Every once in a while, I'll be smitten by several disconnected thoughts at once. So I'll sit here at my trusty computer terminal and type the words, "Thoughts while shaving."
Today, I type: "Thoughts about shaving." The thinker is Frank Forrester of McLean. He is worried about the shaving technique of the guy in the Gillette Atra ad on TV. He thinks the guy oversimplifies a process that all of us who shave know to be very complicated, indeed.
"The thing I noticed in particular," writes Frank, "is that the guy seems to take very long easy strokes and, apparently, is finished shaving in seven strokes or so . . . .
"I have a distinct feeling that the guy involved. . . is simply using an empty razor. There is no way to explain the long strokes otherwise."
But Frank did more than doubt. Over a five-day period, he counted the number of strokes he used to shave each morning. The average: 165.
The reason, as Frank so correctly notes, is that many shaving strokes -- if not most -- are "repeats." They have to be. You can't get a close shave unless you go back over plowed ground, whether you use an Atra or an old shoe.
Where the Gillette guy takes one flying swoop down his entire cheek, from upper sideburn to lower chin, Frank (and you and I) chip away at that patch of turf, as if it were a lawn we had neglected for a couple of weeks.
First, we chop most of the whiskers down to size, with a downstroke. Then we double back with an upstroke, to catch "stragglers." Then we go over the area a third time, and maybe a fourth, to achieve that wonderful, cosmic state of squeezeable smoothness. Only then do we go on to the adam's apple, the chin and other points south and west.
What would happen if a real human being, and not an actor, used the Gillette quick-swoop technique? I tried it this morning, on the right side of my neck. In one graceful, continuous motion, I pulled my razor from my ear lobe to my collar bone. Then I leaned in to the mirror for an inspection.
All the hairs were still there.
My razor was drowned in shaving cream.
I had knocked a glob of shaving cream off my neck and onto the sink.
Bottom line: totally ineffective.
I'm with you, Frank. The hare used the Gillette technique. The tortoise knew there was another way.