Harley Hay: Nifty mint tins have many uses

I picked them up at London Drugs on a whim.

You know, standing in the lineup where stores put all the items that you sometimes purchase on a whim.

I call it “whim stuff,” but I think marketers call them “impulse triggers.” Things you didn’t know you wanted until you see them there, calling out to you: “Buy me! Buy me!”

“I guess I could use some Juicy Fruit,” you say to yourself, and reach for the bright yellow gum package. You grab a couple and notice that the person in front of you is paying.

“Oh, look! A new National Enquirer – aliens have landed in Florida again!”

And by the time it’s your turn at the till, your basket is suddenly overflowing. And all you came in for was a prescription refill and some outrageously expensive printer ink.

I liked the tin box, and even though I wasn’t craving a mint at the time, I decided I would probably want a mint sometime in the near future, so I picked up a small can of Altoids.

I’d never had an Altoid before, and at first glance, there on the shelf, I immediately associated the name with an ointment.

That’s an unfortunate name for a mint, I thought, but then, the little rectangular tin sold me.

Also, I really liked the slogan printed right under the name: “Altoids – Curiously Strong Mints,” so of course I absolutely had to have them.

And when I got to my car and popped the lid, I was even more charmed. The little white bonbons were nestled within a nest of thin folded paper, which I figured was either an eccentric packaging idea from the past or a super cool new trend.

I popped one of the small, pill-shaped, sort of crumbly mints in the old gub and, yes, a nice blast of peppermint, all right.

Just what I needed, I said to myself. And then I discovered, serendipitously, that the tin fit perfectly in a space in my car, right beside my coin wallet and the hand sanitizer.

And as soon as I run out of Altoids, I waste no time replacing it with a fresh tin. The car just wouldn’t run right, and my day just wouldn’t go right, without that red and white tin box in its proper place.

And later, still curious about the “curiously strong mints,” I looked them up on the internet and found out a couple of fascinating things that would, as the British say, “tickle the fancy” of any curious person.

Tickle 1: Altoids were created in London in the 1780s. (Wow! And they are still fresh! Har har…).

Tickle 2: The name is derived from the Latin “alt” (to change) and the Greek “oids” (taking the form of) which makes no sense at all and clearly shows nobody in England spoke Greek or Latin.

Tickle 3: The tins they come in are as popular as the mints themselves. For years – nay, centuries – the rectangular metal tins that fit nicely in the palm of your hand have been used to store everything from paper clips to postage stamps (remember letters in the mail?) to tiny little pet rocks (remember Pet Rocks?).

I personally keep my favourite guitar picks in an Altoids tin.

In fact, there’s even a popular website called “21 Manly Ways to Reuse an Altoids Tin.”

My favourites are Morse Code Oscillator, Pinhole Camera and Mini Flashlight.

Oh, and if you’re the handy type, there’s also “200 Crafts With Altoids Tins,” including a tiny doll house, a wee music box or a mini Tic Tac Toe set. Just in time for Christmas!

Curiously Strong Mints, indeed.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker.

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