the little things

It’s funny. Well, not it’s not really funny, actually, but there’s a certain strangeness to the way that somehow some seemingly trivial small thing can be a subtle clue that can take on larger significance as a sign of something.

Shampoo. What could be simpler? I’m a simple guy in many ways. In many things, my needs are pretty simple. I want to clean myself up on a regular basis as needed, and that includes stepping into a shower, and as part of the process, using a simple liquid to degrease my hair, wash away the grease and dirt and funk that sticks to human hair oils, and just leave clean hair with no funky foreign matter on it, you know, the actual basic working definition of the word clean.

How complicated can this be?

Now, the reason I mention this is that for years over the course of my life, there has been this odd little cycle repeating itself. I find something that simply does the job I just described. I buy that stuff and use it for some period of time, maybe several years. Then, one day, for some unknown reason, I go into a retail commerce establishment to buy more of the stuff, and, it’s gone. The stuff has simply disappeared, from all stores. I search again, wasting perfectly good money trying crap that doesn’t work until I find something new that does the job. Then, one day, I go to a store to buy more, and the cycle begins again. This has been going for years, with a long list of kinds of working shampoos disappearing. It just happened again a few days ago.

Now, at this point, somebody would naturally say something like “dude, really? shampoo is some big problem issue?”, which is actually kind of at least part of the point here. It’s shampoo, for god’s sake. How hard can this be?

One thought that just baffles me is how a thing that actually does its simple job perfectly well can simply disappear from the market. What, it works, it works well, so people don’t buy the stuff?

But beyond that, there’s the fact that in stores all across American, there isn’t some big shampoo shortage crisis, as you can walk in and find a long row of shelves of dozens and dozens of different shampoos. These days, most of those will have marketing spewage on the labels with words like “moisturizing”, “silky”, “smoothing”, and all that kind of jazz, that in my experience seem to almost invariably leave your hair feeling even funkier than before you stepped into the shower. Some stuff is like a practical joke involving somebody replacing shampoo in a bottle with liquid car wax. Sifting through all these endless choices of crap to find something that just, you know, cleans hair, is some sort of mystery quest.

I’m sure there is no shortage of people who would think that this is just silly, because the existence of dozens and dozens and dozens of “choices for consumers” is unquestionably, in their minds, a sign of the wondrous benevolence and magic of “the market”, and how could one complain about such magnificent bounty? Never mind the ridiculous problems in getting something that actually works properly in its intended purpose, and the market full of a giant array of consumer choices of crap. In this case, all I can figure is that some marketing executive type characters sit around in meetings and decide that a shampoo product that actually just gets hair clean is not good enough, and to stand out and compete in The Marketplace, they must sell some sort of gunk that leaves behind some sort of layer of chemical slime, because, I guess, this is supposed to be some kind of improvement.

Seriously. How can such a simple thing be this royally fucked up?

From there, the next thought might be, if people can get such a simple basic thing malfunctioning so amazingly, what happens with more important and complex matters?

You can look around and find all kinds of examples of ways that people are some dazzled and befuddled by the overly complicated and flashy, and think that this is somehow wonderfully more advanced.

One example is the amazing obsession with so-called “smart” mobile phones, and the way that people endlessly focus their attention on their little personal pocket device (or small tablet) of advanced technological wonder as toys, and somehow lose the plot of the most basic conceptual idea. A device for direct voice communication. I can’t possibly be the only one to be both annoyed and perplexed by having the experience of talking on a phone with somebody who is on their pocket mobile phone at the other end, trying to have an actual conversation, and finding that I’m unable to comprehend and understand as much as 30 or 40 percent of what they say, because the magic digital technology in between their voice and my ear manages to scramble the audio into incomprehensble garbled gibberish.

Mention this, and odds are good that people will say “but look at all the cool stuff my phone will do!”. Great. A radiotelephonic device that will do cool stuff, it just can’t relay clear audio of a human voice so people can communicate at a distance. Awesome.

I’m just thinking that too many simple basic things get pointlessly overcomplicated, to a point where basic things don’t actually work, and too many complex things get oversimplified to the point where people get so simplistic they don’t actually understand. Not only that, but maybe there’s a little too much obsession with more, and more, and more, when what we need is a little focus on what’s good, what actually works.

A good start might be people rejecting the idea of being referred to as consumers.






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