#329 Twisting the lid off the jar after nobody else could

I used to hang out at Jean’s place.

Yes, back when I was in second grade and my sister Nina was in Kindergarten we spent our lunchtimes and after schools at a do-it-yourself daycare run by a leathery old woman named Jean. Her home was a cold and dark playground of plastic toys and Thundercats reruns and we spent hours and hours there for years and years.

At lunchtime the seven or eight kids she looked after crowded around a wobbly plastic table to dive into her famously greasy lunches. Grilled Cheez Whiz on buttery white bread, mayo-drenched tuna casseroles, and bologna and processed cheese sandwiches were a few of her faves. And Jean always capped each meal by pouring a big jar of apple sauce, syrupy peach slices, or fruit salad into little bowls for each of us.

I remember watching Jean try to open those jars like it was yesterday. Honestly, she’d be huffing and puffing till we thought she’d fall over. Sometimes she’d hold the jar under hot water, other times she’d twist it with a dish cloth, and then there was my favorite — the spectacularly loud bang-and-clang-the-lid-with-a-knife move, which we always suspected would result in a serving of pear halves sprinkled with shattered glass, but fortunately never did.

Poor Jean was surrounded a weak and wide-eyed army of tiny hands, spaghetti noodle arms, and saggy biceps. We couldn’t help her much but after watching her suffer for years we took firm blood oaths to help others open those tough-to-open jars whenever we could.

Yes, twisting the lid of the jar after nobody else could fills you with a strong sense of Superman Pride. Suddenly you’re Popeye, Mr. Universe, or The Incredible Hulk, beaming like a flashlight in front of the kitchen counter as you hand back a freshly opened jar of


I’m joining 1000 Awesome Things supporters jdurley and Mike Dover tonight at the launch of the new book Wikibrands. Congrats to them!

Photos from: here, here, and here

43 thoughts on “#329 Twisting the lid off the jar after nobody else could

  1. my mum taught me a ‘stick a blunt knife into the bottom of the lid & twist trick’

    it pops the bubble under the jar lid & voila! – an easy open jar!

    1. My sister JUST taught me a similar trick (I’m mid-30’s!) using a can opener. The kind that you would use to poke a hole in a can of tomato juice or whatever — turn it over and use the pointy end to pry the edge of the cap away just enough to get that hiss, then it comes off so easily!

  2. And it’s not cool to say “Yeah well I loosened it for you” after someone opens a jar for you. If you can’t open it yourself with your noodle arms, be gracious when someone else helps you out :) Not stealing someone else’s thunder = AWESOME!

    Congrats, jdurley and Mike Dover!

    1. Have you ever seen Ellen’s standup “Here and Now”? It’s a total hoot, and there’s a part where she’s talking about lids and how there always seems to be that one person in the kitchen saying, “Give it, I got it. I got it — give it. Give it. I got it. *motions with hand* I got it, give it.” And then after they pop it open she says, ” … yeah, well … I loosened it for ya.” It’s funny for Ellen to say, but not for someone to do it to you! :)

      1. Oh my god I saw that episode. She is quite funny most of the time, it kind of makes me sad she wouldn’t like a man like me lol.

  3. “do it yourself daycare?”
    the food and the whole thing sounds pretty dispicable…
    except the part where you felt like a super-hero!
    Thanks for helping me “morph”
    this is an “additional” life-line.
    Bravo on another fine piece…

  4. Whenever I have difficulty opening a jar, I put on a pair of rubber gloves. Its like those square-grippy jar opener-helpers, except so much better!! My jar always pops open without struggle! I also do the same when I accidentally sealed a bottle of nail polish shut.

  5. Funny you mentioned Popeye. When I was a little girl, I stayed at a day care (back then, called ‘nursery school’). One day several of us little girls went to the bathroom together and somehow got locked in. I can remember thinking (or maybe I even said it aloud), “If I had some spinach I could be Popeye and
    knock the door down”. Silly little memory… thanks for the memories.

    1. Spoiler alert: I’ve read the whole chapter and it’s really good.

      Congrats on all the success, Mike! You definitely deserve it!

  6. I love this! It’s funny when you’re cooking dinner with your fiance and his friend, and neither can open the jar, so you take it, open it without blinking, and hand it back, trying hard not to look smug or smile.

  7. http://www.heatersandcoolers.blogspot.com

    I love this one. Being the only male around the home after my brother moved out, I was definitely the go to guy for jar openings. By no means was I ARRRNOOOLD but always feels good to be the go to guy. The no look pass knowing that you will handle the situation appropriately is always funny as well.

    Well played sir!

  8. By far, my favorite technique for opening the jar is running it under really hot water, mostly because of the science behind it..

    The steel of the lid heats up and expands more quickly than the molecules in the glass, so the lid actually gets larger than it was, and makes it easier to open.



  9. Hi Neil,
    That sounds eerily similar to my childhood daycare; leathery old woman named Jean, bologna and processed cheese, canned peach slices…you didn’t grow up in Santa Clara, CA did you?

  10. This piece reminds me of my late grandmother. She used to do the exact same thing that Jean did. I specifically remember her always beating the jar on the counter top. Which I have tried before and it works.

    1. that’s my favorite technique for opening a stuck lid :) added bonus – watching small children flinch as they’re SURE you’re just going to slam the glass jar onto the counter – the best!

  11. I love it! Nothing irritates me more than when I am working on opening a jar for a good five minutes refusing to give up. You just keep telling yourself over and over “I can get it, it’s almost there!” Finally you accept defeat. You hand over the jar, and they open it with ease. (You swear you loosened it up for them).

    Oh jar opening!

  12. This is a very awesome feeling…When my girlfriend asks me to open her jar of olives/pickles, I would come to the rescue every time. Sometimes she would leave the lid slippery from her sweat from multiple attempts, that’s when I know to use the T-shirt method, taking the bottom of your shirt and gripping the lid with it to open it easier. Classic.

  13. oh man, this post made me laugh!! thanks! I love the story of spaghetti noodle arms and poor hapless Jean. and yah, i’ve never been able to open a jar. I can’t even open a water bottle on my own.

  14. I got myself a jar opener shortly after moving out on me own…No more feelings of frustration and helplessness as I stare at the delicious, unreachable contents in a glass jar.

  15. Best trick I ever learned is the smack-bottom. Next time a little jar of pimentos or a big jar of whatever is facing you down, turn that badboy over and smack the base, it results in this very satisfying anti-poptop sound. Now try opening the jar.

    In high school I managed to embarass the crap out of a 6-foot tall football player who couldn’t open a jar of salsa. He did the big muscle thing, held it out and challanged “somebody else want to give it a shot?”

    Flip. SMACK. Flip. Then, exerting no visible effort, pop went the lid, all whilst maintaining firm eye contact with the big dude. The crowd went wild, the meathead laughed, and for a total of 20 seconds, I was the king of the world.

  16. My sweet wonderful wife has an unusual asset – she has very strong hands. She could open a sealed vacuum jar of pickles, for example, just by gripping the jar and the lid with her two bare hands and twisting. I told her that she could have been a professional strangler! We’re a bit on in years now and
    she doesn’t do that anymore, but …

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