The usual words for last week’s cold were “brutal” or “bitter,” but I prefer “zingy” and “nippy,” and perhaps “startlingly crisp,” or maybe “a li’l taste of the godless realm of deep space, where heatless light brushes the endless expanse of lifelessness,” or perhaps “brisk.” Yes, let’s go with brisk. “Brutal, bitter, brisk, with a brusque breeze? Better buy some balm.”

I’m not talking about lip balm. What I want is face balm. What good is a little medicated wax on your mouth? The rest of your face gets nothing. Your eyes get no wax, and they’re literally liquid-covered water balloons that ought to freeze solid after a minute outside.

You know you’re supposed to dress in layers, but what does that mean for your face? A base coat of Vaseline, then a layer of Carmex, and then some Crisco if it’s really zing-nip brusque ’n’ brutal?

The only reason I bring this up, aside from giving succor to other faithful true Minnesotans who dislike extreme cold so much that they might whisper, “Oh, jeez, I’m not nuts about this” to themselves, is to raise a serious question about lip balm. Carmex or not Carmex? That is the question.

No. A few years ago I wrote something about Carmex, and the company sent me 50 tubes. I had to get rid of them, or the editors would assume I was just trolling for free stuff. Ever tried to get rid of 50 tubes of balm? It’s not like there’s a bell-ringer on every corner raising awareness for Juvenile Chapped Lips Syndrome, and I could walk up and dump 50 tubes into the kettle, after which the bell-ringer, astonished, would say “Merry Christmas to you, sir!” And some urchin would spring off his stool, and say, “God bless us every ... ouch, ouch,” because his lips cracked and it hurt.

Anyway. Someone online somewhere asked a great question: Have you ever gotten to the end of a tube of lip balm? Perhaps no one has. It’s like our inability to calculate the number of licks required to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop, except no one ever bites open a Burt’s Bees tube out of impatience.

This means there’s an astonishing amount of unused balm out there somewhere. Billions of pounds of balm. Where is it?

“In the back of the junk drawer in the kitchen,” you might say. If that’s the case, then the majority of balm produced is never used. We buy it, use a little, forget the rest. It’s basically analgesic fruitcake.

Note to the Fruitcake-Industrial complex: This is not your cue to send me 50 fruitcakes. Although if you know anyone on the Peppermint Bark Council, tell them I think it’s awful and couldn’t possibly imagine anything that would change my mind.