When my friend, Rommel (not his real name), visited his parents in the US for the first time, he shared an interesting observation: “My Dad has a lot of scissors! There are scissors everywhere.”
I don’t know why Rommel didn’t ask his Dad why there were pairs of scissors everywhere – maybe he was afraid his Dad would give him the look and ask, “Why, you don’t have this many scissors at your house?”
So, I’m not sure if Rommel had figured it out, but I think I know why a typical American home would have an extraordinarily high quantity of this cutting implement.
At first I thought it was because scissors were cheap. You could get the 6-inch “As Long As It Can Cut Most Of The Time” model, made-in-the-other-side-of-the-planet, with your choice of fuchsia, lime, or electric blue plastic handles, for a dollar each at the school supplies aisle of any convenience store or supermarket. In fact, you can get a combo set of three different sizes for one dollar at any Dollar Store.
But there are countless other stuff that are also particularly cheap, like rulers, paper clips, and white glue—so, why scissors?
I pondered on this question for a while, trying to find the answer every time I pick up a pair of scissors. Then the answer sort of accumulated on me… through the number of times I needed to use the tool.
We have a pair with orange handles tucked in a wicker basket on the counter between the kitchen and the dining area. We use it to cut open childproof decongestant tablets. We pull it out to open a “fresh-packed” bag of potato chips. We reach for it to unwrap hermetically sealed products that we purchase – which is practically all electronics and accessories, most household products and paraphernalia, and the majority of brand new items meticulously packaged to prevent scratches, pilfering, or mislabeling.
Public safety is paramount here in the US, so everything that could be potentially hazardous to a child is packaged securely. To open, you need scissors.
Product freshness is also important here – potato chips and pork rind can’t be sold in bags that can easily, accidentally prop open. You can struggle at ripping open these nearly indestructible “sealed-in freshness bags,” but using scissors would be the least messy way to get to your crisp snacks.
Finally, product integrity and merchandizing is high up there in the list of matters of consequence in every capitalistic society, so almost everything you purchase here is shrink-wrapped, contour-packed, or sticky-labeled shut. Fancy labels and fine print all securely plasticized in place. I bet they’re deliberately packaged that way so that scissor makers at the other side of the planet can continue to hone their skills (haha!).
So, Rommel (not your real name), if you’re reading this, that’s your answer. Your Dad is wise to have scissors all over the house–he doesn’t have to use his teeth to tear out a cold tablet, or walk to the sewing machine to unwrap his new headphones.
Did you know that Leonardo da Vinci invented the scissors? And that it took him 10 years to paint Mona Lisa’s lips? I didn’t either.