My Pocketknife

klsgfx-swiss-army-knife-800pxI got a pocketknife for Christmas.

I have not carried one for years but when I was a kid, a pocketknife was an essential.

All my friends had one and we took them everywhere. We carried them to church, to school and to the playground.

No one thought to object.

For us, a knife was a prerequisite for manhood. It is what distinguished boys from girls. Boys carried knives, girls didn’t. A few blocks away in an entirely different neighborhood, girls also carried knives but that was a whole different deal.

The thing about carrying a knife was figuring out what to do with it.

Sometimes that was a challenge.

You could always whittle a stick – but that got boring. You could etch your initials into your school desk – but that crime came with its own evidence.  You could carve a declaration of love into a tree – but that required hasty edits.

Still for some things knives were actually useful.

Swiss army knives were the best, especially the model that came with every possible tool known to man. There was a can opener to open cans, a screwdriver to turn screws and a nail file (which no self-respecting kid ever used). There were scissors to cut paper, a saw to fell trees and a magnifying glass to start fires whenever temptation called for it.

The Swiss army knife was all you needed to fend off the Apocalypse and every kid wanted one because back then Armageddon was a mere push of a button away.

But that was then.

As the years passed, I learned survival had more to do with punctuality and delivering on promises than doing manly things with a knife.

Eventually a knife became a liability, a thing that made airport metal detectors shriek and school administrators squawk. It got so you couldn’t even bring a pocketknife into a mall, so I stopped carrying one.

And just as I did (wouldn’t you know it) simple manly things became increasingly impossible.

“Would you open this?” my wife would ask, and after huffing, puffing, cussing and a grand mal temper tantrum, I had to admit I couldn’t.

When did opening something as simple as a bag of peanuts become a finger-busting, teeth gnashing, emasculating ordeal?

And who was the fiend who invented the clam shell package?  Those things are tougher than iron and meaner than an alligator with a mouth full of abscessed teeth.

These days, consumer packaging is designed to convenience the seller and humiliate the buyer. For retailers, presentation and loss prevention are paramount – whether the consumer actually gets to use the object is inconsequential.

And with each passing year it gets worse and worse, I am humiliated more and more by not being able to open simple things.

Until my wife gave me the small gift of a pocketknife.

“Now,” she said, eyeing a pile of presents encased in tough transparent plastic, “when I ask you to open something, you can do it.”

“Gladly,” I said, “but first I have to figure out how to get the knife out of this @#$%^ package.”

Author: Almost Iowa

www.almostiowa.com

42 thoughts on “My Pocketknife”

  1. I love that I can laugh out loud reading your posts. The moment in this one was the description of trying to open a bag of peanuts. My 5-year-old grandson looks at me accusingly like I’m useless when I try to open virtually any bag. Then I go for a steak knife and it usually works. While sending the contents flying. I should just stop trying to prove my skills and go for the knife first.

  2. Swiss army knives rock for the most part, but I hate those stupid tweezers and toothpicks that require either a toothpick or tweezers to get out. Guess my teeth r gonna have to go unpicked and my nose hairs untweezed when the Apocalypse comes…

    1. I would never pick my teeth with a knife that I kept in my pocket along with all the other unsanitary things I stuff in there….. on the other hand I do carry a toothpick that I stuff into pocket when I am not chewing it.

  3. Good luck with the packaging. I nearly cut a finger off with it this year! Here in the South, the boys still carry pocket knives. I’m a good Southern boy save that. I could never hang on to them.

    1. I know what you are saying about not being able to hang onto them. This story was inspired by finding my pocketknife after three weeks of looking for it and of course, I found it (in the words of my wife) exactly where I put it.

  4. As a Girl Scout, then former GS, I carried a GS pocket knife in my purse until they became a security burden. Luckily I found a tiny, aluminum blade knife in a plastic case that I keep there. It’s not as good as a pocket knife but will open a lot of things (or at least poke a hole in it that I can tear bigger with my finger) and passes most security checks. I played numblety-peg as a kid too. Maybe I shouldn’t admit that, but I wasn’t the only girl in the circle.

