Month: July 2009

Catchup on ketchup


I enjoy ketchup.  I don’t go so far as to put it on my eggs at breakfast or use it to restore hair growth, but I like it quite a bit, nonetheless.

I like it with french fries, burgers, hot dogs, burgers and sometimes I even put some on my burger.  Of course Heinz is the best brand.  I say “of course” because I know Heinz is the best and if you disagree, you’re simply wrong.

Being a tomato-based product, I am not a fan of ketchup being saved, stored or marketed in plastic containers.  I’m suspicious enough of the evils that lurk in the Rubbermaid…add the acid of tomatoes and you’re just asking for children with gills.  So I want my sauce in glass.

But this peeve is not about plastic bottles (well, one paragraph of it was), but about how ketchup gets disrespected in public eateries.

Almost any other food item that is not packaged for single-use is protected in the back rooms and/or refrigerated.  Want some A-1 Steak Sauce for your dead bovine?  You have to ask for it and after clearance has been obtained from the proper authorities, and the Condiment Vault has been opened by those two Marines standing in the corner, you are allowed to ruin your steak (it is a free country after all).

Even mustard, ketchup’s yellow cousin who always got picked last for games of Red Rover in the fifth grade, is more often than not in protected territory.

But ketchup?  It’s just sits out on tables.  All the time.  Without refrigeration.  Open to defilement by kids’ plague-dripping fingers, puppies and other close-to-the-ground threats.  I mean, drive by your favorite restaurant at 3 a.m. while making an emergency run to the 7-Eleven for some Ben & Jerry’s, and you’ll be able to see bottles of ketchup standing guard in the lonely dining room.  Bacteria grow.  The sour bite of spoilage swims through the once-divine topping.

It makes me want to cry.

Not only is this excellent and necessary food addition spoiled, causing unknown incidents of jay-walking and improper brushing technique, but it is a tremendous waste.  And I hate to see food wasted…even if it’s going to MY waist.

You’re thinking that must be the end, right?  What more could Mr. Cranky want to whine about on this topic?  Well, I’ll tell you what!!!   It’s the practice of some disreputable public eating establishments to refill ketchup bottles!

Yep, they do!  I hope you didn’t just hurl on your keyboard, because I ain’t cleaning that mess.  In your head you’re probably trying to come to grips with this horrifying concept.  I suspect you’ve created the mental picture of fresh and new bottles of ketchup being poured into nearly-defunct bottles.  But, no surprise here, you’d be wrong.

Here’s what they do:  they gather all of the ketchup bottles that are in danger of being empty and they…CONSOLIDATE them!  Ketchups of varying vintages, some going back as far as the days of the rotary telephone, are mixed, co-mingled and, I can’t go on….  It’s simply too horrific.

I am too lazy to do the research, but I strongly believe that this is against some sort of code, law or proclamation.  I mean, we have laws to protect us from stuff like this, don’t we?  I’m not allowed to sell gasoline labeled as milk, why should my life and happiness be put at risk by this dangerous ketchup cocktail?

But even if there is no law, common sense should prevent such atrocities!  But then on some days, (such as those when I witness the buggered mouth of a refilled ketchup bottle), I believe that I am the only one left with any sense.  Common or otherwise.

Cutting it close

When I was a kid I used to watch my dad shave.  I was fascinated by the entire process.  I’m probably not alone in that.

It started with the spreading of Rise shaving cream all over his face.   The smell of the shaving cream, mixing with the steam of the hot water filling the sink is a fond memory of my childhood.  There’s something different about the fragrance of shaving cream.  I can never get enough of it.  The fragrance seems to grow legs and run when I knows my nose is on the prowl.  There was nothing to match dad’s shaving cream.

My earliest memories of dad shaving have him using a safety razor.  That thing scared the bejesus out of me!  My dad was perhaps the most technically skilled people on the planet, in my eyes, because of his ability to wield that razor without leaving a pound of flesh in the bowl of the sink.

Before too long he switched to one of the many disposable models…with, oh boy, twin blades!

The sound of the blade working its way through his whiskers is one that has stuck with me.  It was loud and sounded oh so rugged.  Shaving my own face has never sounded the same.  It was an earthy and elemental sound that compares to nothing else.

