TA's Nutty Letter to Faberge

XXX Saratoga Ave.
Apartment XXX
Santa Clara, CA  95051
(408) XXX-XXXX /day
Faberge USA Inc.
New York, NY  10022
Ref #3514

26 February 1992

Dear sir or madam:

I write in reference to one of your products, RISE Super Foam. The particular shaving cream in question claims to be HEAVY FOR TOUGH BEARDS. The reference number cited on the can is 3514.

I have recently returned from a short stay in a local hospital. I required some convalescence following injuries sustained in the Middle East, but more on that shortly.

Like many shaving creams, your RISE Super Foam has directions for use printed on the back of the can. I reproduce those directions for your consideration, verbatim--
1. Shake can well. 2. Wash your face with soap and the hottest water possible
        - leave wet. 3. Hold can upright. Press center of top to release lather onto fingertips.
I have been shaving for years and still consider myself no great expert in the endeavor. So, when I read the directions on the back of your RISE Super Foam I was excited by step 2. In particular, it had never occurred to me to shave with the hottest water possible. I had been shaving with hot water, but I had never come close to the extreme temperature your your directions suggested.

I have an undergraduate degree in the physical sciences, so I approached the situation analytically. First and foremost, I needed to figure out how to get my hands on the hottest water possible.

Water boils when its vapor pressure equals the atmospheric pressure. When water boils, its temperature cannot exceed the boiling point. At zero elevation, this occurs at 212' F (100 C). Living in Silicon Valley with an elevation of a mere 70 feet above sea level, I could expect my water to boil at about that temperature, within a tenth of a degree. However, I knew that I could do better. I would have to work harder to find the hottest water for my RISE Super Foam shave.

I knew of a few ways to heat water past 212' F. First and foremost, water will boil at a higher temperature when you dissolve something in it, such as salt. The more stuff you dissolve in it, the higher the boiling point. This didn't seem like the answer, though. After all, your RISE Super Foam directions specified hot water, not hot saltwater.

I'd also run across something called superheating. Water can only boil when it can form bubbles. Bubbles, in turn, can only form when they have something like a piece of dust or a sharp ledge to form on. If no such sites exist (i.e.- very pure water in a smooth container), water cannot boil and its temperature can be raised significantly, as much as 150 C, above its normal boiling point.

My initial excitement at the notion of shaving with water that was 482' F was quickly dispelled when I realized the dangers involved. When you superheat water, a phenomenon called bumping can occur, where bubbles, if given an opportunity to form in water at such high temperature, will do so violently, splattering the water out of the container. As soon as I put my hands in the superheated water to splash some on my whiskers, bubbles would form, and the superhot water would erupt out of its container, making quite a mess. No, I realized, this would simply not do. Clean-shaven or not, I'd be late for work every day, cleaning up messes in my bathroom.

I saw only one alternative. I needed to exploit atmospheric pressure. When atmospheric pressure is lower, water boils at a lower temperature. When atmospheric pressure is higher, water boils at a higher temperature. I could control the pressure of my shaving environment by using a hyperbaric chamber (such as the one pop star Michael Jackson is rumored to sleep in) but the costs would be prohibitively high. Instead, I would rely on the fact that atmospheric pressure decreases with altitude. For example, water boils at a slightly higher temperature in Philadelphia than it does in Denver.

With this is mind, I promptly set off for the Middle East. Nearly two days of air travel, a 12-hour bus trip, and a full-day's journey on a testy camel brought me to Al Mazra'ah on the southeast shore of the Dead Sea in Jordan. There, at an altitude of nearly 1300 feet BELOW sea level, I'd roughly calculated that I could bring distilled water to a boil at about 218' F-- a full six degrees hotter than I could have managed at home in California! The directions on your RISE Super Foam called for the "hottest water possible", and I was finally able to oblige.

NOTE: In Jordan, my watch and wallet were stolen. Luckily, though, I retained the duffel bag that held my passport and RISE Super Foam.

I awoke to sweltering heat and pestilent flies in little Al Mazra'ah. The town's only inn lacked air conditioning, and I was worried that the water might not be potable. I'd brought a large canteen of distilled water for my shaving, but had no intention of drinking it. I was on a mission, after all-- amoebic dysentery be damned, I was determined to get a good shave.

My face itched from a 5-day growth of my beard, but I was smiling when I brought the water to a boil in a sauce pot with a small camp stove. I'd anxiously awaited this moment for over a week. I set up a small mirror on the desk where I was boiling the water and tightly clutched my Bic disposable and RISE Super Foam. Finally, the water was boiling-- not just water but, for all practical purposes, the "hottest water possible". To my chagrin, the hottest water turned out to be a little TOO hot. As they say in dusty Al Mazra'ah, "Ik'n il n'moda" ("the rest is history").

The doctors say I can take the bandages off in a few days, and there's a good chance the scarring will be minimal. While the Jordanian medicos were superbly well-mannered, they weren't much in the line of surgical finesse. Nonetheless, I'm pleased to say that my hands are now fine, and I sustained no other significant injuries.

I must admit some disappointment in your product-- at least in its documentation. Even after carefully following the directions on the back of my RISE Super Foam. I did not experience the "....close comfortable shave" it promised. In fact, I found it painfully difficult to shave with the "hottest possible water" at all. Based on this, I feel that I am entitled to a refund of the $1.39 I spent for your RISE Super Foam. at Long's Pharmacy in Santa Clara. I'm afraid I've lost the receipt-- I hope this won't cause any difficulty. In any case, I would appreciate a prompt response.