  5. It’s funny, I just came across mine the other day wondered why I stopped carrying it. Like you, I brought it wverywhere with me when’ve was a kid, even playing a game of stretch by throwing it in the grass and the other person would have to stretch their legs between the two spots.

  6. In college, my Swiss army knife (with corkscrew) saw me through touring Greek ruins after shared lunches of bread, cheese, and a bottle of wine. Fond memories.

    I gave my kids Leatherman tools in grade school. They’re still using them on campus!

    Loved your final line–ZING!

  7. Grandson number 2 got one from us for Christmas, he decided to join the Boy Scouts. Boy was he thrilled, however scared his dad half to death trying to open the thing and not cut off his finger!

    1. With the proper temperament and supervision, it is healthy for kids to have a pocketknife and .22 rifle. It carries a very maturing responsibility. I never cease to be amazed at city parents who fuss over the kids, while their country counterparts flip the keys to a 5 ton tractor to their 12 year old.

  8. For the record, I carried a pocketknife as a child. It was a farm girl necessity to open feed bags and to cut twine on bales of hay and straw. I stopped carrying one about the time I started college.

    But my husband does. And, yes, I call upon him many times. “Got your jack-knife?” I ask.

  9. This is why I still almost always have a checked bag when I fly. I put a pocket knife in my checked bag, so that when I arrive, I can cut the luggage tag off that bag. I also use it for other things, but I’ve often thought it was a chicken-egg deal.

    1. My agency flew a few of us out to Washington DC for a series of conferences, at the airport on the way back, a TSA agent pulled a six inch switch blade out of one of my colleagues carry on bags. Without flinching, she said, “It’s not mine.” The TSA agent didn’t blink, he just causally waved her through. No one said a thing. Wow!

  10. In that other neighborhood, during my childhood, girls didn’t carry knives, either. They preferred sharpened beer can openers.

    I got my first pocketknife from my mother. It was a pretty, silver thing that gave her the right to say, on a regular basis, “Why don’t you open this for me — I know you have a knife.” It worked for as long as she lived, but today? That little knife wouldn’t touch your knife’s packaging. No longer a useful tool, it lives in a drawer with my jewelry.

    1. A sharpened beer can opener would certainly do the job.

      I anticipated a bit of push back on that paragraph, it why I put it there. At least in our neighborhood in the 1950’s, young girls wore simple dresses which for reason completely unknown to me – did not have pockets. Although the history books do not come out and say this, one has to believe that the salient event in the liberation of women came with the revolution in fashion that allowed city girls to wear blue jeans – which had practical pockets.

      The next great revolution in women’s fashion came with iPhone – which dictated that not only must a pocket be practical but it must be large enough to actually carry something.

      1. Of course, a lack of pockets dictated the purse, which soon outstripped any pocket on the planet for sheer capacity. There’s a reason that purses used to be called “pocketbooks.”

        1. The purse is most certainly superior to the pocket – in so many respects. Not only can it hold an extraordinary abundance of things – but you can put it down. I wear pants with pockets large enough to carry a novel and my reading glasses (in addition to all my usual things) – but try hiking eight miles with a novel bouncing off your thigh…. At least you can sling a purse over your shoulder (well… some purses anyway).

          In this gender war of carrying stuff, I see no alternative but for men to up the ante by carrying backpacks.

  11. Yeah, being defeated by a sheer film of plastic is humiliating – it’s bad enough that you know you shouldn’t be eating potato chips… but when you finally overcome the bag’s resistance without crushing more than 50% of the contents, you simply must reward yourself with a double helping.

    Nicely done, as usual.

  12. have fun. my son-in-law got one for christmas and was thrilled. i love the ending to your post. if only you had a knife to get it out of the package….)

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