July 25, 2006

A Play A Day #103

Keynote Presentation At The 75th Annual Convention Of The Excessive Consumer Packaging Society Of America

Head Table Occupants (eight other important-looking people, non-speaking)

Setting: Head tables, between which rises the speaker's dias and lectern with microphone attached. At the head tables are ten chairs, Leonard on one side of the lectern, Bruce on the other and then the other eight chairs filled in with the important-looking people, key Excessive Consumer Packaging Society of America members. Bunting and decorative flourishes abound, covering the table the lectern, dias and area around the table, whatever is used make sure it is used in ridiculous quantities.

Leonard: (rising and going to lectern) Alright, alright everyone. I'd like to get started. (pause) We want to get on to our keynote speaker. (pause while audience dies down) Thank you. Thank you. Welcome, welcome tonight for our highlight event of the whole convention! (applause)

Now, I know you didn't come here in such great numbers to hear me speak... no, of course not... the real reason most of us are here tonight is to listen to the keynote address by a man... a man of great importance in our industry.

A man, who, thirty-five years ago, saw to it that cheese slices could, nay, should, be individually wrapped, that bubble wrap could be used when shipping almost any product including other packages of bubble wrap, that boxes needn't just be outer shells, but could, indeed, contain a great inner substructure of cardboard dividers, holders and punch-outs that separate but contain components.

This is a man of such creativity, ingenuity and persuasiveness that he was able to talk the Sierra Club into wrapping their yearly calendars in plastic... (knowing applause, Leonard hold finger up) and... and... then enclose those in cardboard, and THEN to wrap that cardboard itself in plastic! The Sierra Club, ladies and gentlemen!

Now, if you've known Bruce over the years, that probably isn't surprising. He's known as our industry's key innovator; being the five-time winner of the Paul Humbard Neimermimer Packaging Fellowship which he used to continue his efforts to revitalize the wooden packing crate as a suitable container for holding boxes when they are shipped.

Bruce's accomplishments, like those I already mentioned, are awe-inspiring. In an era of misguided recycling and consumer conscientiouness, Bruce has shown younger generations of product and shipping designers the light; the true path of wholly creative, unexpected and unneccesary amounts of consumer packaging.

His plans and designs tell consumers everywhere that "Yes! Your product is that important!" that "Your product is protected against even itself in shipping!" that "Small missiles could not hurt your valuable goods!" I don't know about you, but that speaks volumes about America and our valuable products, and it speaks even louder for Bruce Theodore Kwinkusky!

C'mon up here, Bruce! (Bruce rises, acknowledging mad applause, shakes hands with Leonard, a few words into each others' ears, then Leonard sits, laughing, Bruce steps to microphone)

Bruce: Hi! Thank you! ... Thank you! ... Thank you! ... (calming audience with hand gestures) Thank you! Yes... I... thank you ... thank you ... Wow! This is so gratifying! Thank you for the very warm welcome. Wow! Hi, my name is Bruce. (huge laughter from audience since he is a God among them and needn't introduce himself)

Thank you to Leonard for that very kind introduction. And your reception of me... Wow! If it's one thing we excessive consumer packaging professionals do well, it's doing things excessively, and you have proved that already here tonight! (excessive applause again)

I attended my first ExCoPaSoCon when I was just starting out in the industry about thirty-five years ago. I was young. I was idealistic. I came to that first convention for me, the society's fortieth, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I thought I knew it all. Then I attended the keynote address being given by our Society's founder, Neil Augustino, who was officially retiring... for the fifth time I think ... from his position in the industry and from his position on the board for the Society.

I was awestruck. Neil stood there with his rumbling bass voice and spoke for over an hour and a half with no notes at all! He was a passionate man who believed fervently in the solid American values embodied by our industry. His love for packing peanuts, wood chips, excelsior, crating, plastics, bubblewraps, sand, powders, gels, bags, boxes, styrofoams, sawdust, wrapping papers, shredded papers and everything related to heavy, heavy packaging shone from him like a candle. We were all moths to that flame.

I realized then and there that I didn't know anything about packaging, and that I certainly didn't know what I thought I did about excessive consumer packaging. I knew I had to follow Neil's example and make a difference in the world; yet I knew many in my generation had turned their backs on excessive packaging and gone "back to the Earth" - whatever that meant (derisive snort, applause at this from audience) ... I still don't know what that means!

But, I digress. I caught Neil Augustino's arm after his speech and asked him point-blank - oh, I was so brash then - "Mr. Augustino, what about this 'reduce, reuse, recycle' saying we are starting to hear?"

