Whether we like to admit it or not, humans are creatures of habit and ritual. From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep we have these little rituals that we like to follow. Some of these rituals have been taught to us while others have been developed personally. All of these habits have been molded and shaped by our individual life experiences so they will differ person to person but I don't know a single individual that lives without them.
Acquiring coffee in the morning is a good example that applies to most people. We each have our particular way or ways that we get coffee. If you make your own then you have special procedures that you follow. Of course since you haven't yet had coffee yet the outcome can vary slightly but the spirit of the ritual remains. That's the problem with making coffee; you need to be awake but the coffee helps you wake up. I suppose that's why so many people decide to have someone make there coffee for them.
The point that I'm trying to make (aside that I like coffee) is that we have rituals that we all follow and that when you travel or otherwise remove yourself from your familiar environment these rituals are disrupted. Coping with a new environment where you have to adapt your daily rituals can be a challenge but nowhere is this more so than when you are traveling. Now, I'm not talking about being at a hotel but actually being on the road en route to your destination.
On a day when I travel time becomes an illusion, what was night becomes day and you start to lose track of things temporally. The body becomes confused as you change your eating and sleeping patterns to sometimes comical ends. Some will claim that jet lag is a myth but I can assure you that this is not the case. Still there are some bodily functions that appear to continue unhindered by changes in timezone or climate. Specifically hair keeps growing. It doesn't matter if the sun never rises or sets; hair just keeps growing and I haven't noticed any variations due to jet lag.
For men who shave this means that the need to shave remains present even though our normal routines have been disrupted and it is often no longer convenient to do so. Most of the time I can put off shaving on a travel day. I usually try to shave the night before a trip as to avoid shaving at 3AM without the aid of coffee, but by the end of the day I'm usually feeling quite rough and ready for a shave. Sadly though I'm often too tired and put off shaving to the next morning.
Before I had given the topic much thought I would ever so often see men shaving in airport restrooms, usually with some sort of electric razor. I thought that someone would have to be quite hard core to need to shave in an airport and I figured that I would never get to that point.
I also wondered about the choice of an electric razor as electric razors don't get along well with my face. It is however a well known fact that everyone is a beautiful snowflake, I suppose it is just fine for those "other" travelers.
All of my thoughts on the topic quickly came to the forefront of my mind when I was assigned a short notice trip to fly to Spain. After an 18 hour or so journey I was to meet a distributor and then go on to the site. I couldn't very well show up and meet a distributor without having shaved for some 25 or so hours. My beard does go quite quickly and I tend to look rather shaggy rather quickly. Some people say I have an 8AM shadow, it can be pretty rough. So in order to avoid looking like a I've spent a week in the woods I'd have to shave during my layover in the Copenhagen airport.
I packed a packet of shaving cream that I received from a hotel the month before and a two blade disposable razor. Once I landed in Copenhagen I made for the restroom and went to work. I used a small plastic cup from the restroom as a rinse cup and did the best I could. It wasn't elegant, it wasn't completely familiar and it was by far not the best shave I've had but somehow it made me feel better after the long flight. Looking at the number of variables involved in shaving in an airport (water content, water temperature, equipment, shaving cream, etc.) it's amazing that I did as well as I did.
Since that trip to Spain four and a half years ago I have had the chance to shave in airports a couple more times and I've revised my equipment and procedures a bit. In the past year or so I have taken to a more traditional wet shaving approach thanks to my friends at Badger and Blade. I now carry a traditional shaving brush and a container of shaving soap with me where ever I go. I also have a double edged razor from the late 50s, it's a 1959 red tip Super Speed for those that want to know, that I travel with but it does take double edged blades which can not go through security checks without seriously bending the rules . For those times that my checked bags get lost or when I need to shave in an airport I do carry single blade and twin blade disposable razors with me.
The procedure of shaving in an airport is similar to that in a non public place except that I'm shaving without the comfort of hot water. I'll try to find a quiet restroom if possible and then set up my shaving gear once I have cleaned up the basin as best as I can. While I'm doing this I'll put some water on my soap and soften it up a bit. After wetting my face I'll wet my brush and work it into my softened soap.
This soap will be lathered into my beard. This is probably when I get the most odd looks as someone lathering with a brush is no longer a common site. Once my beard is nice and soft I'll shave as normal, then I rinse my face, lather again and shave in a different direction (multiple pass method). I have by this time made quite a mess and lost track of time but I'm always sure to clean up after myself. Despite this odd site of someone shaving with a brush no one has been curious enough about my habit to ever ask me about it.
When all is said and done I always feel much better after a shave while traveling. I did have one exceptional airport shaving experience in Denver, I think there is something in the water in Denver that makes for a great shave. Perhaps it was that I was too tired to notice the actual quality of the shave and my mind has made it to be better than it actually way.
On a recent trip I encountered a man that was so desperate for a shave that he was using the provided hand soap to shave with. Hand soap isn't meant for the face and I felt compelled to offer him some proper shaving soap as I am in the habit of helping out fellow travelers when I can (The Code I Travel By). I figured that rubbing some shaving soap on his face even without a brush had to be a better option than harsh hand soap. He kindly refused as he satisfied with the results that he was getting. I only washed my face with hand soap once, it didn't turn out well. I sure hope his face was OK the next day.
As for me I will continue to shave in airports as long as I'm traveling. I'll keep looking for new lathering options though but for the time being I'm satisfied with the setup that I have. I did see a mention of shaving soap leaves on another blog and I have to admit that I am more than a little curious. Perhaps a review of that product may be in the cards in the future, we shall see.
Have you tried shaving soap leaves? Have you shaved in an airport? Do you have an interesting airport/shaving story?
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Coming Soon: That Time I Lost my Passport