Even I Am Quite Ashamed Of This One
My kids get through a lot of lunch-boxes. This is the inevitable consequence of their disgusting habit of bringing home their sandwich crusts, apple cores and mostly-empty yoghurt-pots for me to deal with (I mean, they have bins at school. They do. I’ve seen them. Furthermore, I’ve seen other people’s kids emptying their packed-lunch rubbish into them. But not my kids. My kids bring that stuff straight back home again, because apparently that’s just how we roll in the Parkin household), and my disgusting habit of never remembering to empty out the contents until the night before I need to make their next packed lunch.
So, as these things go, I’ve probably spent more than the average amount of time hanging around the Toys’R'Us lunch-box display, examining zip quality and debating the merits of the tetra-pak shape versus the classic overbalancing oblong, before giving in and buying the ones with the coolest pictures on them.
For years and years, every time I bought a new lunch-box, I’d do the same thing. I’d hand over the extortionate amounts of money required, take them home, snip off the tags, take out the matching drinks bottles and store them in the cupboard, take out the matching sandwich boxes and throw them away, and vow that this time, I would remember to empty out the rubbish before a colony of ants moved in and began building a weekend home for themselves out of yoghurt residue and rotting banana-skins.
Hey, did you see what I did there? I’m so embarrassed about admitting my stupidity that I’m trying to distract you with entertaining images of anthropomorphic ants. But there’s really nowhere to hide, is there? As a matter of course, and without even thinking about it – just doing it entirely on auto-pilot, as if this was the only possible course of action any sensible person would take – I threw away every single matching sandwich box from my kid’s lunch-boxes.
I have no idea why the drinks bottles didn’t succumb to a similar fate. For some reason, in my head, drinks bottles were important and worth saving, but sandwich boxes were extraneous crap that belonged in the bin. Throwing them away felt almost like a virtuous act, as if I was somehow contributing to a healthier, less cluttered future for all.
(Do you think the fact that I kept the drinks bottles means I’m only fifty per cent irredeemably stupid? Is it even possible to have a percentage of stupidity? Or is “stupid” a binary condition, like “unique”, or “pregnant”, or “married”?)
Instead of using the sturdy, re-usable, matching boxes provided, I would instead put their sandwiches in disposable plastic sandwich bags. Which I would periodically run out of. And get stressed about. And have to improvise with tinfoil or cling-film instead. Also, sometimes the only sandwich bags I could find were blue, which made me think of forensics officers and body-bags. But still I did it. For every single packed lunch I made them. For about six years.
Finally, one particularly stressed morning, we had new lunch-boxes which I hadn’t got round to “de-cluttering” yet, and we had no sandwich bags, and no cling-film, and no tin-foil. I was actually unwrapping the bread so I could recycle the wrapper into sandwich-preservers when I had a blinding, road-to-Damascus-style revelation: I could use the sandwich boxes to put the sandwiches in. Closely followed by another even more world-shaking realisation: I could always have put the sandwiches in the sandwich boxes. In fact, this would have been a better solution in every way.
Last week, I went to Toys’R'Us to scope out a couple of new lunch-boxes, and discovered that lunch-box manufacturers are no longer including a sandwich box as standard. Just as I finally wake up to the true worth of these added-value items, they are no longer available to me. This is probably a result of the banking crisis or something. Yeah, that’s definitely it.