By DAVID PORTER
Rantoul Press columnist
Time got away from me, so I’m recycling a column from 2013. Recycling is good, right?
I’m not suggesting that this was the best column from the recycling bin, but it was the first one I grabbed:
I was trying out my new shampoo this week, because it was free. That’s about the only way I try new things. I’m not too adventurous, but I am cheap. There are things I wouldn’t try for free, but it’s a very short list.
This particular shampoo was formulated especially for men. Or at least specially marketed to men. I can’t imagine that the formula inside the bottle is much different from other shampoos except it might have a different smell-goodie added to it. For those of you untrained in the country vernacular, a smell-goodie is a fragrance. But "fragrance" is one of them five-dollar words, and I’m too cheap to use it.
So I’m in the shower getting ready to use my new, free shampoo, and I decide to read the label. Not because I care about what’s in the bottle and not because I think it’s fun to try to pronounce the chemical names like "disodium cocoamphodiacetate" and "tocopheryl acetate." Although that is fun. Those aren’t even real words.
You know how they get the ingredient names for shampoo? There’s a small group of marketing hacks crowded around a dark, veneered table in a dingy office listening to a country rock station on a 30-year-old boom box and playing Scrabble. That’s the game where you draw random letters on wooden tiles and then try to build words that score the most points.
There’s always that one cheater who can’t spell worth a durn, so he just makes up words to stretch the tiles out to hit a triple word space. And when the others call him out on it, he says, "Um, that’s an ingredient in the shampoo we’re marketing." And nobody knows any different, and they’re too lazy to look it up, so they go along with it, and then the guy is committed to putting that new word on the bottle. That’s how it’s done. I know. I’ve seen it happen.
Anyway, no, I wasn’t reading the ingredients for any reason except that it’s boring in the shower and I tend to read whatever is in front of me. I drive my family nuts when traveling because I read billboards out loud. I don’t even realize I’m doing it. If they put flight instructions on the backs of ketchup bottles, I’d be a pilot by now.
So I’m reading the back of the bottle and I see that my new, free shampoo contains caffeine and menthol. Why? Do I not have enough vices in my life? What — no bourbon? Is this a shampoo or an appetite suppressant?
I did notice later in the day that I was a bit groggy but my hair was wide awake — and craving a cigarette.
These particular ingredients are highlighted at the top of the bottle. They are in the list of ingredients, too, but they are repeated in larger letters at the top so everyone will be sure to see them. Like the company is proud of it.
How does something like this happen to shampoo? Well, I’ll tell you.
There’s a small group of marketing hacks crowded around a dark, veneered table in a dingy office listening to a country rock station on a 30-year-old boom box and one of them says, "Hey, we need to come up with some ideas for that new men’s shampoo. What are some manly things we could put in it?"
"Maybe we could bottle Jennifer Aniston," one guy says. "Men would buy that." And they all laugh.
"C’mon guys," the first one says. "Let’s get serious. I have to have this turned in by the end of the day."
There’s a long silence as the guys glance around the room hoping this exercise doesn’t morph into real work. Finally, one of the guys, who has been staring down at his half-empty Coca-cola can, says, "How about caffeine?"
Another guy looks down and notices his pack of Camel cigarettes and says, "Yeah, and menthol." And they all have a good chuckle. Then they go back to playing Scrabble.
© Copyright 2013 by David Porter, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m not sure that I like this shampoo, but I’m addicted to it.