The Size of my Nurdle
In which I learn it's not the size that counts.
I use it during the day.
My fellow Americans, I’m no habitual conspiracy theorist, but we’re been tricked.
Some time ago, I bought an electric toothbrush, one with rotating bristles. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the design, consider the normal, low-tech toothbrush. At one end there are bristles, which, altogether, are about an inch long (give or take) and maybe a third of an inch wide. Of course the exact dimensions vary somewhat, as do the hardness of the bristles, the material used to make them, and even the color. After all, they must look appealing in the grocery store, no matter how mundane the purpose.
My electric toothbrush is a different concept in one very obvious way. The bristles form a cylinder, about one quarter inch in diameter. A motor spins these bristles around in a circle to give the rotating motion dentists prefer. That’s why I bought it. Okay, I also like gadgets.
I’m rather proud of myself. I actually read the instructions and I was sure I was using the device properly, but about four months into its use, something dawned on me. Something sinister. I realized I was using only about one quarter of the toothpaste I had been.
From the time I was a kid, I’d been taught to squeeze the toothpaste tube, ejecting enough of the precious paste to cover the receiving bristles. I distinctly remember some commercial proclaiming this amount to be called a “nurdle.” In writing this piece, I quickly found that my spell checker did not recognize “nurdle” as a legitimate word in the English language, while recognized dictionaries define it as either a small plastic pellet or a term used in the game of cricket. Had my memory failed me? But there it was in the Wikipedia dictionary as definition number three: “A 1 [inch] strip of toothpaste applied to a toothbrush.” There was no mention of how it came to be one inch.
Yes, I was now using a mere quarter of a nurdle per brushing. That couldn’t be right, but it’s all that will fit on my brush. Could it
be that I was only supposed to brush one quarter of my mouth, then reload? No, my toothbrush has a built in timer, which causes it to vibrate as a signal to move to the next quadrant of my mouth. The instructions (remember me patting myself on the back for having read the instructions) said nothing about adding toothpaste to get my full nurdle. Either I’d be putting on toothpaste as the bristles were rotating, (quite a messy proposition at best,) or stopping the device, thereby resetting the timer. Neither made sense.
Could there be some other reason that only one quarter of a nurdle was now appropriate? Was the electric toothbrush more efficient with toothpaste? Not likely. Then it hit me: could it be that the original nurdle was four times the amount of toothpaste we really needed to use all along? Who stood to gain? The toothpaste companies, of course!
At my next dentist appointment, Rick, my hygienist, asked me how my teeth were. I told him everything was fine, but that I had a question about the use of toothpaste. He patiently listened as I described my quandary and then he gave me the answer, which confirmed my darkest suspicions.
It turns out that most people, myself included, use far more toothpaste than we need to. We gullible consumers, with an all too willing boost from the toothpaste companies, have bought into the concept (if not the word itself) of the nurdle as an appropriate amount of toothpaste to use when brushing.
Conspiracy theorist? Perhaps I am. I’ll grant that a nurdle of toothpaste with artistic swirls on each end, blissfully resting on a bed of toothbrush bristles makes for a wonderful advertising visual, but the true intent is obvious: it’s to fool we beleaguered consumers into using four times as much of the product as we need. This is an outrage! The only issue now is whether to start by going to Congress or by bringing a class action lawsuit. My fellow Americans, who’s with me on this?