Let Us Spray
If only life were as simple as an aerosol can
By Walter Jowers
FEBRUARY 1, 1999: Some years back, when puberty hit me and I started needing deodorizing, I decided to go with Right Guard spray deodorant. I didn't even consider trying a roll-on, like Ban. Television ads convinced me that roll-ons were for girls, who had no fear of getting their pit hair tangled up on the backside of the ball, then having to go to the emergency room to have the dang Ban bottle cut loose.
After about a year of standing in a cloud of Right Guard every morning, I realized I had been suckered. Right Guard's whole gimmick was that nine-tenths of my deodorant ended up not in my pits, but free-floating around the bathroom. Clearly, the Right Guard people weren't trying to help me smell good, they just wanted me to buy more of their stuff. Right then and there, I changed to a manly stick deodorant. I've kept an eye on the purveyors of dubious spray-on products ever since.
For instance, a home inspector buddy of mine in Seattle just told me about a homeowner who needs to fix his tired old slate roof. Understand, slate roofs are rare architectural treasures, and they can last for centuries. They do need maintenance, though. Rain erodes the slate, and hail can break it. The metal fasteners eventually corrode, and the slates fall off.
So, what should a homeowner do when his slate roof needs work? Maybe hire a skilled roofer to do the tedious work of replacing broken slates one at a time, carefully re-fastening loose slates, and weaving in new metal flashings?
Heck, no. That would cost a wad. This particular Seattle homeowner wants to apply a coating of spray-on leak-proofing goop. And, don't you know, he's got some contractor telling him the goop will work just fine.
Of course, this defies common sense. There is no goop smart enough to mend broken slates, seek out and replace missing nails, and do fancy sheet metal work besides. At best, the goop could plug up leaks for a few months. But the downside is that it'll make the roof absolutely unrepairable and monkey-ass ugly for all eternity.
Meanwhile, down in Salt Lake City, people are lining up to buy spray-on snow chain goop at $7.50 a can. Honest to God.
Just recently, on a day with 20 inches of fresh snow on the ground, a Salt Lake City TV reporter named Gephardt bought a can of the stuff, and headed up into the mountains. When he reached the Highway Patrol's chain-up-or-turn-around checkpoint, he talked the patrolmen into letting him try a little experiment. Following the on-can directions, Gephardt cleaned the snow off his tires, applied a liberal coating of the snow-chain goop, waited three minutes for the stuff to cure, then proceeded up the mountain.
He got five feet before his wheels started spinning and he had to quit.
One of the patrolmen was convinced that Gephardt's problems were related to his driving skills. So, he borrowed the can of goop and applied the stuff to the tires of his Ford Crown Victoria police cruiser. He started up the hill, and lasted three whole minutes before he spun out. Thanks to these experiments, no more drivers will be allowed past the Utah checkpoints without real enough snow chains.
Here in our part of the world, we've got spray-on truck bed liner, a little something for the man who doesn't want to skin up the bed of his pickup truck, but doesn't want to pay two hundred bucks or more for a real vinyl bed liner, either.
Of course, the spray-on liner is just paint--polyurethane, to be specific, the same thing that's used on kitchen floors, only bumpier. It'll scratch and wear off just like the paint that's already on the truck bed. And unlike a vinyl bed liner, the spray-on job isn't detachable. It's more like a tattoo. Once it's on there, it's for life.
If you're troubled by dust and allergens circulating through your house, you can buy spray-on goop for your furnace air filters. It's supposed to make the filter fabric "stickier," so it'll trap more pollutants. Of course, there are better solutions, such as electrostatic filters, and HEPA filters, but who wants to bother with those, when they can just spray their problems away?
Just last week, the Consumer Products Safety Commission recalled nearly 200,000 cans of Happy Time Fun String, a spray-on "string" that people inevitably spray over candles at birthday parties. Of course, the candles set the string and propellant on fire. People have gotten hurt.
There's more: Spray-on tooth cleaner for funky-toothed old cats and dogs who won't hold still for a real tooth cleaning. Spray-on fake granite and glitter, which are increasingly popular for dressing up girls' footwear. Spray-on salad dressing for dieters.
Here's the skinny: As far as I know, the only three spray-on things that really work are paint (like Krylon), lubricants (like WD-40), and decongestants (like Dristan). The rest are dilute bullcrap. That includes the spray-on breath fresheners, which just make people wonder how wretched your breath must have been before you used the spray.
Visit Walter's Web site at http://www.nashscene.com>, or you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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