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Waste Not, Want Not

writer x

soap pumpWhen you grow up the child of parents who lived through the Depression, you tend to be a bit frugal. If you grew up when I did with grandparents who came through Ellis Island, dirt poor and not speaking a lick of English, you know what I’m talking about.

And I’m talking about THE Depression, the one with the capital D. I’m not talking about the current “Depression” or “Recession” where it’s considered a sacrifice to give up your cell phone or postpone your plasma television purchase till next year.

And, thanks to my parents, no matter what financial success I achieve in this life, I’ll always turn off lights when they’re not in use, not tire of clothes after wearing them one time, and happily take home leftovers from restaurants. (What’s wrong with day-old pizza anyway?)

But there is one wasteful invention that annoys me. It’s really a nit in the grand scheme of things but still…

I’m talking about lotion, shampoo and soap dispensers. Granted, not earth-shattering stuff but we all use them. I bet you have at least one in your home at this very minute. And, you know that little plastic pump thingamajig that dips down into the middle of the bottle? The skinny tube that squirts up the stuff? Why—I ask you—why does it only go halfway down into the bottle? Do the manufacturers assume we’ll only want to use half of the bottle and throw out the leftovers?

I think not.

A brand-new bottle is a beautiful thing: You pump the dispenser and out pops a generous amount of your favorite lotion or your soft, gently scented (hopefully) soap. Lavender or gardenia is always especially nice. When the bottle is full, you always take an extra dollop more than you need. But then in a couple of days, the lotion starts to clog the top of the dispenser. After a few weeks (maybe even only a couple weeks if you have really dry skin or something), you have to pump the dang thing really hard to cough up a few drops from the bottle, the ones that start to sit just south of the skinny tube. After about a month, you start to get irritated at the effort it takes to get your soap or your lotion out of your bottle and you seriously consider buying a new one.

But then you see half the lotion just sitting there at the bottom of the bottle, laughing at you, taunting you to try to scoop up what’s left. It almost becomes a challenge. Or a royal pain. And then you tell yourself, why not buy a brand-new bottle and just toss (oops—I mean, recycle) the old one? Why not? You’re worth it! What’s a few more bucks?

But, then you hear your dear old father’s voice somewhere deep inside your head. It’s lightly accented and familiar. He chides you, “Are you kidding? Buy a new one? Already?! There’s plenty left in the old one. Hey, don’t forget that I had to walk to school uphill. Both ways. In the snow…”

Guilt sets in, as deep and thick as the coagulating lotion left in the bottom of your bottle.

Begrudgingly, you look at your favorite lotion bottle. You turn it upside down. You wait for the rest of the stuff to drip to the top so you can pound it out by hand. You glare at that stupid plastic pump. You curse the skinny tube for not reaching the bottom like it should because then you wouldn’t have the bruises in the middle of your palm from having to whack the half-used bottle against it, just to save the last few remaining drops in your bottle.

But you do it.

Because of your parents. And your grandparents. You don’t want them to think that you’re a wasteful, ungrateful daughter and granddaughter who couldn’t take the few extra minutes to use every last precious drop of your lotion or shampoo. That doesn’t mean you have to like it.

::Writer X also writes at The 100 Most Annoying Things::

November 20, 2009 2:31 pm

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