Ten Thousand Shaves

It’s late Monday morning when I finally hit the shower. After the usual battle of soap versus stink, I towel off and start shaving.

Ever since I switched to an old-fashioned double edged razor, I’ve developed a bit of a shaving fetish (Not that kind, you perverts.) and now the bathroom shelf my wife installed for her stuff is lined with a varied collection of shaving soaps, creams, aftershaves and a stand for my razor and silver tipped badger hair brush. Marriage is compromise.

I whip some shaving soap into a lather and use the brush to rub it into my beard. Once I’m satisfied the lather’s not too runny or dry, I start shaving. Assuming a normal life span, I will spend approximately six months of my life performing this task. One website said a man will shave 20,000 times before he drops dead. I started shaving when I was sixteen so, discounting the time I sported a beard, I’ve shaved about 10,000 times. I’m halfway there.

While I’m afraid of pain, I’ve never been very afraid of death. Once I shuffle off my mortal coil I’ll either be singing with the seraphim or reduced to an oblivious pile of atoms. Any way you cut it, my problems will be over. But now, as I watch my wife burgeoning with new life, I have a new fear. How many shaves do I have left?

If I make it to the 20K average, my child will be almost thirty when I die. That bothers me because I’m 45 and still have my parents. I’d have made it to ninety to see my child reach the age I am now. That probably won’t happen. What’s worse, I could die while my child still needs me. Standing in my bathroom, I can hear the ticking of life’s clock.

As I remove the whiskers under my nose, I remember that this could be my last shave. That’d be a disaster. Looking at recent fatalities among people I’ve known, I could might get eaten up by cancer at forty-seven, felled by a heart attack at fifty-five or stroke out at sixty. If those fates befall me, I’d leave my child too soon. I guess it’s time to buy life insurance.

I reapply shaving lather and set my face up for a second pass. The area under my jawbone is problematic and requires a steady hand. Last night I found out a deranged man I recently dealt with had hidden a razor blade under his tongue. He could have whipped it out and cut my throat before I had time to react. Forget natural causes of death – there might be a knife, bullet, car, fist, iron-pipe or bomb out there with my name on it.

As I listen to my whiskers scrape off, I tell myself I’d take living to eighty. My child will be thirty-five then. Family longevity suggests I can make that number. C’mon. Let me live an extra 1800 shaves; let me be with my child 1800 more mornings. Great, now I’m bargaining with the cosmos over the bathroom sink.

Now I’m working on my third pass, when I shave against the grain for a baby smooth finish. My wife likes that. As the last of my whiskers fall beneath my blade, I think of Death’s scythe mowing down everything that ever existed. If I have a son, will I get to teach him how to shave? If I have a girl, will I get to warn her about boys who do? I might be a lump of matter moldering in a grave by then. Or maybe I shall watch this kid grow up from my perch in Elysium.

I rinse off my face with cold water, pat it dry and then splash on some bay rum – an old masculine scent. My possible daughter might fall for a guy who wears bay rum one day. Odds are good she’d fall in love with an older man. Freud wasn’t always wrong.

As I look at myself in the mirror, I see the grey threatening to overtake my hair. My children will know me in the autumn and winter of my life. If I spend my days anxiously looking at diminishing pages of the calendar, I will screw them up. That’s one of the challenges I will face. How will I handle it? I have no fucking clue. I’ll just have to deal with life as it comes. I just hope who I am will be enough. It had better be.

I rinse out my brush and razor and put them in their stand to dry, praying my baby gets to see me shave ten-thousand more times.

Big Data?

My driver’s license is about to expire so I grudgingly head over to the most feared bureaucracy in New Jersey – the Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV. When I get there, I discover the line just to get into the building is a block long. The book I brought almost manages to kill the two hours I spend waiting. Almost.

“Number 142!” the clerk calls out. “Number 142!”

“Here,” I say, almost running towards the counter.

“ID and proof of residency, please,” the clerk says, not looking up from her terminal.

I hand over my passport, social security card, old driver’s license and a copy of my electric bill. Satisfied I am who I say I am, the clerk punches some numbers into her computer and says, “Okay, stand in the box to get your picture taken.”

Freshly shaved with a new haircut and wearing a nice shirt, I take up position in the box and smile.

“Take off your glasses, sir,” the clerk says. “And you can’t smile.”

“Why not?” I ask.

The clerk taps a sign next to the camera that reads “Facial Recognition System.”

“Are you kidding me?” I say.

“If you smile it throws of the computer.”

“Jesus. Talk about Big Brother.”

“You want a license or not?”

I know the moment my picture is taken, it will join millions of faces in a system accessible to law enforcement personnel. The rationale behind such programs is to root out identity thieves and insurance fraudsters, hunt down Al Qaeda operatives and catch bank robbers who forget to wear a ski mask.  I also know it will enable the government to track every move I make.

A guy who used to work for the Port Authority told me that when I drive into the Lincoln Tunnel, cameras are not only reading my license plate and comparing them to a list of wanted automobiles, but are also capturing an image of my face. “The cameras are so good,” he said, “They can count the change in your cup holder.” So, even if I leave my EZ-Pass at home, rip out OnStar and take the battery out of my cell phone, the government’s electronic gauntlet will still detect me going into the city. Not that I want to do anything nefarious, mind you, but does the FBI need to know I crossed the Hudson to grab a $26 burger at Minetta’s Tavern?

