I happened to be reading my toothpaste tube the other day when I almost dropped my teeth: "For best results, squeeze from the bottom and flatten as you go up."
How long has that line been there? I don't remember it from sixth grade, which may have been the last time I really got into dentifrice prose.
Now the unasked-for advice seems aimed not only at my tube technique but at all the foolish little ways I'm programmed to use things up.
Remember the American razor company that reportedly contemplated China as a vast market for disposable razors? The company was advised that most Chinese would never buy a throwaway razor or, if they did, they would never throw it away.
That's about where I am, not buying throwaways but always hoping to get one more shave out of whatever blade I have.
Still, I wouldn't be surprised if the Chinese are changing in a global consumer society, perhaps like people who need instructions to make the most of their toothpaste.
I can't remember a time of not squeezing and flattening (and rolling up), with brush poised to keep the last morsel of paste from shooting into the sink or getting sucked back into the empty tube. Why throw away a perfectly good brushing?
It's like giving the spot remover one more shake to see if it really won't spray again.
I did not join in jeering the frugal public official who allegedly stopped at the door on the way to the dry cleaners and asked his wife if he couldn't try the spot remover one more time.
The money doesn't matter when a 5-cent candy bar costs 49 cents. It's the clean-your-plate lunacy that counts.
Use the ballpoint until the ink is ghostly.
Write on the other side of a retired sticky note.
Reuse Internet printout pages that have just a few maddening copyright lines at the top. (Echoes from typewriter days of using both sides of the sheet for carbon copies.)
Tie up this year's tomatoes with last year's cord.
Add the last sliver of soap to the new bar.
Stand the almost-empty shampoo bottle upside down so next time the last drops are ready and waiting.
Use the miscalculated milk left in the cereal bowl by adding more cereal.
Knot the broken shoelace until it can't be drawn through the eyelet.
Fit new recordings into the blank space on recorded tapes.
Grope for the final crumbled potato chip in the bag.
But don't get me started.