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Whittling Away: Where did white paint go?

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Headshot of a man named Dick Brooks.

I went to the hardware store the other day. My mission was simple — buy some white paint. Little did I realize that I was biting off more than I could chew without a degree in decorating. 

They used to make white paint. I have some old cans in the cellar that actually say “white” on them. Paint was available in all the primary colors. My short-term memory may have gone the way of my nehru jacket but my long-term memory gets better as I age, in fact I can now remember things clearly that never happened, but I do remember asking for black paint and getting a can handed to me. The same for blue, green and so on. 

My quest for white paint, however, crashed upon the shoals of decorating diversity. Did I want Egg-Shell White, Arctic Winter White, Fish Belly White, Grandma’s New Bloomers White, or the 40 different shades of the ever-popular Off White? 

I realized that I may be in over my head, said I needed a moment to muse about it and wandered off down the aisle.

Maybe I was too hasty attempting this on my own. I called the Queen into consultation. She told me to bring home the color charts with whites on them. I gathered an armful of the little color sample slips and staggered off home. 

There were 37 different whites. How wise I was not to attempt this choice alone! My Queen quickly weeded out the lesser whites and taped the selected ones all over the area to be painted.  After a week or so of discussion and decision making the selection was made — Navajo White.

I returned to the hardware store armed with my solo color chip and ordered a gallon of Navajo White. No problem — the clerk looked up the magic formula, squirted nine different colors into the can, shook it for the allotted amount of time and presto — Navajo White!

On my way home I had time to ponder — who makes up these color names anyway? How does one get to become a color namer, and does it pay well? Are they proud of what they do, do they stick their chests out and proudly declare, “I’m a color namer!” or do they hide what they do from family and friends? How do they come up with the thousands of names required, and is there a lot of stress involved? Will there be a reality show based on their profession?

I glanced over at my can of Navajo White paint and wondered how it came to be named.  Frankly, I can’t think of anything about the Navajo or his life that has anything to do with the color white. Was it the last white of the day to be named and the namer just came out with the first thing that came to his or her mind or was there an unknown story here? I guess I’ll never know.

Upon reaching the castle, I pried the lid off and looked into the can. It was just as I had suspected. There inside, in spite of all the names it had hidden behind, was my old friend — White Paint.

I cheerfully went to work with my brush until I remembered that I needed to go get some blue paint for the trim.

Thought for the week — I signed up for an exercise class and was told to wear loose-fitting clothing. If I had any loose-fitting clothing, I wouldn’t have signed up in the first place!

Until next week, may you and yours be happy and well.

Reach columnist Dick Brooks at whittle12124@yahoo.com.

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