Vegetable/Black Pepper

Alice and I spent a very nice several days in Chicago for our winter get-away. We’ve been trying to do this every year since retirement. We board the dog, hope the furnace keeps working so the pipes don’t freeze, lock the door and drive away.

We stayed in a recently renovated hotel on Michigan Ave, just a few blocks from the Chicago Art Institute. Based on what we saw online when we were searching for a place to stay, we felt like customer service would be important to these folks. We were right. They had very personable people that took charge of our car when we arrived, the front desk was helpful and courteous, and our room was “cozy” but very nice. The desk clerk told us it would be cozy when she was trying to get us to upgrade to a larger room. We politely declined.

I did get a kick out of the bathroom amenities. The soap was nicely wrapped, and labelled as “vegetable soap.” The shampoo was “black pepper.” Really? Did they mean vegetable as in no neural activity? Or that they added grated carrots to the soap vat at the factory? Did the shampoo vat have a liberal shake from the pepper box prior to bottling? I guess the idea was to make us feel that the soap other people would use for things like washing their hands was just not good enough for us… that people on the street would notice a hint of carrot juice mingled with the soap smell, and realize that someone special was sharing the walkway with them.

I was reminded of this during a phone call between myself and Steve the other day. Steve and John are the new owners of a home near Morgantown, WV. The house needed some sprucing up, so Steve and John entered the needy rooms armed with paint color swatches. The irony of all this was not lost on either one of us, because one trait Steve and I share is neither of us can pass the color test when we get our eyes examined. Steve told me the names of some of the choices they were confronted with. They had settled on some sort of brown for the rooms, but were having trouble deciding among several choices… colors like Brass Patina, Brevity Brown, Bronze Eucalyptus, Brown Bread, Cashmere Glow, Cavern Clay, Copper Mountain and Distant Thunder.

Perhaps if I had better color sight these things would make more sense to me. I can imagine the following conversation among paint choosing couples…

“I agree that Brass Patina would go better with the curtains, but wouldn’t a more Brown Bread sort of color catch the hues of an orange sunrise better?”

If I understand the science (which I probably don’t,) a paint color can be described by the percentages of red, green, and blue, with hue and saturation values added. And when we are talking about moving from Brass Patina to Brown Bread, aren’t we really talking about changing these values? How about this for a name for the wall color under discussion?

90% 17% 31% 348° 78% 53% 81% 90%

(according to the Wiki article on color names, this one describes Amaranth.)

Instead of carrying color swatches into a room, you’d carry a laptop with dials to change the 8 parameters, adjust those dials until just the right compromise was reached between sunrise and curtains, and order the paint. The paint would not have a catchy name. When guests arrived, they might say,

“I love the color of your walls. What color is it?”

You could sniff just a just little tiny bit of superiority and say,

“90% 17% 31% 348° 78% 53% 81% 90%”

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