playing a game with a tube of toothpaste.
basically empty. I could replace it right now… walk to the other
closet where we keep some spare toiletries, grab a new tube, and
toss the old one… but that’s not the way this game is played.
(Is it? No. It’s not. Instead…)
get up in the morning, head into the bathroom and grab my toothbrush.
I pick up the toothpaste and remember the tube’s almost empty,
but heck, I can probably get one more day out of it. And I do.
I do, I consider the tube and decide it seems like there might
even be one more day’s worth left in there. So, the toothbrush
and toothpaste go back in their holder, and I will return again
to repeat the is-it-empty-no-there’s-just-enough dance. Repeat.
all know the miracle of the never-empty toothpaste tube. We all
know the game. A quick look, and there doesn’t seem like there
could possibly be anything left. But there is. We know there is.
So, we don’t throw it out. We give it another shot tomorrow. And
once again, there’s something left that day. Why wouldn’t there
be something tomorrow?
now, as I write this, the miracle tube has lasted more than a
week. At some point I should need to toss the old container and
open a new one. But, miracles are miracles, and if I play the
game right, that now container may never be needed.
thing happens to me with shampoo.
some amazing and physics-defying reason, if I ignore the bottle
and never ever let even the briefest moments of doubt enter my
mind, just depress the pump and use it each day, the contents
appear to be limitless. I feel like years have passed with the
same bottle in place. And while that’s absolutely not the case,
it is always there long enough that I can never recall how long
that particular bottle has been around.
does it empty? Well… funny thing…
I check it.
know. Sounds dumb. Be seems true. The darn thing could be there
eight months… could be eight days… but if I lift the container
and check it, the darn thing feels empty. If I don’t check it,
hop in the shower and depress that pump on the top of the bottle,
there’s always shampoo.
why check it? Well, curiosity is a powerful enemy, and there just
comes a time when I’m thinking: “Gee, that bottle has been there
a long time.” So, I lift it up, and sure enough, it feels empty.
(If I had only left it in place untouched, I know I would have
gotten another six months out of it.)
reality, the actual problem causer is shopping. When you’re running
errands and have the extra half-second… that moment beyond making
sure milk and eggs are on the list, and you can consider things
like paper towels and dryer sheets. That moment when you look
at toothpaste, toilet paper, laundry detergent, and yes, you check
the shampoo bottle.
and I drive less than five miles from our driveway to the doors
at work. If we don’t need to go anyplace else… you know, at all…
the basic math works that as the almost-empty-light comes on,
we could theoretically drive to and from work every day that week
and have plenty in the tank to get to the gas station on the way
home of day five.
never works out that perfectly though. Dry cleaning and take-out
dinner and groceries all pop up here and there. A run to drop
off some tools borrowed from a neighbor. A side trip on the way
home to bring some paperwork from one office to another. All of
a sudden, that steady light near the E on the gauge is a little
it’s kind of exciting.
there’s always a trap involved, isn’t there?
you run out of toothpaste and you don’t have a spare tube in the
closet. Looks like a stick of gum or a cough drop will have to
cover some of the issues at the start of the day.
head onto the highway, convinced you’ve got fifty or so miles
in the tank, easily, before you need to worry. But once the on
and off ramps are a distant memory, those are brake lights ahead
and traffic is stopping. Nothing like gridlock on the highway
and the light of emptiness illuminated on the dashboard. Different
kind of exciting right there.
already checked. We have more toothpaste. The shopping list is
bread and milk, and I should probably check the orange juice.
But we have toothpaste if I don’t go out again today. So, tomorrow,
we play the game once again…
wake up, grab the toothbrush, and then find out if the tube is
going to last another day.