James Lileks
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I don't know if you've noticed, but toothpaste-tube technology has improved in a way that answers so many prayers, for so many people. And I hate it.

Think of your toothpaste tube. What does it look like? Go check; I'll wait. Those of us who know exactly what I'm talking about will be here, chatting amiably. "Did you see the game last week? Pretty dang good. The ads were OK, but they all kinda run together. I think there was one where the Clydesdale horses were washing people's feet? That was weird." OK, they're back.

Right. Your tube is perfect. You've been using it for a while, and it still has its original shape. You never noticed that they stopped using metal, did you?

In the olden times, the metal tubes meant you were one of two kinds of people:

1. A Careful Crimper. This type rolled the tube from the bottom as they went along, so the tube would always produce paste on the first squeeze. Some people were daily crimpers; some would roll it up now and then, but both shared a waste-not-want-not philosophy and a love of a neat tube whose quantity of remaining paste could be judged with a glance. Sure, there would be a few atoms of paste forever trapped in the folds of the crimp, but it wouldn't keep you up at night. Much.

2. A Careless Squeezer. These people had tortured tubes contorted in poses of agony, looking like the front bumper of a '67 car that went into a telephone pole. Squeezers usually were pressed for time and had a lot going on, and they didn't care that an extra ration or two probably was buried in the metal folds.

Crimpers often marry squeezers. That's not the case in our household, but I know it happens. Opposites attract. The woman who carefully crimps looks at a guy, and something in the back of her mind says, "He grasps the tube like an elemental force of nature. Raw. Unchecked by the opinions of polite society. I like that. But once we're married, I can turn him into a crimper."

The squeezer thinks: "She's a crimper, but that can't possibly indicate an overall personality trait that will have 4,247 other manifestations that conflict with my inattention to details. No, I can loosen her up and show her what it means to live life with brazen disregard for tomorrow."

The offspring of two crimpers may be squeezers, and this will lead to arguments: "He didn't get it from my side of the family! He'll grow out of it! I was a squeezer at his age!"

The problem with the new tubes? They reinflate and assume their original form, so you can't tell how much toothpaste is left. You have to knead them more to get something on the brush when you get to the last third of the supply. Most mornings I'm working that thing like a malnourished cow teat.

In our rush to eliminate the aesthetic deficiencies of metal tubes that have the form of half-cooked bacon, we have deprived everyone of a means of visually identifying the status of the toothpaste quantity. Crimper precision has been sacrificed to accommodate the lazy squeezer. Now we just pump away with no visual indication of how much paste is left.

"This is a metaphor for the decline of society," I say.

Why, yes, I was a crimper. Why do you ask?

james.lileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks