Diary

Fizzy hand grenade

22 July 2012 | Diary

I’m three years older than my girlfriend. Occasionally we’ll alight upon a cultural phenomenon that I can remember but she cannot.

Nerf Blasters. Gina G. The Yorkshire Ripper. Things like that.

“Hey,” I said, “I bet you don’t remember detachable ring-pulls.”

“What are those?” she said, blinking naively in the morning light.

“There was a time,” I said, speaking grandly like wise man up a stick, “when the ring-pull of a drinks can was designed to come off in your hand.”

I may be imagining it now, but I fancy she may have gasped in youthful amazement. Like David Quantick on a Channel 4 clip show, I had put my hand on one golden recollection.

“It came off in your hand?” she said, nymphish eyes pinwheeling in fascination.

“Yes,” I said, nodding sagely, “But they banned them because they caused litter.”

I forget my girlfriend’s response but I expect it was something along the lines of a delighted “Wowee!”

“People would throw those ring-pulls everywhere, you see,” I said, “Even people who didn’t usually litter. As I’m sure you’ve observed, there’s an intoxicating sense of abandon when you open a can of 7Up.”

Ah, we were having fun scooping around in my adventurer’s memory like a couple of plongeurs groping around in a soupy basin of end-of-shift dishwater for an unaccounted-for teaspoon. Or whisk.

“You’d just tear that strip of metal right off the can,” I said with aplomb, “take a scrumptious swig of aspartame, and throw the damned ring-pull over your shoulder and into the face of Satan.”

“Those were the days,” I said, shaking my head nostalgically, tears beginning to well.

“Even as a four-year-old,” I whispered in a conspiratorial aside, “I preferred the detachable ring-pulls to the new ones. The new ones were far less satisfying. They didn’t allow you to pretend your can was a fizzy hand grenade. And when you take a drink from the can with a modern ring-pull, the damn thing can go straight up your conk. If you aren’t careful, a swig of Pepsi will claim an ever-so-fine layer of skin from inside your nostril”.

“That’s dangerous!” she definitely said.

“Right!” I said, laughing at the foolish design which has today become prevalent.

We both laughed at the drinks-can designers for about twenty minutes. Our breakfasts were going cold but that was okay.

“I wasn’t alone in feeling this way,” I said. “For years, people would tear off their so-called fixed ring-pulls, rip them from the lids of their drinks cans like a corybantic dentist excising a blackened incisor.”

Agog she was at my enthusiasm. And at my casual use of the word ‘corybantic’.

“Over the years, people lost their passion. Ring-pulls remained attached to cans and the numbers of discarded ring-pulls you’d see glistening in the gutters of the nation slowly declined. Many a pigeon remains unchoked.”

My girlfriend mulled over the story.

“When I was little,” she said, “My school would have recycling drives. We’d have to save the lids from drinks cans, which would be recycled into wheelchairs.”

“You see,” resting a case I didn’t have, “Everyone has a ring-pull story”.