Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Q-Tip Conundrum

I am by nature a simple person. I like to wake up, taking deep breaths when I go out my front door, enjoy a cold beer in a warm pub on a stormy night with my wife and generally derive enjoyment watching life happen around me. Ya know sunsets, ants mulling about, birds chirping, and other simple shit.  I try to eat when hungry, sleep when tired, and well you can fill in the rest. Most of my problems extend from being immersed in a complex world. Want proof? Did it take you more than a second to find the “You are here” icon on the map in your closest shopping mall? How many numbers more than three digits long are you required to remember to function in everyday life? Why is Red, Yellow, and Green not the same as a flashing yellow or flashing red? Did you ever feel like a rat in a maze when you attempted to find a bathroom in a municipal building? It’s all complex monkey logic right?

As humans we deal with these complexities in one of two ways. Some of us tend to just write these things off as circumstances and parameters beyond our control whose nexus with reality is spawn of the great chaos within our Universe. Others, like me, dedicate a small portion of the human brain’s processing abilities to understand and map out; why things are they way they are and if they are efficient enough to satisfy my immediate distaste for having to deal with monkey made obstacles to begin with. If, for whatever reason, I have to dedicate more than the allotted brain capacity to analyzing a complex situation, I inevitably multithread said analysis in the back of mind which quickly ferments into literary outage, of which I shall illustrate here. 

Case and point.

Q-Tips!!! Aside from being a pretty awesome record scratching DJ, it is also the name of a cotton swab first invented in the 1920’s whose name understandably changed from “Baby Gays”.  Because let’s face it, being a kid growing up in South Jersey during the Reagan years I really didn’t want to swab my face or insert anything gay into my ear. Notwithstanding name changes, and labeled warnings I have used these things in various incarnations through the ages and have come to the stark conclusion that the Q-Tip brand cotton swab is by far the best.

Although, it clearly states on the package NOT to insert them into your ear, I have been doing this merrily for the past thirty-five years to keep my ears clean. As a result Q-tips have been a staple in my medicine cabinet ever since. So an ample supply is a requirement for happy monkey existence.

Now on to the issue. By what order of magnitude do the great minds of supply chain, inventory, and retail management conspire against this consumer to place Q-Tips in an area that is relatively invisible to all but the most scrutinizing of eyes? I admit that my vision is bad, my glasses thick, and people in China often get a cold chill up their back as if being watched by a guy who can see directly through the planet at them. But really, I am not so blind as to not be able to locate a blue box covered in vacuum formed plastic with little cotton laden sticks inside.  Against every form of a man’s intuition, if there is such a thing, Q-Tips are never where they SHOULD BE!

I check near the cotton balls, NOPE. I check near the medicines, NOPE. I check near ear based things, NOPE. I actually stormed out of Wal-Greens two nights ago in a cotton swab fueled rage, sat promptly back in the car, and cursed the Universe with fists in the air. My wife wanted to know what was wrong with me, and I told her. She then asked, “Did you check the make-up or baby isle?”

“What?! Why on EARTH would Q-Tips be there?” I screamed.

“Because that is what they are used for.”, she replied.

I was completely baffled. Ok, I understand that a woman can use Q-Tips for makeup and the like, but what the hell could a baby or its mother honestly do with these things? I have NEVER seen anyone use a Q-Tip on a baby. I started to feel like I was on another planet. Everyone I ever knew EVERYWHERE, used Q-Tips to clean their ears. WHY do they not place these in an area where ear related things reside. The company is covered. They label their product. I mean, is there some sort of back room Q-Tip cabal in secret association with companies that produce ear flushing products?

After this a full day had gone by, with me scratching my head. It just didn’t make sense. So I went on with my business. It was Monday, and I needed to load up on healthy lunch and snack items for the week. As is typical for a Monday, a co-worker and I hit up the local supermarket. Because my Q-Tip supplies were rapidly depleting, its product placement conundrum weighed heavy on my feeble monkey brain. I had some time, and decided to do a little exploring. I checked all my recent haunts on where I thought a Q-Tip might be hiding. No dice. I then drew a deep breath and ventured into uncharted territory, the make-up isle. Sure enough, I found a box of Q-Tips, with a woman swabbing her eye on the box. I then ventured into the baby isle. Again, a box was found, however this one had a lady’s finger holding a Q-Tip anxiously waiting to swab a baby’s eye. The product placement was completely alien to me. The questions just flooded into my mind.

Is the market for babies and women that big that it deserves a spot in TWO places?

Is the market for cleaning ears so small that it does NOT warrant a spot?

Do women and babies ONLY swab their eyes with Q-Tips?

Why have I lived forty-two years and never noticed any of these things?

I stood speechless in the baby isle, left alone in a world now strange and alien to me. I felt as if a camera was quickly panning away from me, through the roof, and beyond the parking lot. Up into the sky, past the clouds. Above the air and so desperately far away from our planet. Cold and alone, remote and distant from our Sun. Only one thing actually made sense to me now. This entire exercise of me coming to terms with my environment could have been completely forestalled if Q-Tips simply kept the name of “Baby Gays”. Thanks Johnson & Johnson. My wife will now be in charge of this purchase, for the sake of my mental fortitude.

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