When the shaving was done, he would do an inspection in the mirror, using his hands to make sure nothing had been  missed.  It would all be finished off with a splash of Hai Karate.  (Why did they have to stop making that perfect green elixir before I was old enough to smell just like dad?!)

The experience ended when dad drained the water from the sink.  That left a shaving cream and black whisker skin clinging to the porcelain.  A pretty disgusting end to such an elemental experience.

As puberty approached I got that lone, disgusting hair on my chin.  I couldn’t wait to shave that tree trunk off my chin:  my first whisker!   If I’d only known about the lifetime of maintenance, nicks and “Oh, man…can I skip shaving just this one morning?” that lay ahead!

For the past several years I have had a strong preference for the Gillette Fusion Shaving System.  That’s right…it’s a system.  And a fine system it is!   I spent more than a decade with a beard so I was out of the shaving scene for quite some time.  After losing a bet several years ago that sent me back to the blade, I tried a large variety of whisker-shearing implements.  The Fusion has been the clear winner in my book.

Nothing else has felt so good.  The first handle I bought for it was one of those that accepted a battery so that it could vibrate during the shaving process.  A gimmick I admit, but it made the whole boring endeavor a little more interesting and official.  At the risk of having my Geek Card revoked, once that first battery ran out, I never replaced it.  So now I shave without the floor show.

The Fusion cartridge has five blades.  Amazing, isn’t it?  Within a few years we went from a large, naked blade resembling a machete to these multi-bladed devices encased in protective plastic, bounded by lubricating strips and GPS units.  I’ve given the entire thing an awful lot of study and I’ve determined the reason I like the Fusion so much is not so much the number of blades.  Rather, it’s the fact that the blades are exposed — the running water can race in between the blades and clean out the smudge.  That makes each post-rinse pass crisp and clean.  I can feel the sensation!

So, I’m a fan.  These blades are a marvel of modern science and engineering.  But the price!  Is it worth it?  I mean, I just bought four cartridges for $15!!!  That’s totally insane!  Is a clean-shaven Aaron really worth that much?  I’m not sure.  So given the high price, I tend to use each cartridge way too long.  They have a guilt-inducing throw-me-away-and-buy-a-new-one strip on them that indicates when replacement is “suggested” … which in my experience is after two swipes over my chin.  I manage to get almost a month out of each one, sometimes it ain’t pretty…but then I’m not a pretty-boy.

Which is why I’m thinking of writing about this today because this morning, I loaded a fresh cartridge!  Oh, I’m sure you’re with me here!  So smooth!  So comfortable!!!  So clean!!!!  I wish I had a fresh cartridge for every shave.  But until those huge royalty checks start to roll in, I’ll be milking each cartridge until the level of rust resembles a ’76 Pontiac on a Detroit side street.

So this morning while I was prepping for the joy of the new blade, I noticed something on the package.  I purchased the new blades at Albertson’s.  Very expensive blades though they are, notice the warning message!  This scares me more than the “…without express written consent of Major League Baseball…” warnings!  What’s with this?

My first thought is that something has happened to cause this grocery chain to add these stickers.  I mean, there’s got to be some cost, labor and effort involved in getting these labels on the packages.  So apparently energetic individuals are making a business of stealing shaving blades from stores and…egad…SELLING THEM ON THE BLACK MARKET!

It makes perfect sense that they would bypass the booze, the drugs, the toe-nail polish (perfect for sniffing) and the chocolate to steal the much-sought-after shaving blades!    I know when I’m down on my luck and looking for a thrill, I say “If only I had some hot blades!”

I guess I can rest easy tonight knowing that the really accomplished thieves are scoping out Walgreens and my neighborhood is safe for terror and mayhem.

Have you seen this guy or one of his cohorts?


If you’ve been out of your cell recently, I’m guessing that you have.  I believe the generic name for this marvel of mechanized paper dispensary is motion-activated hand towel dispenser.  What an interesting development in the field of bathroom science (my university catalog didn’t list this science as a major…state schools).

But a thought occurred to me recently whilst arguing with one of these wall-mounted boxes of paper pulp.  Where did they come from?  Now, I know they’re comprised of plastic and metal bits — I’m not looking for a stork-based answer here.  But did you notice how quickly these things appeared almost everywhere?  It was fast I tell you, FAST!  One day public facilities were being served by decades-old classic models and the next we needed technical training to dry our hands.

