Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Eight Months and Eighteen Days

In July of 2006, we traded our time-share condo for one in the Pocono mountains of Pennsylvania, about an hour’s drive west of New York City. It was a pretty rural area, but there was a large condo development there, which is used by skiers in the wintertime. In the summer, the place is pretty dead (which suited us just fine).

Just before we left, my can of shaving cream ran empty, so I got on the plane without any, figuring I could certainly buy more of my preferred brand. I figured wrong.

The ski resort had a gift shop, but didn’t sell toiletries. I was directed to a small General Store about a half-mile away. The General Store was classic Americana, selling everything from ammunition to kitchen utensils. There was an ice-cream parlor inside, and a tiny deli if you wanted a sandwich. All of it was crammed into an area about the size of a living-room/dining-room combination.


So while they had lots of stuff, the selections were limited. In fact, they only carried one brand of shaving cream, in one size: Barbasol. I don’t use Barbasol, I use one of those newer, high-tech gel shaving creams. Barbasol is the product of a different era, packaged in a bulky, gaudy can.


I had to buy this grotesque symbol of bygone days, and used it during the trip. I felt foolish using it, because it’s a foam-type cream, and every morning, I had to look at myself in the mirror, wearing a ridiculous foamy white Santa-Clause beard before shaving. I couldn’t wait for it to run out, so that I could go back to my regular brand.

But it kept producing shaving cream. Month after month went by. Being thrifty, I refused to throw it away. I developed a peculiar relationship with the can, wishing it were gone, but respectful of its relentless, consistent presence in my life. The nearest thing I can compare it to would be a prison cellmate. Not friends, not enemies, but accommodating due to circumstances beyond my control.

Today the can of Barbasol finally delivered its last sputtering gasps, producing a final, bubbly dollop of shaving cream before expiring, eight months and eighteen days after purchase. I’m lucky if I get three months out of my regular brand.

I guess it’s a testament to a time when competing in the marketplace meant giving customers more for their money than your competitors. Today, the mantra seems to be “Give them less but make them want it more.” Advertising is all image and sizzle, hot girls, fast cars and popularity. Barbasol plods along, trailing the pack by a large margin, offering nothing more than economy. Maybe more people would buy it if they realized that by saving money buying products like Barbasol, they could afford that jet-set lifestyle that advertisers are trying to sell.

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