Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Ugandan Bottle Opener

In the US, when we go into a convenience store or a deli to buy a soft drink or juice, we receive it in a plastic bottle or a can.

In the Gulf, it's the same. But in the Gulf, the cans have pull tabs. Pop tops. We'd collect them and make necklaces out of them when I was a kid. True, they weren't very attractive necklaces.

Another thing we'd do when I was a kid was collect soda bottles. We'd return to the the supermarket to collect money, which I'm sure was used to buy candy and not to contribute to household expenses. Kids are slackers.

We no longer have so many glass soda bottles in the US, but returnable glass bottles are still used throughout large parts of the world. The system works. There is an initial deposit on the drinks in addition to the normal cost. Then you bring the bottle back later, turn it in and buy a new drink. You only pay the deposit once. We'd save up all the bottles in a crate in Uganda, and then take them all back at once and buy a new crate, or just get back the deposit if we'd collected extras from the never-ending stream of visitors.

But having bottles around means having to open them with a bottle-opener. In the US, most glass bottles are used for beer, not for soda. And I don't know much about beer, but I think lots of beer bottle caps are twist-off.

Still, my Ugandan bottle opener is a popular item in my household. People like to use it even when the lids twist off. Why? Because it's so clever, simple, and practical. People marvel at its simplicity.

The Ugandan bottle opener is simply a wooden mallet with a screw strategically placed on it. Hold the screw under the rim of the bottle cap and lift.

It's not like Ugandans don't have metal bottle openers. Uganda has as much "Made in China" stuff as the next country. But everyone I saw there preferred the Ugandan bottle opener. Because it's cool, simple, and kind of funny. And you can make one at home with a piece of wood and a screw.


  1. No, that's not my Guinness. Well, it IS my Guinness, but I don't even drink beer. I found it in my refrigerator. It's leftover from my 40th birthday party.

    1. My guess would be that that's my Guinness hahaha

  2. There are states in the US (such as Maine & Michigan) where there is a deposit required on all recyclable bottles (plastic & glass) & drink cans. You pay the deposit when you buy the drink, and get it back when you return the container. What's remarkable is not how little complaining there is about this (retailers have come to see it as a positive) it's how much less roadside trash you see in those states.
    All we humans need to do the right thing is a little bit of profit motive ;-)
    Yes, most beer bottled in the US has twist-off lids, but better beer (such as imported beers and microbrewery ales) still require an opener. Which is why I have a nifty little device on my keychain, disguised as a purple frog, which is actually a bottle opener. Your Ugandan opener wouldn't fit so well on my keychain...
    (No, I don't actually use it while I'm driving.)

  3. Hi Marie
    I'm reading your book. I'm in between Namibia, Botswana and Zim, while I also have to work and find more paper to print it (thanx for the courtesy of mailing it to me, as I can't buy it in Uganda) I'm really excited about getting to TZ, ZNZ and UG....

    Like the way you admit the silly or good mistakes coming to men...

  4. Thanks Pernille. When it comes to men, I excel at making mistakes! We all have to be good at something, right?

    I bet you have a Ugandan bottle opener.

  5. I don't - have a Ugandan bottle opener. They are most popular by all, I know, and you're right, but I think they are too big.

    Besides being a Dane, I can open beers with lighters, keys, knifes and other kitchen utensils... ;-)

  6. As long as you are not using your teeth...

  7. Yes I can say firsthand that teeth are a bad idea.

  8. In Berlin you prove you're a Real Man by using your cigarette lighter to open beer bottles, none of which have screw-tops. Assuming you're right-handed, you hold the top of the bottle with your left thumb and index finger, and then take the bottom of the lighter, wedge its bottom between the lip under the cap and the bottom of the cap, use your fingers as a fulcrum, and snap! pop the cap.

    In 13 years of living here I still can't do it. But it sure is a neat party trick in the States for all you Manly Men who can figure out how to do it.

  9. H. M. had quit smoking earlier in the year, so he carried no lighter in Uganda (this time). But he could definitely open a bottle using any tool available. But in Uganda, he always preferred the wooden mallet, because it was funny. And aside from when he blew it, he was very funny.

  10. And coincidentally, the "bottle bill" just became a hot ticket in the run for governor of New York last night. The deposit is not included on bottled water and juice, and should be. It's just that these things weren't out there when they first made the law. And the bottle bill has kept homeless people working to clean up the state. Which is kind of cool, when you think about it.

  11. If it weren't for bottle deposits, I would literally have starved to death a few years back. Small potatoes: beer bottles, 8 cents. Better: 33ml Coke bottles with caps, 15 cents. Big find: Volvic mineral water bottles, with caps, 25 cents. It's still hard for me to pass an empty bottle on the street without the urge to pick it up and stick it in a canvas bag, but manners dictate that they be left for the less fortunate, since things have, after all, improved.

    Also, manners dictate that if you're drinking a beer or something, you leave the bottle in a place where a gatherer can easily see it.

    The politics of poverty in Berlin.

  12. wow, bottles pay a lot better in Berlin than in New York.

  13. Pville Peg: Funny you say that about the keychain - I just returned from Uganda and among the various array of goods I brought back was a mini Ugandan bottle opener with a keyring attached!

  14. An awesome bottle opener. Its very simple and esier to prepare at home too. It is very convinient bottle opener. A pretty fact is that, we can make it with a piece of wood too in our home.I like the bottle opener very much. It is very light in weight to handle.