Learning from the Toothpaste Tube

This has bothered me for years.  On the back of the Crest toothpaste tube are instructions for how  to squeeze the toothpaste tube correctly.

One reason it has bugged me is that it’s based on the assumption that the user, though proficient in brushing his or her teeth, is somehow still unable to get the toothpaste out of the tube.

But suppose we allow Proctor and Gamble that premise and presume that the user needs some help with the tube.  Does the following instruction provide any actual guidance?

FOR BEST RESULTS, SQUEEZE TUBE FROM
THE BOTTOM AND FLATTEN AS YOU GO UP.

For starters, what’s the bottom? If I’m going by the direction of the type, it’s just beneath the message.  That would be awkward.  (Wouldn’t it be better to say “squeeze from the crimped end of the tube”?)

Second, “as you go up”?  Really?  Am I going up?  Am I going up the stairs?  In an airplane, perhaps?  A balloon?  I don’t think I’m going up.  I’m just trying to brush my damn teeth!

And, as I’m going up, is there a skinny passageway somewhere that I’m going to have to fit through so that I have to flatten myself?

Alright, so I’m revealing my fondness for absurdity here.  But the lesson to be learned in this is that short, direct, precise statements work best.  Say what you mean.

What would be the harm in stating the following:

1. Remove cap.
2. Aim tube at toothbrush.
3. Squeeze tube.

And for those attempting to maintain enduring relationships with those with whom they share a bathroom:

4. Replace cap.


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