When I was a senior at Buffalo State College I attended a frat party at nearby SUNY Geneseo, where my best friend Ro was studying speech pathology. I was less than a year away from earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
In between keg stands and the Beastie Boys’ greatest hits I met a guy who started our conversation by bragging about his package. Uh. Wait. I mean his degree in packaging.
“PACKAGING?” I asked.
“Packaging engineering,” he replied.
I was incredulous. Frat boys are expert bullshitters, especially condescending drunk ones.
I asked him if it was a four-year degree. He said yes, of course it was. I asked him if the job market was ripe was opportunities for packaging engineers. He said, duh. People will always buy crap. Crap will never go out of style. And most importantly, crap will always come in a package.
“Packaging is an art,” he said. “It can sell or sink a product.”
It’s also a science, he said. A packaging engineer needs to know chemistry. Packages don’t build themselves.
I feigned intrigue.
I’d never given the packaging industry much thought. Never considered it an industry at all. In fact most of my experiences with packages were negative. Packaging materials did nothing but delay the process of opening a new toy on Christmas day, not to mention contribute to landfill waste.
“I can rip open most packages with my teeth,” I gloated. “But blister packs. What’s up with that? I hate blister packs. Can you help faze them out or something?”
He ignored my request. Instead he said something else I’ll never forget.
“I’ll probably make sixty thou right out of school.”
I choked on my Zima.
Now I was pissed. Us journalism kids were being told we’d be lucky if we made 25 at our first job.
“$60,000 to make boxes?”
He shook his head, a conceited look spread across his face. I was obviously not getting it. He exited the conversation and waltzed inebriated over to a taller, skinner chick with longer, shiner hair.
I was obviously not the box he was looking for that night.
I think about Mr. Big Deal Package all the time. He’s probably making a hundred thou by now.
Well according to recent accounts, my industry is dying. Maybe they should start packaging products in newspapers instead of Styrofoam and plastic.
I’ve moved six times using newspapers to pad my stuff. I’ve yet to break a single thing or overlook a single byline.