It’s a brave new world. Credit card companies can count the change in my pocket, Google Maps has a picture of my house, for-profit companies dissect my forays online, the post office scans my mail and, thanks to Mr. Snowden, whatever you think of him, I know all my phone calls and Internet searches are stored in some kind of vast database. Now Uncle Sam knows I have an affinity for MILFs in cheerleading outfits. Just great. But if I want to drive legally I have to acquiesce yet again to the power of The State.

“Take the picture,” I tell the clerk, and the results are monstrous. I’m usually told I look younger than my forty-five years, but the grumpy guy on my new license looks sixty – and has been absorbed into an NSA/CIA/FBI biometric super snooper program to boot.

Depressed, I go to my local cigar shop where I strike up a conversation with the local police chief.  ”Steve,” he says, after I tell him about my run in with the burgeoning security state, “In five years, you will have no expectation of privacy anywhere but your home.” After hearing that, I wonder if noon is too early to start drinking.

As I puff on my Maduro, the television news starts squawking about Anthony Weiner and his affinity for posting his penis online. For some reason, men love sharing pictures of their dicks with the world. I’ve never done so and I’m not sure what dark corner of male sexuality powers the compulsion, but if you look at sites like Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Snap Chat, you’ll realize the Web is veritable sausagefest.

Then an idea free-associates with my paranoid mind. If facial recognition is going to be part of our daily lives, why don’t we have penis identification software? Cockidentifcation?

Men already think their penises are special, but I’m sure the phallus of the human male had enough biometric identifiers that make it as unique as a fingerprint, iris or strand of DNA.  So if we analyze the data I’m sure there’s enough variances in length, girth, lack thereof, tapers, angles, shapes and bends to assemble a searchable database of dicks. Obviously, we’re talking about cataloging erect penises here. Flaccidly and shrinkage would only confuse the system – like glasses and smiling flummoxes facial recognition now. So how do we get all this tumescence online?

We already have an impressive collection of dick pics lurking on the world’s data servers. Putting names to those penises might be a start. Perhaps aggrieved females could put names to the unwanted cock shots they get and forward them to some future government agency. On second thought, I can see this being abused by pissed off drunken women nationwide. “Don’t call me back will you? I’m sending your prick to Guantanamo!”

I’m afraid we’d have to mandate some kind of cold and clinical nationwide dick inventory. Of course we’d have to use machines – no busty nurses with analog tools like tape measures, sorry. Too many dicks, too little time.  Maybe when a young man signs up for Selective Service, he’ll have to go to full mast for his country and stick his unit in the Federal Wangometer and register his johnson. Perhaps future trips to the DMV might involve porno mags and dropping your shorts. Or we could finally put those detested full body scanners in airports to good use. I’ll leave the logistics to others.

So what’s the benefit to this system? What’s the value of having every guy’s dong digitized and searchable? Glad you asked.

1. If you’ve ever used a dating website, you know that people send misrepresentative pictures all the time. If you send a picture of a penis that’s not your own to impress some woman on a sex hook up site – the computer will label your fraudulent weenie and boot you out of the system. That’ll prevent a lot of female dissatisfaction.

2. National security. Terrorists are invariably perverts. Remember all the porn they found in Osama’s bunker? Two minutes after these guys wrap up their You Tube rants about miniskirts and Western decadence, they’re spanking it to Girls Gone Wild. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine them posting pics of their dicks. Well, once the NSA’s penis sniffing algorithms spot a terrorist schlong getting Tweeted from an IP in The Hindu Kush, time to send in the Predator Drones. That’s what I call a hard target. Whacking tangos was never so much fun. Oh I could go on forever……

3. Could be used as an alternative ID – a guy never leaves his penis in his other pants. Maybe it could even be used as a passport. Like being able to pee standing up, just another advantage to being a dude. Who knew Visa stamps could be so kinky?

4. Pervy pols will get busted way quicker. “Eddie Escapade my ass! We know that’s you Anthony!”

5. Scientists could crunch the numbers and finally tell us if all those ethnic/racial stereotypes are really true.

6. Monetize the Internet for regular Joes. Why should porn sites, Google and You Tube make all the cash? If someone clicks on your penis pic, you get a micropayment. Micro might be a poor word choice, though. Perhaps a sliding scale. Hmmm.

7. Aid in prosecutions. Think how much faster the Bill Clinton thing would have gone.

8. The FBI would have a 10 Most Wanted Dicks Poster. And you wonder why your girlfriend always volunteers to buy stamps?

9. Market research. Condom makers will know why those Magnum sizes aren’t selling briskly. Maybe Madison Ave will find a guy who can cover the space between those two bathtubs.

10. It would make life easier for porn producers. “Jimmy Wad’s got the flu. Check the database for local talent!”

Like all sensitive information, a national dick database will have to be protected. God forbid the government uses it for illegal purposes. Cops will need a warrant before doing any search and uh, seizures, but let’s face it; the FISA court will find a way to pervert the Constitution. And I’m sure some whistleblower wannabe will get a job with the Federal Penis Data Initiative to “see what’s really going on,” steal the information, release it to the press and then seek asylum in Russia. Putin. What a dick.

An hour later, my cigar has gone cold and I finish typing this post on my iPad. I’m exhausted from thinking about so many synonyms for wieners. “What are you writing?” the police chief asks.

“Chief,” I say. “You don’t want to know.”.