Childproof Caps: And You Thought You Had a Headache Before! by Marjorie Dorfman

Do childproof caps drive you absolutely insane? Do you curse and spit every time you try to open one of them? Well, read on if you do. There are no solutions, but you may find a chuckle or two.

"Only adults can't open childproof caps." – Anonymous

If there is one thing in the world today that drives me absolutely insane, it is the pervasive use of childproof bottle caps. I don't know who invented them, but with my temper the way it is, it's probably better that way. There is nothing more aggravating than trying to take that pill and the cap won't open, no matter what you do. Fortunately, I don't need any pill that badly. (In my case, the worst that could happen is that I might start to grow hair on my chest.) Still, I do wonder about those among us who do (need pills, that is; not grow hair on their chests). What if a medication has to be taken within minutes before or after or even while eating and/or drinking? There is no allowance for time wasted in turning the lid over and over again. Check this scenario: Here I am desperately trying to open the damn bottle. After a long struggle, I could be dead, but I shouldn't worry. Why? Because my child is safe!

Don't get me wrong. Herbert Hoover was absolutely right when he said, "children are our most valuable natural resource." For those of us blessed with them, they must always be our number one priority. I just don't understand why more than one priority can't exist on the same plane. Children have to be protected, but why can't someone protect me too, and help me find a lid for bottles that I can open? Just because I'm over twenty-one doesn't mean that I know what the hell I'm doing! William Burrill, writer of the hit song, I'm Leaving You As Soon As I Find My Pants and his latest to hit the country charts, I'm Hurtin' On My Fingers From The Twist Top Caps That Ain't, refers to childproof caps not only as health hazards, but also as "discrimination against children and idiots!" He further claims that in this sweet land of liberty children have the constitutional right to consider Drano a new and acceptable toy.

The first thing to understand about children is that they usually can do whatever their parents think they cannot. I say this more from observation than experience as I have no children myself. They epitomize the human condition in both its most intrepid and most vulnerable states. As natural explorers, they have no fear and will try anything. This is often in conflict with the need to ensure their safety and at the same time permit them to grow and learn about the world around them. The problem is finding a balance between safety and learning. My sense of order and balance demands the creation a new realm, a Camelot conceived in liberty, whose royal family is dedicated to the proposition that not all bottle caps are created equal. Some are more equal than others, and only those caps that the local idiot can open should be allowed in the kingdom. This is democracy at its best. Don't you agree?

Childproof caps may be child resistant, but childproof, well, that's a horse of a different color, as the saying goes. These caps may be too much for those of us over the age of consent, but to most inquisitive children they are a mere bag of shells, as Jackie Gleason used to say. Preventive measures must go further and they must ensure that all medications are in locked cabinets in their original containers and out of reach of every child in every household. Adults must look at the world through the eyes of their children and, most important of all, anticipate the next move their curiosity will impel. Never, ever call medication candy. Do not take medications in front of children, for they may want to imitate you. As James Baldwin said, "Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them."

Consider your home as a vast wonderland to be explored and experienced for better or for worse. (Your children won't get married yet. The idea is to keep them alive long enough so that they can grow up to make that mistake at least once.) Go through each room in the house and make sure that all potentially toxic substances are stored out of reach of small children and pets. In the kitchen these might include ammonia, bug killers, bleach, cleansers and detergents. In the bedroom consider cosmetics, jewelry cleaners, nail polish and perfumes. In the bathroom store away baby powder, mouthwash, shampoo and toilet bowl cleaner. Basements and garages hold a wealth of substances that could be poisonous if ingested by a child. These include anti-freeze, lye, mothballs, paint removers and thinners and windshield cleaners. Be careful. The life you save may be your own child's.

For the people who invented childproof caps, I can only say that their lives have been spared by the fact that I cannot identify them. Childproof caps have often been compared to gunlocks as counter-productive safety measures. The rationale behind this, according to research done by Harvard's Kip Viscusi, is that the federal mandate about safety caps on medicine bottles made people more careless about storing medicine out of reach of children. Let's face it. Any bottle can be broken with a hammer. Similarly, the argument for mandatory gunlocks is that they too would encourage parents to stop being careful about keeping loaded guns out of the reach of small children.

I don't care what the statistics say about how few children die from one cause or another. In my humble opinion, even one death that could have been avoided is too many. Parents are always responsible for their children's safety and well being. It's as simple as that. But I, on the other hand, am a grownup. That's why I'm asking permission now to be excused and to leave the room. Will someone please come with me so that I can get some help in opening the damn top on my bottle of hormone replacement pills?

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Copyright 2002