TGIF: Everything else is wearing out, so why isn’t this?

Brownwood Bulletin
Gene Deason

How are you fixed for blades?

If that rings a bell, it might be the bell from the boxing ring on “Friday Night Fights,” a television staple decades ago.

One of my earliest memories is watching “Friday Night Fights” with my father. Gillette became a household word after sponsoring broadcasts of numerous sports programs, and the adage “look sharp, feel sharp, be sharp” was part of one of the most effective commercial campaigns on the television airwaves.

Yes, they had television when I was a boy in the 1950s. And yes, I said airwaves. That’s how we received television shows before cable networks and streaming services.

I wasn’t a fan of boxing, but I was a fan of doing things with Dad. I even wanted to “look sharp, feel sharp, be sharp,” but as a preschooler, there was no need to shave. Besides, it seems Dad was always cutting his cheek or chin and blotting the nick with a tiny piece of tissue. Today, shaving isn’t my favorite ritual, but I find myself forced to do it each morning. I once tried growing a beard, and it wasn’t pretty.

Options for shaving products have blossomed since the few brands offered back then. I’m amazed at how their manufacturers seem to develop something “new and improved” every two years or so. After decades of scrambling to acquire the latest innovations, I’ve now decided there’s no need trying to keep up.

The razor I use sells blades with a lubrication strip above a bank of multiple blades. It also has color that fades after repeated uses. It’s how you know when it’s time to change blades, which is usually every two or three weeks. That’s usually. The blade I’m using now refuses to wear out. I’m five weeks in, and it looks brand new.

Obviously, somebody in the planned obsolescence department goofed.

I’ve been on news media visits to military bases in past years, and while at the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton commissary, our guide recommended stocking up on razor blades. He said blades made for the Armed Forces were better quality. I took his advice, and while it could have been the power of suggestion, they indeed seemed to last longer.

I had a similar experience with a set of tires on the car I drove during college. I had 50,000 miles on its tires when I had a blowout, and I figured it was probably time for new tires all around. The Goodyear dealer replaced the ruined tire but said all the others looked like new. He told me there was company chatter about a batch of Polyglas car tires that would never wear out, and he decided I had the proof. I assume they wore out eventually, but I sold the car 30,000 miles later.

Almost everything wears out, don’t they? Longevity is important whether you’re purchasing a basic item like razor blades or a more expensive product like car tires. However, our priorities change as people’s bodies start showing age.

When a new vehicle is being considered, aspects that weren’t so important a few decades ago become vital. Once upon a time, jazzy looks and engine horsepower were most important to me. Now, things like ease of entry and heated seats top my list. Is the seat too low or too high for easy access? Is rear visibility sufficient so you don’t have to awkwardly crane your neck when changing lanes? Is a cupholder within quick reach?

Household appliances are seldom enticing purchases, but there was a time when those extra-cost refrigerator features like butter trays and crisper drawers were wonders to behold. Today, I want to be sure my appliance isn’t so “smart” that it confounds even the repairman. The most complicated feature I want is an icemaker that works. I don’t need a refrigerator that responds to voice commands and can connect to the internet. They should have tempted me with that 30 years ago.

Mattresses? I remember when I could fall asleep on the floor watching television and get up in the middle of the night feeling perfectly fine. Now, even with mattresses that adjust, my eyes wake up 15 minutes before my muscles do.

Making decisions on things you buy has never been this difficult. Even if things haven’t worn out, sometimes they get replaced for convenience.

Take our kitchen toaster, for example. We’ve gone through three toasters in maybe six months. Our old reliable worked fine, but it was a four-slice model that took up an inordinate amount of counter space. We decided a two-slice toaster would be a better fit, and it was all we needed anyway. After a few days of reading online reviews, we settled on a toaster ranked by several websites as the best two-slice toaster available for the money. It had buttons that allowed it to defrost, reheat, and toast things as wide as bagels — and much more!

Sadly, we never figured out how to evenly toast both sides of white bread. We found an even more compact toaster for $9, and breakfast feels wonderful again.

“Look sharp, feel sharp, be sharp”? These days, “feel sharp” is all I seek.

Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column “TGIF” appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at tgifcolumn@yahoo.com.