For dinner the other day I picked out a half-liter bottle of A&W Root Beer. The cashier at the drinks kiosk asked, ``You want open?'' That's when I should have suspected something.
I didn't get the question, partly because it's a noisy place, partly because I need a half-sentence or so to really tune in to what a person is talking about, so I eloquently asked, ``Huh?'' She asked again, ``Open?'' Even this didn't give me a hint. I answered, ``Well, yes, ultimately.'' She asked ``Open?'' again, and I smiled and said thanks, and went off to eat. Whatever they made of the conversation from their side, they're probably used to it from me.
The problem was the cap wouldn't open. It was your classic tight one, not amenable to any sort of reason on my part, and I couldn't get a grip that'd budge it appreciably at all. No hot water taps to run it under, either, nor cutlery to break off the lower cap. Nothing to help my grip, either. After a while I gave up, and just went without anything to drink. I took it home, though, since it was now a point of arbitrary principle to get it opened. I figured back home I probably had one of those rubber-grip sheets for better traction, or maybe an adjustable wrench. I was wrong. I had a couple things I could try using for leverage, but either they didn't work or they were dumb ideas to start with, like trying to fit it in the plastic holes in a cutting board.
So when I went food shopping I looked through the market to see if they had bottle openers, or gripper pads, or wrenches, or anything suitable. This means spending several times the value of the soda to get at it, but there was a poorly articulated principle at work. All they had that was vaguely suitable was walnut openers, which I got even though they'd have very little use. Ordinarily I eat maybe three walnuts in a year and figure that's enough. But with the walnut cracker I was able to put enough pressure on the cap to deform its little frilled rim. Even better, after some more of this I got it to open. Inside, of course, was another, slightly smaller coconut. I'm tempted to keep the empty bootle as a trophy, but that's kind of weird.
Trivia: In 1738 Caspar Wister, a button-maker from Philadelphia, paid a sea captain £58 to transport four experienced glassworkers from Rotterdam to southern New Jersey, which started the first successful glass manufacture in North America. Source: This Is New Jersey, John T Cunningham.
Currently Reading: Lost in Transmission, Wil McCarthy.