I don’t use cornstarch that often so that rectangular, upright package sensibly illustrated with an ear of corn may live for months or a year in its particular niche in the cupboard. Then came the day when I had to replenish it and nowhere could I find it in the aisles of my usual supermarket.
“Where can I find cornstarch?” I asked a busy young clerk.
“Right there, fourth shelf up,” he indicated.
I looked. I had a clear picture in my mind of exactly what I was looking for — but where?
Perhaps concerned with my weak powers of observation, the young man pointed directly at the product. Still doubtful, I stared at the squat, square, plastic container. Yes, it was yellow and blue, but with a wide screw lid, no paper jacket or parchment inside needing to be re-folded after each use? Right under the brand name though, it said ‘fecule de mais’, and below that, ‘corn starch’. And how often does that happen these days — same product, new packaging, no thought for the images we’ve been carrying around for years? Cornstarch is but one of my grumbles with modern marketing. Merchants and manufacturers once tried to make things easy and convenient for their consumers. Now it seems that they consider their own ease and profit more important, or perhaps, they are trapped in a ‘new is better’ scenario.
For example, take the instructions on some products. Even on medications where knowledge should be paramount. The print is so tiny and compressed that even one in perfect health with optimum faculties would be hard pressed to decipher dosage and ingredients. Isn’t this rather critical information?
Think what the post office has done to the excitement and curiosity of receiving mail. If the letter was mailed in Canada, no identifiable postmark tells us where it originated, unless we have the contents of the postal code book stored in our heads. And what of the stamps with no denomination imprinted — how do we know how much is needed to top them up when rates rise or we’re mailing something out of country?
Then there’s all that high tech stuff that comes without a manual these days — oh yes, it’s all online — but try carrying those instructions for your camera or cell phone in your pocket when you’re cruising down the Yangtze. There’s something very comforting about having that little book where you’ve highlighted important items at your fingertips.
And indexes! If you’re looking for a new mattress, forget about looking under “M,” check under “B” for Bed and Bath. Want a heater to ward of winter chill? Forget the “H” and go directly to Garden, Tools and Home Improvement. We must have directions to the index itself — it no longer necessarily resides at its ancestral home at the very back of a catalogue with other helpful instructions.
One outfit that deserves a reward for easy identification is National Geographic Magazine — they may have eliminated a few curlicues from their covers over the years, but the size, shape, and happy yellow border is a delight and relief to the eye wherever it’s found.
The other newfangleds — frustration!