Squeaky Wheel Says: Once A Boxman Always A Boxman

The subject of the latest installment of the Squeaky Wheel is going to seem like a relatively minor thing for me to be grumbling about, but it directly relates to a pet peeve of mine, one that’s shared by most veterans of my former industry. My sore spot was poked when I spotted a recent New York Times article describing how an entrepreneur in the Belgian capital of Brussels is sw2ahanding out foldable temporary tents for homeless people. Great idea! But according to the headline, the tents are made out of ‘cardboard’. I suspected otherwise.

After seeing the headline I read the article for more details. Apparently the city has outlawed fabric tents on the streets, thus the need for a new idea, and the material being used is described as cardboard, but it is not. I was a boxman (a veteran of the box industry) for many years and my kind of box — the brown kind that Amazon uses by the millions — is not cardboard, it’s corrugated, and that’s what is being used for the homeless tents. A cardboard box is the type that holds your Wheaties or your shoes, and a tent made from that material wouldn’t be much of a shelter.

But the bottom line is that I wasn’t surprised to see the terms misused. People have referred to corrugated boxes as cardboard boxes so often through the years that it has become a fait accompli. In fact, according to some sources the term ‘cardboard box’ has become a kind of generic name for all kinds of boxes, as crazy as that sounds. But my point is that most people still look at a corrugated box and think ‘cardboard’. (I’m right, aren’t I? If I asked you to describe the box you got from Amazon you’d call it a cardboard box, wouldn’t you? Hah! I knew it! Sorry. . .got a little carried away.)

tentBut aside from the name thing it’s really nice to see that someone is providing homeless folks a sleep space, proving once again how versatile the material can be. Corrugated boxes have been around for a long time, and as a basic shipping container they’ve never really been bested. In addition to that very essential use, innovative packaging engineers have turned corrugated into everything from coffins to furniture, so I wasn’t too surprised to see someone helping the homeless with a tent, but come to think of it that’s not actually completely original. Street people have been living in makeshift housing for ages, using either abandoned appliance boxes or tiny shelters they’ve put together from scraps. But I guess the new tents are a little more uniform and attractive, an important point for city officials but probably not so for the homeless themselves.

246734800007212Speaking of Amazon and boxes, I found this Little Guy available for sale there, and imagine my surprise when I also discovered that there’s a similar character on social media — and online games too — known as Boxman. He shows up all over the place, and if you go to YouTube you’ll even see videos of people dressing up like him and doing goofy things. (Nothing too surprising about that.)

I also found some music about the Boxman character and just boxes themselves. (Not to be confused with music boxes, which are a whole different thing.) But below is the video I chose because I couldn’t resist. It’s a little bit funny and very thought-provoking, and it doesn’t take an old boxman to know that’s a helluva lot of boxes!


4 thoughts on “Squeaky Wheel Says: Once A Boxman Always A Boxman

  1. I didn’t know there was a distinction between cardboard and corrugated. Is corrugated not made from cardboard? They’re both made from wood pulp, the same as paper, are they not?

    Corrugated boxes are an interesting choice of construction material for a shelter like a tent. The corrugation itself traps dead air which is an excellent insulator so the shelter would retain heat better than a fabric like nylon. Unfortunately, not as water resistant as nylon!

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    1. Les, both cardboard and corrugated are made from wood pulp and it’s all just variations of paper, you are correct. You’re also right about the insulating effect of the corrugation, which additionally adds stacking strength and sidewall protection. That’s why a corrugated box is much stronger for shipping, storage, etc.

      Thanks for your comment!

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  2. The famous Jon Huntsman I think of the Mormon persuasion made his fortune on Styrofoam boxes for McDonald’s and he took his profits & donated to cancer research but all these containers that were made might do more damage to the environment than the cancer research does good.
    Certain materials cause endocrine disruption which is indicated ad a part of the cancer problem.. and you know we’re killing the oceans with all this dow dupont plastic packaging and I don’t care about the profits on the stock market we are spiritually ill if we continue to put our immediate convenience before the future of the planet

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