We Care About Teeth

 teeth picker

I always walk with my head down. It’s part low self-esteem and part amateur anthropology. I do it because I’m fascinated with stuff that gets left behind. 

I had this habit since I was a child. Back then, I remember a lot more garbage in general.  People used to toss fast food bags, beer bottles, and unwanted detritus out the window as if the world was their dumpster.  Mostly, I remember the shiny brown tangled cassette tape freed from its casings and blowing in the wind like angry Lo Mein. Then CD’s came along.  I don’t remember them being tossed as much as cassette tapes.  Maybe it’s because they were far pricier than their temperamental ill-designed predecessor. Today, music garbage is nonexistent, it’s yet another victim of the digital age.   

Back in the day, cigarette butts made up the bulk of the treasures awaiting my inspection on the asphalt.  Not so much today.  Smokers, for the most part, have been conditioned to carry on their misdeed in a designated area and when they are done they are to put the butts in a squat metal contraption that looks like it was designed to encapsulate a gnome.


Today the most ubiquitous trash is plastic tooth flossers.  I am baffled by these.  When I first spied these odd little specimens, I thought they were the work of one individual.  Yet, I kept finding them in different towns, by railroad tracks, in the library parking lot.  Could I have a dental obsessed stalker?  The answer came when I went on vacation. Lo and behold, those little plastic suckers were all over the ground in that part of the country too.  I realized then that these flossers replaced the cigarette butts.


What I wonder is who is using these?  Do they have a trove of them on their person at all times or do they pick up a few on the way out the door like car keys?  And do they pick their teeth out in the open?  In front of everyone?  I’m just curious because it seems to me flossing is on par with toenail clipping.  Sure, you could do it in public, but is it really a spectator sport?    Finally, I wonder is this a new phenomenon? Maybe people were always this gum-health obsessed but the old school floss without the plastic handle just disappeared in the wind like dandelion fronds.   


Shout Out Drugs


When your kids are young, you have a lot of control over who they choose as friends -because they are the children of your friends.  As they get older, this safe method of controlled interaction falls by the wayside.  They pick their friends, not you.  And to add insult to injury, they decide social events and socializing in general are best executed in your absence. 

This seemed to come up on me suddenly.  I took note of the erosion of control I had but it didn’t really hit home until my son decided one ordinary Friday that he was going with his friends and just needed to be dropped off.

Dropped off?  You mean somewhere not on our street? You mean out in the world?   You mean I’m supposed to stop the car, you get out, and I drive away?

I needed Valium.

As a parent you know this day is coming. And let’s be honest, there were times you fantasized about this day. There were days your kids established residence in the crack of your ass and the idea of them wandering out into the world without you seemed like a five star resort vacation.

But then they actually do it!

Good God, you think, did you prepare them enough?  I mean you talked about marijuana, but at the time they were making a Lego dinosaur.   You talked about the dangers of unprotected and casual sex but that was after a particularly saucy episode of Scooby Doo.  But now, this all seems too real. The rubber is hitting the road.  The poop is hitting the fan.  The jig is up!

As my husband pulled the car to the curb to let my son out, I looked out at the throng of teenage primordial ooze before us and I had one last bit of advice.  My son, sensing a percolating smother volcano, jumped out of the car and was now about ten feet away.  Desperate and undaunted, I shouted after him, “Don’t do heroin!”

My husband shook his head in dismay but not in disbelief.

I settled back in the passenger seat and confessed, “I saw an episode about heroin on Sixty Minutes.”

“I’m not sure you had to tell him about that now,”  he said.

“I did.  I do have to tell him now.”