Like razors, don't switch leaders for newness sake


August 30, 1998|By Harold Jackson

I GOT OUT MY cigar box the other day to do inventory. Nope, dear old Dad used to find enjoyment puffing on a King Edward stogie, but I don't smoke. The Roi Tan Blunts box that I keep on a shelf in my closet holds a much more precious stash -- my razor blades.

You see, about nine years ago I decided that I liked the shave from a single-blade razor and vowed never to buy one of the newfangled twin-blade deals. Trouble was, after a while I couldn't find the blades for a single-blade razor in any store.

The razor manufacturers were forcing "progress" on fuddy-duddies like me. We could either get with the program and buy a twin-blade razor or start looking like one of those long-bearded members of the ZZ Top rock band.

Resistance was futile. At least that's how the razor companies wanted it to seem.

Hoarding blades

But I refused to give in. I started hoarding razor blades, buying them wherever I could find them, accepting donations from kind strangers. Eventually I had saved enough, I thought, to last a lifetime. I know now I was wrong.

With all the hype about the new triple-blade MACH3 razor that Gillette has introduced, I decided to audit my supply.

All the Wilkinson blades are gone. I liked them best, even though they tended to rust faster. I still have 72 Professional Blade Co. Surgical Steel Blades, 70 American Razor Co. Silver Star Blades, 48 Personna Co. Precision Blades, five Gillette Safety Razor Co. Blue Blades and one Gillette Super Stainless Steel Blade.

That's 196 blades in all. I can typically make a razor blade last about two or three weeks before its dullness begins to nick. That means I've got another seven or eight years before I have to find something else to shave with.

Awaiting WARPSPEED 4

By then there will probably be a WARPSPEED4.

After all, it was King Camp Gillette who invented the safety razor in 1901. No longer did men have to trust the steady hand of a barber with a straight razor to get a clean shave without cutting their necks. They could shave themselves, at home. Their wives rTC discovered a new pastime -- shaving their legs.

Of course, it didn't take the Gillette Co. too long to figure out that innovation increases sales.

It introduced the Blue Blade in 1932; the Thin Blade in 1938; the coated Super Blue Blade in 1960; the Super Stainless Blade in 1963; the Trac II twin-blade razor in 1971; the Atra razor with a pivoting head in 1977; the Atra Plus razor with a lubricating strip in 1985; the Sensor razor with twin blades individually mounted on springs in 1989; the Sensor Excel with microfins that stretch the skin to expose beard hairs in 1994.

Now there's the MACH3. Expect other razor companies to follow the leader, just as they did with twin blades.

Don't get me wrong. I may be sticking with my old blades and razor, but I like change as much as the next person -- when I'm convinced that the change actually leads to improvement.

Old faces

During this election season, that's something Howard County voters need to keep in mind. There are some old faces running for office and there are some new ones giving them a stiff challenge.

It makes little sense to hang on to the same old tired people if someone else has something better to offer. But you have to make sure that the innovators are offering what you really want.

That goes for every county office, all the way down to register of wills. Kay Hartleb worked in the department nine years before being elected its chief 12 years ago. But her challenger in the Republican primary, Larry Fales, says he has some better ideas. Voters need to find out whether he does.

C. Vernon Gray is seeking a fifth term on the County Council. Voters would do themselves a disservice if they flocked to his challenger in the Democratic primary, James Fitzgerald, just because he offers a fresh face. Does he have fresh ideas?

Not enough attention is being paid to the seven candidates for two Board of Education seats. Only one of them is an incumbent. Sandra H. French is finishing her first six-year term.

Should Ms. French now be replaced by someone new, or does the board need the continuity that her return would provide?

Voters have to decide when old is better than new, and vice versa. That may be nowhere clearer than in the Republican primary for county executive between Dennis Schrader and Charlie Feaga.

Mr. Schrader is a freshman County Council member and has lived in Columbia about 12 years. Mr. Feaga is a three-term councilman whose family has been farmers in Howard for many decades.

Leaders for comfort sake?

These guys aren't razor blades, folks. You should no more vote for one just because you have become comfortable with him as you would vote for the other simply because he represents change.

Hear what each candidate has to say. Go with the one whose ideas sound like yours. My razor blades aren't saying anything in their cigar box. But, in their case, actions speak louder than words.

Harold Jackson writes editorials about Howard County for The Sun.

Pub Date: 8/30/98

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