Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Toothbrushing Adventure

What could be more ordinary and routine than the ritual of brushing your teeth? Folks like me, who can remember vacuum tubes and cars that didn’t always work, have performed this routine so often than we’ve got every move perfectly choreographed. I know exactly how many twists of the wrist it takes to remove the toothpaste tube cap, precisely how much pressure (and how long) I must apply to get the perfect blob of toothpaste on my toothbrush, and I automatically move my hands to manipulate that brush to traverse every square millimeter of toothly surface. In other words, brushing my teeth is a totally mindless activity that I’ve completely reduced to practice. It’s been a long time since brushing my teeth was an adventure, with new things to learn and surprising experiences.

Until last night.

You see, a few days ago my lovely bride decided that we needed new toothbrushes. And she was right — our old brushes had bristles that were just barely discernable, and the handles were bent at odd angles from all the pressure we’d applied. So she got us some dandy new brushes, and last night was only the third or fourth time I’d used them. And I liked these new brushes, with their funny rubbery “bristles” that seemed to work very well at cleaning the crevices between my teeth.

But I was unprepared for the surprise that awaited me last night. About halfway through my toothbrushing ritual, sleepy, and not paying much attention … suddenly my toothbrush was vibrating! WTF!?!? Can you imagine the shock I felt, immersed in my familiar, comfortable routine, when my toothbrush takes the initiative? What the hell kind of toothbrush takes over the ritual on its own?

The results were much as you might expect. The toothbrush ended up in the shower. The mirror over the vanity was thoroughly sprayed with a suspension of toothpaste, water, and saliva. My ears were ringing from the loud noise I must have made. And Debbie was wondering what prompted such odd goings-on.

After I cleaned up the mess, I tracked down my toothbrush and gave it a thorough inspection. As I was pondering the problem of locating a toothbrush exorcist, I noticed that the toothbrush handle had a couple of little raised dots, one marked with a “+” and the other with a “-”. And sure enough, if you click on these buttons the toothbrush starts and stops vibrating. Ah ha! My toothbrush was not possessed!

Debbie had no idea that she’d purchased such advanced toothbrush technology. She just set out to buy new toothbrushes, and she thought these looked like serviceable examples when she saw them on the shelves at the market. And why not? They look like slightly unusual variants of an ordinary toothbrush, albeit with a slightly fatter-than-usual handle — but that just looked like it would be easy to grip (which it is). Neither of us suspected we’d be ambushed by our toothbrush.

Adventures in toothbrushing. You just never know where an adventure is lurking…

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