Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pop goes the bubble wrap

I had a package delivered by FedEx yesterday. As I opened the box and started removing the packing, I discovered that my treasure had been enclosed in a thick layer of bubble wrap. That meant double pleasure for me: I got what I had ordered, intact and in good shape, AND I got to pop some of those little pillows of air in the bubble wrap as I unwrapped it.

I have no idea why popping bubble wrap is such a pleasure but it is, and I feel sure that that, in part, accounts for its success over the last fifty years. Yes, it is true - coincidentally with the arrival of my package, yesterday was bubble wrap's fiftieth birthday.

Funnily enough, bubble wrap did not start life as a packing material. It was invented to be a kind of wall covering. It was not a hit in the world of home decor, but soon another use was found for it and the rest, as they say, is history.

Bubble wrap had an enormous impact on the way America and the world did business in the latter half of the twentieth and now the twenty-first centuries. It made it possible to ship even very fragile items over long distances quite safely. It contributed to the success of such businesses as UPS and FedEx. In fact, one might even say that bubble wrap and the Internet have revolutionized the way we shop. No need to leave home any more. Do your shopping with a keystroke and UPS or FedEx or one of the other carriers will happily deliver your items to your front door, safely swathed in magic bubbles of air.

And then, when you open your package, you get to indulge your inner child by popping all those neat little air bubbles. What a satisfying sound and feeling! It would, indeed, be a much duller world without bubble wrap.

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