In 2005, I tried to buy two small jugs of denatured alcohol at the Cottage Grove, OR Wal-Mart for my flamecannon (started as a pneumatic spud gun but then when I found out it would turn liquid into an aerosol mist, I put a torch at the end and started shooting 40′ fireballs and mushroom clouds instead) and the system would only allow the cashier to ring up one because of whatever else I was buying along with it.
“What? Why?” I asked, probably in more words.
“Computer thinks you might be making meth, dude” is roughly what the response was. They couldn’t override it and I had an insufficient amount of denatured alcohol to get my flame on but what could I do?
Later that evening after we almost immediately ran out of denatured alcohol from my one tiny jug, my brother-in-law asked if I thought acetone was flammable because he “has that”.
“Sure”, I allowed, “I believe it is”.
We poured some down the barrel, lit the igniter torch at the end, and fired it into the air. Now with the alcohol, the aerosol would punch through the flame and be slowly and majestically lit from behind as the flame ‘caught up’. End result, a low “boom”, a big fireball that climbed into the sky, and a fine mist of whatever alcohol didn’t ‘catch’.
With acetone, there was a measurable difference. First, there was no unused acetone. It ALL ignited. Second, it ALL ignited i a roughly 2-3″ sphere of pure energy at the very tip of the barrel where the flame was. It was one of the brightest things I’ve ever seen, and to this day, if I squint my eyes, I can just barely make out the outline of the barrel to my long-departed flame cannon with a round cutout at the end.
So yeah, I think there is some amount of computermization of things people purchase.
First, I shave. My face. I mean, that’s what THIS post is about, at least. I have been using a Gillette Fusion, a disposable razor that, as far as I can tell, is basically the winner of The Blade Wars (where the companies went back and forth daring each other to add more blades). There are probably razors with new blades now, but the Fusion won because not only did they cram extra blades onto it, they added BATTERIES.
To a disposable razor.
That’s not even the wackiest part of this story. That comes later, but let’s talk about the batteries for a moment because that’s semi relevant.
“What?” I imagine you asking in your head. “Why? How?” you might continue, gradually working your way towards defining the components of a successful newspaper article. Basically, you might be wondering what role a battery has in a disposable razor, and I’ll tell you: It makes it buzz.
It’s like there’s an angry wasp inside that’s trying to escape some sort of plastic cage but it can’t. Also, it only buzzes when you press the button. You may have made the mental connection to other devices that do what this disposable razor does, devices that traditionally do not have sharp edges but unlike the razor, it’s kinda a core function. That’s not true for the Fusion as far as I can tell.
So why does my disposable razor buzz and vibrate? I have no idea. If you’re looking for meaning in this marketing decision, I have none. I have dutifully replaced the AAA battery four or five times so I’ve actually made a financial investment in this feature but I don’t know why it exists. I think the box suggested that it would somehow help the blades get, I don’t know, some kind of closer shave or something through the magic of “razor waves” or something, but any time I try to imagine how that would work I just see the sharp steel of my razor filleting my skin even more effectively than before, leaving a trail of cytoplasm from ruptured cell walls as blood streams down the handle but for some reason, that’s not what happens. BZZZZZ…. BZZZ…. BZZZ? I have no idea.
But as I mentioned earlier, the Mystery Of The Batteries is not even the strangest part of this story. No, the strange part is the thing that I mentioned in passing to some friends and then realized from their reactions that my actions over the past six plus years were not those of a normal person.
Here’s the deal, the reason I’m writing this… I last replaced my disposable razor blade in August of 2008. All of those inexplicable battery replacements? They were while using the same razor blades.
That’s right, I’ve been using the same disposable cartridge for six and a half years and that’s with shaving almost every day.
“?!*#&#@” you’re thinking now, Q-bert style. That’s a sweet 80s reference, I like it. Anyways, the answer to your semi-coherent garbled mental exclamation is also symbolic: “$$$”. A few weeks after getting the Fusion (with a name like that, how can I NOT buy it? That’s what runs star trek reactors! That’s what happens in the Sun! It’s even a type of cuisine!) It’s got everything going for it, so of course I’ll buy the Gillette Fusion. So I went to buy a replacement cartridge a few weeks later and found it was like crazy expensive.
