GHENT, N.Y. — William Safire, a Richard Nixon speechwriter, was concerned when he started writing a column for The New York Times in 1973.
He was reasonably confident regarding his knowledge of economics and foreign affairs but was worried about pontificating on subjects he knew nothing about. Joseph Kraft, a former John F. Kennedy speechwriter who’d turned columnist a decade earlier, reassured Safire that “Anybody with a good mind should be able to write 750 words about anything.”
When I first read that, I wondered why just 750? Why not 1,000 or 1,250?
I’m not sure a good mind is necessarily a prerequisite so much as an exaggerated belief in the importance of your own thoughts, an egotism that allows you to bravely go where more modest souls would fear to tread. In any case, I take up Kraft and Safire’s challenge in this composition on shower caddies.
Another thing that recommends one to the opinion-writing profession is, if not the talent to see a world in a grain of sand, then the ability delude yourself that anybody, besides the members of your immediate pod in the middle of a pandemic, would willingly suffer your thoughts, though, at our home, I typically find that demographic the least eager to indulge me.
I realized I had strong — perhaps too strong — opinions about shower caddies as I stood before a wall of them this week at the Bed Bath & Beyond opposite Lincoln Center in New York City. I didn’t find my way there by chance.
For some time, at least a couple of weeks now, I’ve had it in my head that my life might feel slightly more streamlined if I had an easily accessible place, other than the rim of the bathtub, for my collection of bubble baths. The ritual of baths, bubble or otherwise, is best left for a separate occasion.
This isn’t my first rodeo when it comes to shower caddies. We have several others in service, including one at an outdoor shower. That model is small because it must fit in the limited space between the showerhead and the hot and cold water valves, and it’s old and rusted.
Despite its decrepit state, I haven’t replaced it, because it’s my admittedly affected opinion that it does no harm for an outdoor shower to be paired with a weather-beaten caddy. It suggests rugged individualism, a patrician indifference to appearances, harkening back to the summer compounds of old, to Hyannis and Kennebunkport. Didn’t I warn you that this column would be self-indulgent?
That caddy also happens to be white, bucking the current trend toward chrome in caddy design and construction. Perhaps the first issue to be addressed is whether white and chrome are interchangeable? Does chrome draw attention to itself in the way a medicinal pearl white wouldn’t? Does it look too industrial? I came to the conclusion that the difference isn’t worth losing any sleep over.
My visit to Bed Bath & Beyond wasn’t my earliest foray in search of the ideal shower caddy. I’d purchased one at the Lowe’s in Hudson, N.Y., a few days earlier. I wasn’t thrilled with my options, so, I was not heartbroken when I absent-mindedly left it in a shopping cart in the parking lot.
The 20 bucks it cost stung — a couple of calls to customer service brought no news of some good Samaritan having returned it — however, I wasn’t completely bereft, because you shouldn’t have to settle when it comes to shower caddies.
So, what are the features of an exemplary representative of the breed? I’m less concerned it include a soap dish — most baths and showers already have soap dishes — than adequate shelf space, and distance between shelves for large, economy-size bottles of shampoo and conditioner.
There should also be a secondary shelf for things like little hotel shampoos and razors — I don’t use razors in the shower, but the ladies in the family do — but with rungs closely spaced enough to prevent them from falling through, thus forcing you to stoop to retrieve them, risking slipping and falling and breaking your neck, even though you’re not the one shaving your legs.
There should also be a hook to hang items, such as a pumice stone and a back brush or loofah.
But, here’s perhaps the most important feature a shower caddy should have, and one that I consider indispensable, even though many models don’t include them: holes built into the frame so that you can hang your bottles upside down and not waste any shampoo or conditioner when the bottle is almost spent.
If this brands me as a cheapskate, so be it. But, that raises another interesting question (assuming you’re still with me and haven’t flipped to the community board minutes or the obituaries): How much should one be willing to pay for a shower caddy? How much is too much?
I was solemnly weighing that thought as I stood before my choices at Bed Bath & Beyond. I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t bring myself to splurge on the OXO Good Grips 3-Tier Shower Caddy in aluminum, as much as I respect the OXO family of products.
By the way, the distance between the head and valves on the shower in question is substantial, so, it wouldn’t suffer from having a statement shower caddy. Also, OXO’s came without those penny-pinching holes to hang receptacles upside down. I consider that a deal breaker.
In the end, I spent $29.99 on a specimen that seems to meet all my requirements. It fits extra-tall bottles. It has holes to hang and “dispense” the shampoo bottom-up, the manufacturer resorting to euphemism so perhaps as not to impugn the miserly motives of potential customers.
There’s also a soap dish and twin hooks for hanging body-care indulgences. And the device comes with a lifetime never-rust guarantee. I’m suspicious of that claim, since I’ve never encountered a shower caddy that doesn’t eventually succumb to moisture and humidity.
More curious is a tiny hand tool, a hex wrench, included to lock the caddy in place around the showerhead. A certain amount of swing seems a given — this one doesn’t even include suction cups, which I appreciate because trying to get them to adhere to wet tile is an exercise in frustration — but I know I’ll have fun using the wrench to secure the caddy to the showerhead arm.
So, there you have it – over 1,000 words on shower caddies. Anybody still there?