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To peel or not to peel

The writer’s still new Apple charger with protective tape attached
The writer’s still new Apple charger with protective tape attached

I’m sitting on the horns of dilemma. When I explain what the issue is you’d be totally justified in thinking – this guy really ought to get a life. To that I’d respond I have a life. And part of the reason is that I sweat the details. My wife and children probably think I do so way too much. And my infant grandchildren probably will too once they master the rudiments of language.

But my belief is that if you can find pleasure in life’s details the big picture will resolve itself. If there’s an art to living it’s to exploit the ability to savor a good meal, eating consciously; to admire the stars in the middle of the night – I did that last night, walking out onto our deck, after I spotted a star twinkling brightly through the canopy of leaves outside our bedroom window; to feel the breeze against your face as you achieve the maximum velocity on your bike ride.

For the record, that’s approximately 31 mph on my clunker. I can already hear you folks on your performance alloy frame road bikes, in your faux Tour de France jerseys and bike shorts, chortling at my glacial pace as you lap me on our local roads.

But one of the components of squeezing the most out of life is resisting the inclination to compare yourself to others. That’s why pleasure and the senses are inextricably mixed. The experience is all yours. It’s unmediated. There’s no moderator, no teacher, no expert with advanced training telling you how to feel or act. You are your own spirit guide.

This is all a long-winded way to get to an experience that most of us share, though my hunch is that it hasn’t given you the pause it gives me. I’m referring to removing the low adhesion, temporary, protective film that comes on new appliances, especially stainless steel ones, among other objects.

My daughter recently brought to our attention a photograph that was sitting on our kitchen counter and has been for millennia. It’s an impossibly cute image of her younger sister as a toddler stalking butterflies through the grass with a butterfly net. She asked us whether we were aware that the freestanding plastic frame remained coated with film that she removed?

It seems as if our children are on a constant hunt for signs of senility in their parents. I’ll confess that I was unaware that we were admiring the photo through not one but two mediums – the protective film and the plastic frame. But in our defense these coating are so subtle they may as well be invisible. And once you discover them you can’t find where the edge is to start peeling.

I suspect there are more than a few of you within the sound of my voice who are happily using appliances and devices, and possibly even sponging them off regularly, that you have absolutely no idea isn’t the object you think it is but rather the disposable protective coating.

But my aforementioned dilemma is slightly more complicated than that. I’ll stipulate that I was unaware of the thin film my eagle-eyed daughter discovered covering a beloved family photo. But I’m talking about my resistance to removing film that I’m well aware is covering whatever the thing happens to be.

Well, why don’t you just get rid of it and get on with life, you might reasonably ask? I’ll tell you why. Because as long as you leave the coating on not only do you enjoy its scratch-resistant properties but on some level the thing remains new, pristine, perfect.

It’s similar to the protective impulse that prompts you to buy a case for your mobile phone or laptop. I’m extremely proud that the 2010 iPod Nano I listen to while running remains unblemished after hundreds of uses. That’s because I purchased a dorky protective plastic sleeve for it at Walmart.

I’m also pleasantly surprised often to discover new songs on my iPod since I downloaded only about three hundred of them almost fifteen years ago. That leads me to believe the device is magical. But that’s a whole other issue.

The Apple device on whose horns I find myself at the current moment is a high-speed 20-watt charger. My sales associate persuaded me to purchase it when I bought a new iPhone a few months ago. The charger came with wrapping – I’m not talking about the box which Apple products typically design to the level of origami – but a thin layer of tape that shields the device itself.

Most people would remove it instantly. But several months later it remains. And it’s starting to look frayed and dirty. I know I should rip it off and once I do the device beneath will look as new and shiny as the day I bought it. But only until I scuff it up. That’s why I’ve been delaying the experience.

Things are only new once. Except when they come with that protective film. Then they’re new twice. When they arrive and when you peel off the film. It puts you in touch with the excitement you experienced as a child opening birthday or Christmas presents. And who doesn’t love presents?

Ralph Gardner, Jr. is a journalist who divides his time between New York City and Columbia County. More of his work can be found be found on Substack.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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