made originally for people with arthritis in their hands. It was so easy to use — almost effortless, really — that I bought one for myself. Now, Mom is gone, and part of my inheritance was her can opener. A hundred grand would have been nice (I could have bought a dozen can openers), but on the other hand, I think of her every time I use her can opener. Mine’s gone backup, until Mom’s follows her into that great kitchen in the sky.

  13. I do believe you’ve been reading my mail! Same problem here in the UK…our old can opener died just last week so off I went and purchased (at more than I wished to pay) an electric one with the all important magnet thing atop to hold the can in position while the rotary thing kicked in and like your one this new thing did the lot save for opening the bloody can…in short a waste of money! Still at least yours got there in the end…I tried opening either end unsuccessfully. Went into a little old shop later and for just 75 pence purchased the kind of opener my old mum had and it works a treat!

    1. An old sage once told me, “Some things are designed to be manufactured, some things are designed to be sold and some things are designed to be used.”

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