Pedro Ávila

There must be some kind of down-syndromey condition relating specifically to packaging. There just must be. And if there is, I have it.

Seriously. Cereal boxes and FedEx packages are the same thing to me. Without a utility knife it might be Cheerios everywhere. Most of my pay stubs have a whole side torn off because I managed to rip them up as I’m opening the envelope. Bags of M&M’s or peanuts — I don’t even bother anymore, just bite right into them and hope for the best. 3 out of 5 times I completely fuck up milk cartons as I open them.

You know the ones I mean? The ones that look like a house, a box with a roof, and one side of the roof says “Open Here” with a little arrow? I had that shit down in first grade, every time. But since then, I’m awash in milk carton troubles. I don’t know what happened.

Maybe I became an engineer. Things are harder when you’re an engineer, and mostly because you make them harder. Sometimes you don’t want to be an engineer, but you can’t help it. You think of everything as a physics problem, or an algorithm to be described. Things that are not in the set of given preconditions are obstacles to be hurdled. And God’s real name isn’t “Iehovah”, it’s “IEEE”.

So when you get a milk carton and the arrow is on one side, naturally you wonder: “Why not the other side?” You examine the house; the box. It seems symmetrical. Sometimes on the other side it says “open other side”, as if they knew you were too inept to do it right or too curious to follow simple instructions. They were right. But you try it anyways. Guess what?

It works.

You strut with your rebel milk carton. Never, by the way, does it strike you that people don’t strut with milk cartons – but you’re an engineer and you do. You glance at the other fools who don’t know that it can be done this way, that it can be done differently. “Suckers,” you think. You go on with the knowledge that you’ve been to the edge and beyond. Some fools tear tags from mattresses. Others take great risks and fail. You succeeded.

And one day it happens (roughly 3 out of 5 times): you forget to do it the “cool” way and open the correct side. You grab the lapels of the roof lines and pull them outward. You pinch the middle of it to pull out the triangular/rhombus-shaped mouth thing of the beaker like you’re so used to doing. It’s so second nature to you that you don’t even give it your full attention.

But it won’t pinch. Maybe it’s soggy. Maybe there’s a crease that interferes with the cocking action of opening up this carton. Maybe the cardboard was produced cheaply in Sri Lanka or Suriname and it doesn’t have the rigid feel to which you’re accustomed. There are a million reasons in your head, all, to you, legitimate, but now you’re in trouble. Now you have to either pick at the lip with a finger nail while walking down the street, or maybe you stop and make a scene, looking at passers-by (passerbyers?) with a nonchalant, “I don’t want to make a big deal out of this but these fools didn’t get it right” sort of expression… “obviously I know how to open a fucking milk carton.”

Or maybe you go for the gusto. You turn the shit around, open the other side like a maniac, making sure to get it right lest you have a useless piece of paper full of milk that can only then be opened with a box cutter, and that would just be bad form. But you open the other side, making not just a lip but completely opening the house, the box, exposing it to the world. If you don’t have a glass right there you have to drink it from the box, the whole time looking like you know the right way to do it but “I like my way better because you get larger gulps.” Or something.

I can be a real moron sometimes.

Pedro Ávila Pedro Ávila

For a reasonably sane & productive member of society (arguable, but let’s not complicate things), I’m far too mobile and unrooted. I travel quite a bit for a job that is simultaneously my greatest privilege and my worst burden.

So I write. And I write. Travel pieces, political journalism (a stretch from ranting but, still), short stories, poetry and other such riff-raff. I contribute to a handful of publications and will probably just keep going until something gives out, or someone gives in.


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