Some classic models required the user to grasp a piece of the next sheet and pull, often resulting in useless  torn sheets and great piles of paper on your toes.  Other models were equipped with some sort of handle or lever that needed to be depressed or cranked to make more paper available.  I’m happy to voice dissatisfaction over a variety of things that don’t meet with my approval, but I honestly never had an issue with the old dispensers.  Granted, sometimes I was forced to use the jacket of the guy ahead of me to dry my hands, but that was rare.

I suspect these rampant changes have something to do with the swine flu.  Or perhaps fear of some other worldwide calamity such as an outbreak of common sense or large incidents of parents controlling their children.  I will say that almost any workable device is better than those porcelain-clad gizmos that blow air, stirring up myriad bacteria, odors and dislodged toe-jamb from the floors of public facilities.  These motion-activated models easily beat the blow-and-hope method.

But I wonder about the net effect here.  Let’s say you’re Clyde and you own Clyde’s Croissants And Bird Baths.  You’re a small business person, struggling to break even in a very tough economy.  One has to imagine that you, Clyde, have several things you’d like to do with a little extra coin in your pocket.  So let’s imagine for a moment that your cousin Reginald who runs the local donut shop takes a week of vacation to visit the Wisconsin Dells.  What is the local constabulary to do without their daily dose of donuts?  Of course they turn to you, maker of flaky and buttery goodness.  This causes you to dramatically increase your Cop Croissant Capacity, or C.C.C.  This in turn increases your profit for the month.  Next thing you know you’re sitting there with a cup of hot bean water and wondering what to do with the additional $500.

New carpet?  A new sign?  Some fresh advertising in the local newspaper?  A radio spot?  A new cash register?  A bonus for the pimple-faced punks mixing dough in the back room?  A new mixer?  More chairs?  No…you, Clyde, buy a couple of motion-activated hand towel dispensers!!!!

Now you have not only spent money on the devices, you need to hire someone to remove the old ones and install the new ones (you’re far too busy and inept to attempt this on your own).  And now you must buy batteries to power the units.  Multiplied by the tens of thousands of units sold and, well, let’s just say that I think there’s a big bunny with a drum at work here.  And we all know landfills are starving for more batteries, so that’s a good thing, too.

And paper.  You didn’t think about that, did you, Clyde!  No, you didn’t.  You had a swelling supply of paper for the old machines.  These new ones use a special kind of paper, a special size, on a special spindle.   And they don’t absorb worth crap — Saran Wrap would work just as well.  You’re going to have to stock up on this new paper.  And I’m sure you’ll find something really useful to do with the old paper, like staunching those shaving nicks on your chin.

So all in all, this is a pretty involved and expensive proposition.

But why?  I don’t think even Oprah, on her best day, could get this level of national compliance (sorry Steadman, don’t hurt me).  And this change came about during the Bush #2 administration…and since nobody was listening, I doubt he had anything to do with it.  I keep coming back to fear of disease…perhaps the makers of these devices employ the best sales professionals on this orb — weazels who are able to instill great levels of ridiculous fear.  They were able to somehow get all these people to replace stuff that didn’t need replacing.

When I think of a public bathroom I see a room swimming with bacteria, germs and plague.  All kinds of nasties spread by other creatures live on the door handles into and out of the bathroom and stalls, on the flushing levers, on the water faucets.  I’d be willing to bet that the push-levers on those old dispensers were the CLEANEST part of a public bathroom because, IN THEORY, they only got touched by hands AFTER some minimal effort at washing.

So I’m totally dubious that these boxes are helping to prevent the spread of germs nor have they saved the life of the next great humanitarian.    And I’ve come very close to destroying numerous models for not giving me the next sheet fast enough, or turning out too dainty a piece of paper or being totally empty.   And that whirring noise…I don’t need that right after I’ve done some serious thinking, I just don’t.

I think their ubiquitous presence is evidence of a great marketing and sales job that is perhaps one of the biggest, yet most silent, successes in the business world since the invention of the hedge fund.  I’d like to get some of this sales mojo in MY business.   What a waste of…everything.

Now, an automatic Purel dispenser…THAT would be revolutionary!