COLUMN: February 16, 2017

A man who is unafraid of ‘product’

I WOULD not say I am a vain person, although I have used the word “I” four times in this sentence, so you can judge for yourself.

However, I will admit to using product on my hair. “Product” is a weirdly non-specific word to use, only one step up from “stuff”. It is one of the mysteries of our age that the word product is used to describe the various types of glop applied to men’s hair, when it could mean literally anything produced.

Anyway, my favoured form of product is gel. I have to use it because I have very strange hair. It is both thick and flyaway. Left untended it looks like Donald Trump’s would if he were suspended upside down by his ankles, which is a lovely image and one which often features in my daydreams.

For reasons which need not detain you, I have had to use a different gel from my usual brand, and I am unhappy with it. This is not because the gel is no good. Gel is gel. It sticks my hair down. I require no more of it than that.

But the problem with my current gel is the container in which it comes. It’s a standard squeezy tube, like my normal gel, but the lid is different, a screw cap, rather than a flip top.

“Bainbridge, you idiot,” you are now saying. “Is this going anywhere?” Yes, it is. You see, this is how you apply gel to hair. First, you squeeze the gel from the tube into your hand. This is a two-handed job. Then you rub the gel between your hands. This is a two-handed job. Then you rub the gel into your hair. This is a two-handed job.

Do you know what else is a two-handed job? Screwing the top back onto a tube of gel. But if one of your hands is now holding the gel, it is virtually impossible to do this without spilling the gel. And you can’t hold the tube in your hand while you gel your hair because you need two hands to do that job, as I have established at tedious length.

So you end up having to balance the tube on your bathroom sink while you hurriedly apply the “product” to your hair, because whoever designed the gel container did not give any thought to how gel is used. This is the sort of thing that gives designers a bad name.

And it was at another sink a couple of weeks ago that I cursed designers. I was out for a meal, living the swanky life like Rihanna, or the late Sir David Frost, and felt the need to powder my nose, or whatever men are supposed to say when they have to go to the toilet.

I was about to wash my hands, because I was not a barbarian like the other man who left the gents’ without visiting the sink, presumably on his way to put his feet up on a train seat, stopping only to dip his hand into a bowl of mint imperials. I examined the taps. They were those plunger taps.

I sighed and pressed the hot tap plunger, and put my hands under the flow. The flow trickled to a halt as my hands reached it. The only way I could sustain the flow was if I kept one hand on the plunger, which meant I could only wash one hand at a time.

You can’t wash one hand at a time. Washing hands, like gelling hair, is a two-handed job. I used to work in the NHS, believe me on this. I’ve seen notices.

The only way that I could obtain enough water would be to put the plug in and spend a minute leaning on the plunger.

So I examined the plug. It was one of those “clever” plugs which are lowered or raised by a little lever somewhere near the taps.

I wiggled the lever. I pushed it and pulled it. I yanked it. But nothing would shift the plug, not even loud swearing.

I understand why the designer had done what he did. Plunger taps save water, and plug chains break. But his money-saving solution had rendered the sink unfit for purpose. For what use is a sink unsuitable for washing hands? It’s as pointless as a tube of hair gel with a screw-cap.

I washed one hand at a time and went to the hot air hand dryer. Obviously it was broken.

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