sharp as a razor

One of the things that troubles me about my daily routine is that we seem to have devoted a disproportionate amount of our culture’s scientific resources to the development of new kinds of razors and other shaving implements.

This has become more apparent to me after having recently gotten rid of my facial hair. Yes, I’m a web guy, but it’s probably been about half a decade since the "geek goatee" thing was either appropriate or novel. So it was time to trim.

A few unfortunate revelations accompanied this change to my heretofore hirsute countenance. The first was that, sometime during the last few years, I lost my chin. It has receded at an alarming rate, leaving me with a head shaped exactly like a big, fat, perfectly spherical Charlie Brown basketball noggin. You know how that one "wacky" uncle of yours insists upon referring to your head as a "melon"? Well, that’s my fault. I’m the guy who inspired that.

But the other unfortunate realization is even less pleasant: It turns out that I used to look almost exactly like this guy. Which, as you might guess, turns out to be a bit inconvenient, especially since I’ve been hopping on commercial airline flights fairly frequently of late. But that’s not really a serious problem. A serious problem is going through airport security while looking like a freshly-shaven version of America’s Number One Terrorism Suspect.

"Hmm. Sir, your ID here shows you with a goatee."

Uh, yeah. I shaved that off.

"And no glasses…?"

Well, I usually wear contacts.

"And this address doesn’t match the tags on your luggage…"

Well, that’s just to distract you from the massive quantities of C4 in my carry-on!

As it turns out, the TSA agents have even less of a sense of humor than they’re given credit for. And they’ve got no sympathy for changes of address. But speaking of carry-ons, that’s what I used to keep my razor in while travelling, though that’s no longer allowed. And said razors, mind you, is what I was talking about in the first place. Pardon my digression.

I like to think of myself as keeping up to date on developments in science and popular culture. Clearly, though, I’m kidding myself, as sometime during the 1990s an entire technological arms race in shaving technology passed me by. One blade? No! Two blades? Not enough! Three blades! Now you’re talking!

I shudder to think what sort of combination of steel wool and zoysia grass is growing out of people’s faces that it requires three successive passes of razor-sharp steel in order to separate them from their hair. But the really interesting side effect of the increasingly elaborate shaving systems under development is that they are starting to require some terrifyingly complex implements to be constructed just to provide the necessary support infrastructure.

Assembly lines spitting out advanced composites forged from rare alloys and graphite and polycarbonate and bulletproof tyvek, all shaped into perfectly ergonomic grips. These precision-molded handles are then topped with razor heads the size of a credit card, which seems to assume an awful lot of flat, planar space on someone’s head. I’m picturing the users of these devices as being largely polygonal, with some kind of unlikely cubist skull, like Max Headroom or Frankenstein or Nancy Kerrigan. ("Why?! Why?! Why?!")

And it’s not enough that they just have these blades propped up on computer-controlled hydraulic suspensions, no. They have to hone these things from the most obscure and scarce materials possible. "We destroyed four of Jupiter’s lesser moons in order to refine enough molybdenum to create these blades, all to bring you the closest shave possible! Get your hair off!"

That’s not to say that all of these efforts aren’t important, of course. It’s only our clean-shaven status that keeps us from becoming savages like the Taliban or Frida Kahlo. But it seems as if all of this technology could, perhaps, be focused on something slightly more productive or useful. Like USB-powered toothbrushes. Why, imagine if such devices caught on! It’d be a future where anyone with a laptop computer could clean their own teeth. Perhaps even as frequently as once or twice a week, batteries permitting.

That‘s the kind of tomorrow I want to live in.