May 7, 2011

Capping off an overlong career


— I retired from the Press-Republican a month or two ago, and everywhere I go, kindly people ask me if I'm enjoying myself in my leisure. There's no time for that, I tell them. There are important things to do and discoveries to be made. My retirement is devoted 24 hours a day to these critical pursuits. Fun will have to wait.

For example, I've lately been occupied full time with finding efficient ways to transfer toothpaste from one tube to another. How did this prickly assignment land in my lap? It's a long story, but I'll try to be brief.

I noted with elation, one day, that Aqua Fresh toothpaste had developed a tube with a cap that could be unscrewed in half a turn. That's right — half a turn! (I don't strew my exclamation points lightly.)

I ran upstairs to implore my wife: "Don't ever buy a tube of toothpaste other than Aqua Fresh," I gasped. "No Colgate. No Crest. From now on, it's Aqua Fresh for us."

She inquired with an appalling disinterest what had led to my new devotion to Aqua Fresh. I explained that the cap on the tube would come off in half a turn. Did she know what that meant? Most caps require four or five turns. Cut the time in an eighth or a 10th, and you've revolutionized how mankind lives and progresses. There are 6 billion people on the planet. Many brush their teeth. Cut two or three seconds off the time spent unscrewing a cap, and then rescrewing it back on, and you've collectively saved hours, weeks, months across the globe for meditation over serious matters affecting us all. "Do you understand what I'm driving at?"

But I noticed she'd left the room.

I ordered her to buy only Aqua Fresh to save precious time for other crucial endeavors.

She told me — distractedly, I'll assert — she selects which toothpaste to buy according to which coupons she has.

"I'll get you coupons," I said, my breath racing. "I'll write to the company this minute and compliment them on their ingenious cap, and they'll flood us with coupons."

"Phhhht," she replied. (I'm not sure how you spell it, but that is supposed to be the dismissive sound she aimed back up the stairs.)

I snuck to the computer to email the inventive and appreciative folks at Aqua Fresh. (I didn't want to make a big deal out of it, in case she was right.)

I assured them what a fine product they had and what a superlative cap.

They didn't disappoint me. Within a few days, coupons showed up in our mailbox, which I delivered to my wife, with an appropriate reminder that I'd forecasted the immense gratitude the Aqua Fresh people had just demonstrated.

That very day, my wife did the grocery shopping and came home with several tubes of Aqua Fresh.

But here's the snag: Not one of them had the easy-off, half-turn cap. They were no better than Colgate, Crest or Ipana.

What good was this Aqua Fresh if it took five turns to remove the cap? It might as well have been Aqua Velva, for all I cared.

So it fell to me to find a way to salvage this colossal oversight. Humanity demanded it.

As luck would have it, I'd practically emptied a tube of Aqua Fresh — a tube with the space-age cap. If I could find a way to stuff the contents of the new tube into the old one, I could announce to the Nobel Committee that all was not lost.

For days, I struggled, holding the tubes, opening to opening, and squeezing for all I was worth, trying to keep the toothpaste from leaking out between the tips.

No one had invented a conduit for the mission, but that could come later. I had first to prove the toothpaste could be transferred at all and survive the transfusion.

A couple of days later, my wife happened into the downstairs bathroom, as I was just completing my historic project. Brow asweat, I turned to her, hands covered with Aqua Fresh but otherwise little the worse for wear and said, "There! What do you think now?"

Frankly, I don't think she thought anything. She told me I had toothpaste all over my hands.

From now on, no matter what kind of toothpaste she gets, I'm going to give the cap half a twist, tops. That's it. I'll devote the rest of my time to humanitarian causes. Or I may take up the harmonica.

Meanwhile, my wife is free to continue brushing her own teeth, if she wants. But she can stuff her own toothpaste. And win her own Nobel Prize.

Bob Grady worked at the Press-Republican for about 40 years, as a reporter and then editor. He retired in February 2011.