Pop-tops - Lois Greene Stone

            “Whoosh.” Heard that only in my head as I stared at the pull-tab on a can of soda. “Are you going to rush out, fizz-sound?” I talked aloud to the closed container while also searching my utensil drawer.
            I removed a substantial curved plastic hook designed to grabs the ring on a metal soup can.” Hello, gadget!” I think it knew it was helpful for my challenged hands. Other things in that drawer assisted with turns, twists, yanks, but I hadn’t tried this hook on a soda can. “Too thick, or, maybe, the soda can’s opener was too small?” Since I had a connection with my gadget, I just knew the problem was with the can’s design.
            I took a screwdriver and tried to just get the thin aluminum piece started. “Lift,” I commanded, knowing if it totally broke off, then the can would not be able to eliminate its contents. With damaged soup-tabs, which don’t bend back a section but removes the entire lid, I can generally use an old-fashioned can opener and go round and round and off will come the top; not with soda. Fingers, once so able, struggled, and the screwdriver did not want to engage the pull-tab. I removed a pair of pliers from the drawer; they were too thick to get under the thin tab’s circle. I felt as if I were performing a stand-up comedy routine.
            Hmmm. I use tweezers to tug at sealants under caps of ketchup bottles, mustard containers, and such. For several seconds, I believed I had the solution. While that got the tab slightly up, my weak thumb and first finger could not move the little aluminum circle into position to actually dent the can’s top. I needed tweezers with the grip of a pair of pliers! Okay, the aluminum can definitely won the game of open/keep closed.
            “I am still often succeeding in the bottle/jar category.” I told that hook and put it back into the drawer next to a kitchen gadget my mother had given me when I was first married. A sturdy handle made of Bakelite plastic was attached to but above movable teeth-like steel. Just rotate the hold-part, open the ‘teeth’ to jar’s size, clamp the metal around the lid, then twist the smooth rectangle with my palms. My magician’s ‘open sesame’ happened with that!
            “When was the last time I used you?” I addressed an old metal opener that latched to the rim of a can, hand-twisted what looked like a key, and round it would go severing the lid from its cylinder. My mother had also given me a device that pierced a can of juice (or soda) making a small triangle, and that opening became the pour spout. She made sure I also had a plastic soup-size dish that was colored bright yellow; it had a ridged projection in its center. A sliced-in-half orange got placed on the ridge’s top. As my palm moved over the rind, fresh juice tore from the pulp and dripped into the bowl. Only the Bakelite plastic-handled opener was still used even though it seemed to sense I haven’t the strength to exert enough pressure to rotate and unseal. Just saying out loud the word for this grip’s composite gave its age away. And lack of strength might give mine as well.
            I poured myself a glass of water. The soda can had totally won.
            I Googled the word Bakelite: “… first plastic made from synthetic components”. “Trademarked synthetic resin …” formaldehyde…. “… other plastics came to the market and edged out Bakelite.” “can still contain up to 5% asbestos.” Insulation, growing up, was asbestos; formaldehyde was usual in material and cabinetry. As with my offspring enjoying raw cake batter nestled in a cumbersome glass mixing bowl, licking the beaters and having cute sticky fingers, all of these are no longer ‘safe’.
            I touched the possibly-now-antique jar opener my mother had purchased. A smile of pleasant memory traveled from fingers to my thoughts. It still had a use I could manage. I decided that when I want soda again, I’ll buy twelve-ounce bottles! The 1950’s Bakelite handle will rotate to get the bottom’s metal teeth to the correct size for the cap to clamp, turn. Since I do talk to myself, out loud and victorious, of course I’ll say to the air, expecting it to reach my mother’s ears, “Thanks for this.”

Lois Greene Stone, writer and poet, has been syndicated worldwide. Poetry and personal essays have been included in hard & softcover book anthologies.  Collections of her personal items/ photos/ memorabilia are in major museums including twelve different divisions of The Smithsonian.  The Smithsonian selected her photo to represent all teens from the 1950’s; a large showcase in its American History Museum features her photo. hand-designed clothing, and her costume sketches. ‘Girlhood’ exhibit opened 10-2020 and will go on tour beginning Jan. 2023.