Bubble wrap

That’s a Wrap

By Susan DeLay


Engineer buddies Marc and Al thought they were onto something when they glued two shower curtains back-to-back and called it wallpaper. (I know. Weird.) In 1957, these two guys were hoping to create plastic 3D wallpaper that would set the design industry afire.

They were wrong. As wall décor, their plastic air sandwich was a colossal failure, but you can’t fault them for exploring their creativity.

Fortunately, the avant garde invention wasn’t dead A few years later, when a guy in IBM’s mailroom wrapped a computer in the cushioned plastic to protect it during shipping, he unknowingly introduced the world to the wonder of Bubble Wrap.

Bubble Wrap packing material is a superior alternative to Styrofoam peanuts or wadded-up newspaper. Companies looked to it for their shipping needs and consumers used it to protect fragile Precious Moments figurines before entrusting their “precious” gifts to USPS. 

But we all know the product’s most important function is its unintended utility of relieving anxiety. It’s so much more satisfying than visualizing a peaceful meadow with a babbling brook and singing bluebirds. Or chanting oms in synch to relaxing sitar music, which, quite frankly, I don’t find all that relaxing. Less extreme is crunching ice or eating a diminutive square of chocolate. Sorry, it takes more than an Andes mint or an ice cube to bring on the calm.

It’s not the Bubble Wrap itself that reduces stress; it’s gripping the sheet of plastic and squeezing the living daylights out of each bubble until it snaps and pops. It works every time. The process can even become addictive—popping individual air pockets until they’re flattened—or until someone threatens to flatten you.

But wait. When it comes to Bubble Wrap, there’s more.

The product has snaked its way into our culture in other ways. Journalists use the term bubble wrap to refer to a story that lacks substance, yet has captured the interest of the public—stories about the Kardashians, for instance. Students at The Harvard Business School have explored the business of Bubble Wrap in case studies. When the late Farrah Fawcett turned 50, she celebrated by taking off her clothes, rolling herself up in Bubble Wrap, and posing for Playboy Magazine. (I don’t know about you, but I prefer to celebrate my birthdays with cake.)

Bubble Wrap has come a long way since its start. Marc and Al were inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame for their invention, and millions of Americans have benefitted from this sure-fire antidote to stress relief. Not to mention the added bonuses of annoying friends and scaring cats.

It took a radio station in Bloomington, Indiana to get Bubble Wrap properly acknowledged. They designated the last Monday in January as National Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day. Since 2001, Bloomington residents have gone all out with the annual Bubblympiad, complete with popping relays, Pop-a-Mole games, fashion design and sculpture—all featuring the world’s most “pop”ular packing material.

So, on the last Monday in January, never let anyone burst your bubbles. Do it yourself. You’ll feel better.

And that’s a wrap.

DeLay-Susan HeadshotSusan DeLay is from the Buckeye State where she took her first paying job at the age of 15, writing a newspaper column called Teen Talk. She lived in the Chicagoland area for 20-some years before giving away her shovel and ice scraper and moving to The Villages.

An industry veteran in publishing services, PR, and media relations, Susan wrote “DeLayed Reaction,” a newspaper column, for 25 years. The column is now a blog at www.susandelay.wordpress.com.

She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, The Florida Writers Association, Pen, Paper & Pals, The Writers League of the Villages, and Working Writers Critique Group. She is currently learning that poems don’t have to rhyme and is working on a novel entitled “Saving Jesus.”

14 thoughts on “That’s a Wrap”

  1. If Susan likes to dabble in “back in our day stuff” she should visit Summer Days / Hot Nights,. My bet is she would see many a friend and mabe herself? Surely this chronical

    starring the teenagers from the mid 50’s to the late 60’s. This 220 page chronicle intersects with all types of teens and circumstances. Worth a read so enjoy it all.

  2. Susan! You always exceed your goal to inform and entertain! You choose a little-known historical fact and wrap it in your words of wisdom! Kudos!

  3. Carol Joyce Helfer

    Another amazing story about a common item we take for granted. You sure have expanded my useless knowledge base. Enjoyed your story as always.

  4. Bubble wrap saved my sanity when I worked at an ivy league university. Your story brought back memories of dealing with demanding professors and grad students, by letting off steam with many pops of the stuff. Thank you, Susan, for the wonderful story.

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