Inside Doug's Head

I am not a number, I am… What's that stuff they make glue out of? I'm that. Forever swirling, forwards and upwards, but always sticky. Sometimes, a little sad.

At a recent visit to the dentist for my decennial checkup, he asked me how often I flossed. “You mean that stupid kid’s dance with the flappy arm thing? Never, I never do that, ever.”

Shame set in immediately, for certainly it was a lie. Sometimes I do a little floss, especially if I have been drinking, which is often, or riding on the bus, which is rarely. For the dentist, take him for all in all, the answer should have been, “Occasionally.”

He made a sad face as he proceeded to explain to me what he meant by flossing, running little bits of waxed ligature between your teeth for the purposes of avoiding a lecture from your dentist.

“Oh, that.” Since I genuinely felt bad about telling him the first lie, I tried to answer him as truthfully and obtusely as possible. “I usually only do that after eating some kind of corn.”

“Corn?” He kind of tightened up all over, like he was steeling himself in preparation for something awfully bad.

“Yeah, corn. Cobbed, kernelled, popped, or flaked. After eating corn, I have to floss get the extra bits out of my teeth. I don’t like corn, so I don’t eat it very often. Maybe once in a while, every so often, now and then.” Nailed it! Direct and to the point, as usual.

For some reason, I thought a lot about cats as I mentally zoned out during the inevitable and unnecessarily lengthy scolding I received regarding my imperfect oral hygiene practices. Yeah, cats, right? Weird. Must be some sort of psychological thing. I just kept picturing cats and their teeth, wondering how they floss or brush. Especially the pointy ones. How do they clean those? Cats have no opposable thumbs, so holding a toothbrush, even a good electric one, is out of the question. Maybe I should invent a line of dental products just for cats. Toothbrushes with paw-friendly grips on them, and fish flavored toothpaste. Would that be a good business opportunity?

My internal monolog was rudely interrupted by the dentist. “Are you listening to me?”

Deliberately recalcitrant, “No, not really, I wasn’t listening, I was thinking about… something else, something really important that you wouldn’t understand.” I didn’t trust him to not pilfer my ideas on cat dentistry.

“I brush at least two or three times a day, I haven’t had a cavity since I was ten, and that was a very long time ago, so I don’t see the need for all the drama over flossing.”

He looked like he wanted to hit me. Either this topic was really important to him, or he just wanted to hit me. Greg and I get that reaction from time to time. He inhaled sharply to berate me, but I interjected before he could get all wound up and ready to go.

“My dad flossed twice a day, every day, ever since he had teeth, and what good did that do him?

“That’s a little bit of an exaggeration, because he obviously had to wait until scientists cracked the string code and floated the idea of using it for teeth cleaning past a few focus groups, but… Still, he flossed, a lot, and often, and in the end he didn’t get to keep his teeth.”

The dentist had a pained expression on his face, like he was holding in gas from a wet bean burrito he had unwisely eaten the day before. Taco trucks are just one of the many ways we mortgage our future. It was obvious that his brain was attempting to override his physical desire to have sex with me. Or, hit me. Look, I misread a lot of social situations, but it was clear that he needed closure on my anecdote.

“After he died, my dad was cremated, so his well-flossed teeth are of no use to him now, are they?”

Dejected and defeated, the dentist blurted the imperative, “Please leave my office.”

That I gleefully did, and as I was walking out the door, I had only one thought:

Victory is mine!


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