A Weekly Column
Joseph Walker


I don't want you to think I'm paranoid or anything, but my razor is out to get me.


I'm serious about this.

It bit me the other day when I was shaving. And no, I didn't cut myself. I may be paranoid, but I'm not . . . you know . . . whacko. It bit me. I know the difference. I tend to cut myself when I'm not paying attention, or trying to shave too quickly. I make a false move and I nick myself. I've done that a thousand times, and I know it when I do it.

But this was different. I was concentrating on my shaving. I was in sort of a shaving "zone" -- totally focused. I wasn't trying to move too quickly, and I didn't make any false moves. But all of a sudden I could feel this nick, and I was bleeding, and the only explanation is that my razor just reached up and bit me.

I'm not making this up.

I looked at it, and it's steely, double-edged lips seemed to be turned up slightly at the ends in a deviously sharp, slightly bloody smile. I spent the rest of the day dabbing at the little slits by the corner of my mouth, trying to explain to everyone who would listen that I hadn't really cut myself shaving; I had been bitten by my razor.

And then I went home to my Little Bathroom of Horrors.

The only thing I can figure is that somehow Gillette sold me a direct lineal descendant of Sweeney Todd's razor. You remember Sweeney -- "the demon barber of Fleet Street" of song and Broadway musical? According to the legend, people would come in to get a shave from the guy and end up in a meat pie.

That's what I'm talking about. This razor is a bad seed. It got me again when I shaved today. And now that it has tasted blood, there's no telling what it will do.

I don't mind telling you: I'm afraid. I'm very afraid.

Of course, it COULD be that the thing I'm really afraid of here is that everyone will know what a klutz I am, so I've invented this "razor bite" story as a way of explaining all these scars on my face. I don't mean "invented" to imply that I'm lying -- I may have convinced myself that it is true. But deep down inside -- somewhere below the layers of skin that I seem to be systematically scraping away with my razor -- I know that I'm not being victimized by an inanimate object. I'm being victimized by me -- or rather, by the same lack of hand-eye coordination that made me an all-field, no-hit Little Leaguer and still causes me to quiver at the mention of the word "Pong."

Accepting responsibility for your own actions can be tough -- especially when doing so makes you look clumsy or inconsiderate or thoughtless or dumb. It can be particularly daunting for those in the public eye, who risk wide-spread criticism, ridicule and even legal action when they acknowledge personal responsibility for Stuff Gone Wrong. That's why I admire those who are able to step up and accept the blame for that poorly thrown pass, or that ill-advised executive decision, or that inappropriate public comment. To say "I'm responsible -- right or wrong" demonstrates great courage, extraordinary integrity and an awful lot of self-confidence.

Not to mention a complete absence of paranoia.

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Joseph Walker

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"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through