Neil... well... he grabbed me around the shoulder, and he pulled me aside - he was like that, plenty of time for the little people like me - he leaned in close to me and said - and I remember this like it was only ten minutes ago - he said, "Fuck it."

I was shocked, but the power of his words awakened something in me. At first I didn't know what he meant with that cryptic phrase. But over the course of my first few years in the business, I caught myself understanding the logic of reducing, reusing and recycling (mild shock from audience) but... but, during those times of peril, I would remember Neil's advice to me. Yes, yes indeed, fuck it. Just fuck it.

The truth is this, and the environmentalists don't want to admit it, but their philosophy is self-defeating. It is a philosophy of death. Death to the people who espouse it, death to its followers and, ultimately, death to America - (pounding lectern) The! Most! Excessively! Packaged! Society! In! The! History! Of! The! World!

Recyclists will tell you that everything should be recycled, but they conveniently forget that just told you to reduce and reuse. They get very silent when you ask them what there will be to recycle if everything is reduced or reused! (applause)

We, the hard workers, the people who put the plastic baggies, the sheathing, the inserts and cut-outs into all those boxes of all those products, we are creating the recycling that these environmentalists say we need so badly. We are, in a sense, creating their work for them. They are a sycophantic industry of hypocritical do-gooders feeding off the very practices that they rail against.

As my career in the excessive packaging industry draws to a close; I want you to recognize the importance of Neil Augustino's committment and passion, and so I pass along his advice to you. For, although Neil has been gone longer than many of you have been alive, his words show us the importance of blind dedication to your craft. So I say to you, in Neil's words: Fuck it.

Let this lead you back to your shipping rooms and packing warehouses and design boards and inspire you to create the next generation in truly excessive packaging. Always remember, in the words of our founder and patron saint, Fuck it.

Opportunities for applying Neil's wise words abound everywhere. At this very conference, I have heard of new developments in our "No Box Left Behind" federal initiative, which would finally allow for the end of sending out boxes without a protective outershell of molded styrofoam and plastic. The technology is there; we only need a few more votes to get it to the Senate floor. America's boxes, as always, deserve our support!

The bruising and contamination of food, especially produce, which is handled by so many dirty hands before it ends up in the mouths of our spouses and precious children, may be a thing of the past if we can pass our "Fruit Jacket" referendum in the eight remaining states where it is not yet law. Packing every apple, pear, orange, banana, grape, etc... in water-tight neoprene jackets make sense and makes safe! (Big applause)

We have been joined this year, and here at this speech with representatives from America's scrap lumber industry with whom we have created a valuable partnership which should, with some creative persuasion, mean that every piece of lumber shipped and sold in America will, within a few years, be required to be encased in a small crate made of scrap lumber.

I have also become acquainted with some new thinkers in our industry who are leading the effort to determine the best way to actually package services - in packaging! (loud applause) The people at Boxes, Bubblewrap and Beyond tell me this is possible, and, I don't know, maybe it is, maybe it isn't: that's not the point! The point is that they have an idea and they are running with it!

This is the type of common sense idea that so many leaders don't understand, but not us. For we know, we know, the importance of protecting America's valuable merchandise from shipping, handling and storage damage. Give us your products, your goods, your sales items, yearning to be sold, and we will shroud them in as many layers of protection as we can. We will not let your merchandise down! We will not let America down!! (crazy applause)

So, I bid you good-bye for now. Keep fighting for your right to use as much packing material as ever! And, never, never, never forget: Fuck It!!

(insane applause)

Fuck it!

(returns to his seat, waving to crowd, lights out)



Wendy Berrell said...

That is the best ever. Thanks for your play-write genius man!

Brendon Etter said...

You're very welcome. The Sierra Club calendar bit from this play is true.

When I worked in a small bookstore in Hudson, Wisconsin, we would get a couple boxes of wall calendars from the Sierra Club every year. Now, you all know that a wall clendar is a thin thing, so when you get two large boxes full of them, you'd expect about 50 in each box.

Nope. I think there were maybe 12 or 16 in each box, the box had non-biodegradable packing material inside it, each calendar was wrapped in plastic and inside an individual box which was, itself, wrapped in plastic. I thought... hmmm... there way too much irony in this situation.

The calendars still come in individual carboard sleeves, but they have taken the plastic off the calendar and each calendar's box. Better, but it's still an egregious waste of packing material.

Way to go, Sierra Club!!