My wife and I were in Germany a couple of years ago, where we spent an enjoyable ten days in the low ceiling cabin of a riverboat. The size of our room was not uncharacteristic of all things in Europe, as there just isn’t enough space on land or water to make things as big as they are here. As the Germans are fond of saying: things aren’t small, they’re efficient, which is an opinion that was up for debate after a week. As much fun as this was and as much as it made me realize that I could do fine with less, I was glad to close the cabin door behind me and head back to not only more elbow room, but more head, feet, and leg room.
Not a square inch was wasted, and the bathroom in that cabin was the epitome of this compact line of thinking. I could, if I wanted, brush my teeth in the shower, throw back the curtain, and lean over and spit in the sink. The room was that small. Nonetheless, there was one thing that made this the best bathroom in the world.
Mounted on the wall, just to the left of the sink, was a thin mirror that was roughly the size of a book. This mirror was mounted on an arm so that it could be moved tightly to the wall, angled up, angled down, pulled out straight, moved left or moved right. It was terrific. It had a concave surface that was not enough to distort anything but enough to magnify, yet the key advantage was that this mirror was right where it made sense to be. It didn’t require leaning over a vanity or sink, it didn’t involve wearing glasses or taking off glasses; it was simply there, in the perfect location, doing nothing more than exactly what it was designed to do with perfect efficiency.
This came in handy for me for male related mirror tasks, and for my wife for whatever it is she does while looking in a mirror. As a husband with over three decades of spousal experience, I know enough not to watch my wife in the bathroom. There is nothing to be gained by this for either of us, which is why there are doors on bathrooms.
Once we got back home, I realized there was one thing that I missed from our riverboat cabin. I missed that mirror. This was simply one of those items that I never realized I needed. For almost six decades, I never once wished I had a concave bathroom mirror mounted on an articulated arm, but darned if I wasn’t obsessed with getting one now.
The search naturally began at Bed Bath and Beyond mostly because we had a ream of BB&B coupons and besides— who else would sell this kind of thing? I went to the store shortly after we returned from our trip and described what I was looking for to the clerk. He had no idea what I was talking about:
Me: Yeah, hi. Where would I find a concave mirror that mounts to the bathroom wall?
Clerk: Like the one that truck drivers use?
Me: Truck drivers have these too? Man, where have I been? Let’s see what you have.
He took me over to a wall display that had round convex mirrors that peel and stick to other mirrors. They were more or less the same thing I have on my bicycle, which is not a handy place to search for errant and unsightly hairs or, I presume, applying makeup and besides—they were curved the wrong way.
Rather than getting into the differences between convex and concave, I thanked him and explained that this wasn’t what I needed. I then went online to Amazon, tapped in “concave bathroom wall mirror” and a mirror that was identical to the one on the riverboat came right up. I found the same clerk and showed him the image on my phone:
Me: This is what I’m looking for. Do you have anything like this?
Clerk: We don’t have anything like that. Have you tried Amazon?
That afternoon, I finally figured something out. I finally figured out that “Beyond” means the Internet. They should change the name of the store to Bed Bath and Someplace Else.
So I went home, discussed the ridiculous price with Mrs. G. and ordered one. It came about a week later. It was a little tricky to install, requiring more fingers than typically found on a pair of human hands, tiny tools suitable for repairing eyeglasses, and the nimble balance of a Cirque de Soleil acrobat, but once I got it up on the side wall next to the sink, it looked good and it worked great. Too great, actually.
See, while Germans may be fond of these little mirrors, they are also fond of dim, fluorescent light bulbs with no more than one of these dim bulbs per room. Here in America, we have light bulbs coming out of our ears and plenty of places to put them. Our bathroom alone has enough wattage to light up a doubleheader in Yankee Stadium and if one combines that with a mirror that magnifies everything on one’s face, well, that’s a real kick in the ego.
“What the heck is that and how long has it been there?” I said to myself one morning. Morning, as I was to find out, was not the best time to look into a magnifying mirror. Neither was evening because for most of us over the age of twenty-four, standing in a well-lit room and looking into a 3X magnifying mirror is much the same as using an electron microscope to look at a two-week-old bread crust. What was once ordinary and not at all frightening becomes something that would scare Stephen King into a whimpering lump when placed under the harsh light of magnification.
I won’t kid you—it took a little time to get used to taking a casual look in the mirror and having Clint Eastwood’s eyes looking back at me, but it does make grooming a lot easier and while it was a little scary at first, I’m sure everyone else appreciates the extra few minutes that I spend going over my facial topography in my super mirror. Then again, most of my friends can’t see anything up close anyway. I could have a topiary growing out of my nose braided into three inch long eyebrows and nobody would notice, but at least I know I’ve got stuff under control, and I’m sure my dental hygienist appreciates that.