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FIRST PERSON

COMMITMENTS : Why Pay Less When You Can Spend More?

November 20, 1995|BRIAN ARBEITER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

My dad just doesn't understand.

I found this out while my parents from the Midwest visited my wife and me. I took Dad upstairs to freshen up.

"What's that?" I asked.

"It's my toothbrush. I'm going to brush my teeth."

"Dad, that's just a plain plastic toothbrush. Look at this!" I said, whipping out my Ultra Brush 2000. "It's got a grooved porcelain handle, 50% more bristles than the leading brush and it's curved like a dental tool to reach 21% more of my dental area than a regular brush. And it was a steal at $19.99!"

Dad looked at me carefully, then back down at his puny little toothbrush. "This one cost me $1.99 and I haven't had a cavity in 30 years."

"That's not the point!" I argued. "Forty-seven out of 50 dentists choose the Ultra Brush 2000 over their regular toothbrushes. It's advertised on TV!"

"That's because 47 out of 50 dentists can afford it. But in this bathroom, one out of one retirees prefers this plastic toothbrush!"

Dad . . . he just doesn't get it.

Next, he pulled out his razor. It was a pathetic, disposable thing. I sadly shook my head.

"Dad, that's not a razor," I said, doing my best Crocodile Dundee. " This is a razor!"

I opened up the aged oak box and revealed the Shave Master SXL, nestled in royal blue velvet. "Chrome handle, rotating axis that bends in positions I don't even understand, twin blades and a DetectoGrip that wails like a banshee when the wife tries to use it on her legs."

"Why does it need two blades?"

"You know, one to pull the whisker out and the other one to cut it off. Don't you watch TV?"

"Well, why doesn't the second blade just pull the whisker out farther?"

It was no use.

That afternoon I took Dad golfing. Stepping up to the first tee, he pulled out his old rickety driver (probably whittled it as a young boy) while I unsheathed my Pulverizer Behemoth. Developed by NASA scientists, the Pulverizer Behemoth has a humongous head and its own internal directional system. Also, its graphite shaft glows in a fluorescent jaundice yellow.

My dad chuckled, "You look like a cross between Greg Norman and Luke Skywalker. How much did you pay for that thing?" Somehow, I didn't feel the need to explain the terms of my second mortgage.

"Never mind that," I answered. "Just hit your shot."

He hit an adequate little drive, 250 yards down the middle. Next, I strutted up with the Behemoth and struck a mighty blow. It flew by Dad's ball . . . and the fairway . . . and the foursome scattering for cover the next fairway over . . . settling in what I believe future archeologists will call "out-of-bounds."

After the game, in which my dad eked out a 27-shot victory, we went to the clubhouse for a beer. Dad, as usual, had his same old domestic brand. I enjoyed some Finny--the new ice-brewed, fire-pasteurized, dry light draft amber ale, imported from Helsinki. I plunked down $7.50 for the bottle and popped the top. Dad shared some more of his twisted reasoning.

"That's a lot of money to pay for something you're going to tinkle out in about 20 minutes."

Although I am not a licensed proctologist, he almost received the world's first Pulverizer Behemoth enema.

That evening we prepared to go out for dinner. Putting on the final touches, I watched Dad reach for his Old Spice.

"Try this, Dad." I handed him my cologne. "It's $55 a bottle!" I beamed. "It's made by Yves Saint Laurent, a famous designer."

"Never heard of her."

"Dad, he's a man."

"Oh. Well, your mother loves Old Spice and we've been married for 52 years."

"But that's not the point! Sheeeesh! I give up!"

Later, we all sat around the restaurant table. My mom leaned over and gave Dad a kiss on the cheek.

"Mmmmm," she said, "You smell great!"

Dad turned and gave me a wink. You know, maybe he understands more than I think.

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