Putting the toothpaste back in the tube


I’m playing a game with a tube of toothpaste.

It’s 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…)

I 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.

When 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. Repeat. Repeat.

We 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?

For 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.

Similar thing happens to me with shampoo.

For 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.

When does it empty? Well… funny thing…

When I check it.

I 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.

So, 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.)

In 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.

Wife 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.

It 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 more meaningful.

And it’s kind of exciting.

But there’s always a trap involved, isn’t there?

Maybe 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.

You 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.

I 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…

I’ll wake up, grab the toothbrush, and then find out if the tube is going to last another day.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com