enough for easy use and environmental.
We should give the maker, Green Natura,
credit—it tried so hard.
I started to feel a little tingle as I
thought about this soap. It weighed
50 grams, or a little over 1. 75 ounces
for those of you who haven’t made the
conversion to metric yet. Even with the
hole, it was nearly twice as big as a bar
of soap you might get in any other hotel. So I began to wonder, where’s the
waste reduction? And I began to imagine what might happen if I stayed at the
Old Faithful Inn long enough to work
that soap down close to the hole
in the middle and found another
reason to stay only one night.
With nothing else to think
about, being in the sensory-de-prived state that I was in, I began
to conjure up solutions for the
problems I saw with the design.
They all involved the thought
that there has got to be something in the middle. What if (and
this assumes that the soap actually performed as its inventors
imagined) you were lathering
up and all of a sudden the soap
just disappeared. Zap! You’ve
reached the hole, and the soap
is gone with no warning.
When you enter the center region
with a regular bar of soap, you have a
few days of gradual inconvenience and
underperformance that warn you off the
old and weans you onto a fresh bar. You
have time to make the change. There’s
continuity. On the other hand, soap with
its center missing will collapse upon itself catastrophically. Clearly, the middle
serves a purpose, but perhaps it doesn’t
have to be soap. I imagined a Cracker
Jack-like prize in a little plastic container around which the soap was molded.
Or, I thought, maybe a single-use load
of soap could be molded around a milk
chocolate interior, like in M&M’s.
With these thoughts bashing against
the missing middle, the tingle in my head
turned into a long hard pull, and the last
thing I remember thinking before I met
the Zadorian was, “It’s soap!”
“What do you mean, it’s soap?” he
said, tilting what appeared to be his head
so he would be better able to hear my
“Well, environmentally speaking,” I
replied, just then noticing the dark green
sky and his bright yellow face. “How
could throwing away the unused center
of a bar of soap be bad? It’s soap. Isn’t
soap part of the solution—not the problem? By the way, who are you?”
“I am Zad, the chosen Zadorian actuarial receiver.”
“Zad, the chosen....”
“Yes, I am Zad the czar. I have been
chosen by my people to assist lost travelers like you rediscover logic and thereby
help you onto the path that will take you
“Czar!” I said. “We have a lot of czars
where I come from.”
“Yes, I know. But I’m the only czar
on Zandoria,” he said with a bit of pride
in his voice.
Zad then proceeded to tell me that
people mostly see what they want to see
and not what’s actually there. As we get
older, we must work harder to see the
simple truth. For example, he said, the
soap did indeed have a middle. I didn’t
see it because it wasn’t where I thought
it should be.
He reminded me that children have
undistracted reasoning and that I, like
a child, should always strive to remove
distractions from my thinking so that
simple logic will not escape my grasp. I
thought of my 3-year-old grandson, Jay
T, who recently underwent childhood
development testing. That’s
what they do nowadays. When
our children were young, we
measured their development by
ticking off the activities of daily
living as they acquired them.
Now it’s more cerebral. Children
are asked a list of questions that
are ordered so that at the point
the child loses interest, a developmental marker is established.
There was a point in his testing
when Jay T was asked to put a
chair that was in front of him behind him. He thought about this
problem for a moment, I’m told,
and then simply turned around.
Suddenly realizing I was
back in the bathroom of our room at the
Old Faithful Inn, I plugged the sink and
turned on the hot water until the basin
was full. Then I floated that soap, turning it occasionally, until the hot water
softened it. Reveling in the childlike simplicity I was about to reintroduce into
the system, I grabbed the soft soap in
both hands, held it under the hot water,
and squeezed it until it was a new ergonomic shape and the middle was back
where it was supposed to be.
TOM BAKOS is an independent
consulting actuary in Ridgway, Colo.
He can be reached at tbakos@