“No way am I giving up my money to these crooks” I said to myself, unconsciously stroking my perfectly shaved neck in contemplation. “I bet I can get a few more days out of it, no problem.” Days became weeks, weeks became months. I don’t remember ever actually deciding “I’m going for some sort of dumb record”, it just… happened.
Months became 6 years. Visualize this, the razor came with a little ‘Aloe strip’. I assumed it was some kind of marketing thing because it promised soft skin and the power of moisturizing aloe bullshit or something. Within the first week, the green ‘Aloe’ part was gone, obviously. It took a few months for the next real change, but once that had passed, the last remnants of the paper the Aloe had been applied to were gone as well. I think there was a day or two where little bits of exposed adhesive were sticking to my face, but I powered on through and now it’s nice and smooth. My face was basically a giant sheet of organic sandpaper, so this isn’t even surprising, but it worked.
But the blades…. I have no idea WHY they keep working, but I hardly bleed at all. I don’t have some giant misshapen neckbeard so the blades (however many there are) are still sharp enough to do SOMETHING, right? I mean, it’s not like it’s turned into some sort of unpowered Epilady because I hardly cry at all when I shave, so it must be still cutting.
Here’s how I maintain the razor cartridge:
1. About once or twice a month, I use our Waterpik dental water blaster thing (can be used to both stimulate healthy gums or cut plate steel depending on what setting you use) to blast the accumulated bristles out. I’ll turn it on (the pik) then direct the water laser at the back of the razor and get an instant shotgun blast of mini hairs at the wall behind. Because I’m a good husband, I then:
2. redirect the water long enough to rinse this off the wall. YOU’RE WELCOME, WIFE.
And… that’s about it. Oh, I guess I rinse and shake it dry after shaving (again, the razor) but other than that, nothing heroic. I figure I’ve gotten about 2,200 shaves out of it so far, assuming I shave 6.5 times a week (which is reasonable, I take vacations sometimes) and usually once a day.
Back in 2009 or 2010, my lovely wife actually bought me replacement razor carts because she knows how incredibly cheap I was and maybe was a little concerned about blood clogging the shower drains but I heroically set them aside. “No”, I seethed, “I won’t give them the satisfaction.” She gamely backed away and I set the gift aside before facing my next shaving experience.
This gets tricky. There are several possible, but personally I think the most important one is this: The razor cartridge is TOO GOOD for their business model so they’re using a gimmick to trick people into buying new ones.
Yes, I’ll repeat that. No, wait, I won’t, you can just read the previous paragraph again, that’s more efficient. Anyhow, I think the quality of the steel they’re using is just too high for a business that relies on people throwing these things away after a few uses and buying another one. If I know this, then obviously they know it too, so how do they push people to replace the cartridges if they’re still shaving just fine?
It’s obvious: THAT’S the true purpose of the Aloe strip. It’s not there to just be a line item on the box about how goddamn smooth your skin will be, it’s there to be something that visibly wears off so the customer will look at it and say “der, I guess I’d better replace this!”.
So what does this mean? It means that as long as you stay up to date on your tetanus shots and take some basic steps to clean your so-called disposable razor, you too can be a cheap bastard. Remember how I mentioned receiving the gift of replacement blades? A few months ago I actually found them beneath the bathroom sink. I dusted the package off, set it carefully aside and am ready for the day when the blades FINALLY need to be replaced. It’s nice to know I can pull the trigger any time, and I have my wonderful wife to thank for that, but I think I can hold out a little longer.
I’ll wrap this up because I need to go sand my neck callouses, but here’s a suggestion: next time you get ready to replace your blades, take a long hard look at it and ask yourself: Are you REALLY willing to trade your hard-earned cash for a measly pain-free shaving experience? If you ask me, THAT’S the REAL crazy.
Remember, too, the safety benefits that come with a strong surveillance infrastructure of the sort only Sauron can provide. No man may harm another (or a fellow Hobbit or Orc) with impunity when the Eye of Safety is upon him. A small reduction in privacy in exchange is quite reasonable, you’ll agree.
Support our dark lord! A second-breakfast in every Hobbitses pot, safe streets from Aldburg to Waymoot, a well regulated Orc milita to keep the peace, and no more lawless Wizards roaming the lands and terrorizing everyone with their propaganda.
One government to rule us all and in Middle Earth, bind us.