A lesson from a blue hairdryer

One day the ladies in the household decided they’ve had it with our handheld hairdryer, which was indeed weak and ailing. So I went to buy a new one, and decided to follow my first principle for tool acquisition: always buy the most professional, high-quality tool you can afford – it will repay the expense many times over!

I asked the appliance store guy for his best tool, and he offered me a sturdy blue unit that, he said, was what professional hairdressers (sorry, hair styling artists) use. The wattage on the label was indeed higher than any I’ve seen before. I brought it home proudly, only to discover the next day that it was no good to anyone there.

This was a new one for me: how can a tool that professionals prefer be useless to an amateur? In my world of engineering and DIY projects, this would be unthinkable. What difference can it make? A hairdryer is a hairdryer, after all.

Here’s the difference: the hairdryer is a hairdryer, but the hairdresser uses it to dry hair that is on someone else’s head! When you dry your own hair, the dryer must be short enough to fit between your hand and your skull; when you dry someone else you can just step back. The professional tool was longer, not much but just enough to make it awkward to use on oneself.

So, a lesson: always keep an open mind and challenge your own assumptions on the way a design fits its intended use. These errors seem obvious in retrospect – always in retrospect…

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