the lifetime of a toothbrush

i began a new toothbrush. i kept the old one.

for those of us who hoard things because someday they ‘might be useful’, space is a problem, with things we keep gradually blocking out other things we’ve kept until they actually prevent the things we ‘kept in case they were useful’ from being, well, useful. not that they ever would have been useful, i know; i have never worked in an lab where there wasn’t a readily available supply of outdated hardware, filling up otherwise useful surfaces, that will never be plugged back in. too functional to be discarded, too outdated to be utilised.

there is something that feels wrong about throwing away something that still works, but really the definition will be something that will still be used. and discarded doesn’t have to mean trashed, with recycling/charity schemes available for those who seek them. the lifetime of a tool is not until it breaks, but only as long as you are prepared to use it. things – objects – have a finite lifetime, toothbrushes included, but usually they also have an expected lifetime that is far shorter. for elctronics, technological and production advances brings obsolescence and replaces it with shiny new packaging people will queue for. and the desire to be up to date need not coincide with our ability to make use of the new features of the latest ‘thing’. although everything is relative, i constantly upgrade but always two steps behind: i have an ipod that i don’t sync, an (old) htc phone i haven’t rooted, a dropbox account i haven’t used, my car carries an atlas instead of a satnav, and i shave using a razor with only 3 blades on it.

but for toothbrushes, it doesn’t occur to me i need an upgrade. i forget i need new pillows because i go to sleep immediately after noticing. why replace the old mattress, when i sleep badly anyway. on the one hand i’m falling behind on potential toothbrush modifications – what must my teeth think of me? – and on the other i carry more technology in my pocket than i even dreamed of as a child. i’ll bet there’s an application that will give me a countdown and directions for how to clean my teeth to the latest recommendations (i just checked – there is). there might be a whole world of things i’m missing out on, but honestly, i’m not sure i shall ever worry of it. for me, advancement – change – should justify itself by being required; there are those around me, in my profession of science, who jump to new ideas and technology, and who are always looking to change the game. if you look beyond those people, those who forge ahead, i will be there, diligently ticking boxes and finding new spaces on the shelf for things that needn’t quite be thrown away yet. new is not synonymous with better, or at least it didn’t use to be.

i guess i could go clean my bike chain?


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