One would think after all these years and all the practice I’ve had, I’d be able to do something as simple as brushing my teeth without causing myself harm. After all, it’s a simple procedure, satisfying for sure, and dare I say relaxing for some depending on one’s approach and state of mind going into the event.
Generally, I’m able to execute all the steps of the process without incident, my pearly whites (or as it were at this stage of my life, “eggshell whites”) exiting the bathroom feeling clean, my breath minty fresh and my tongue scraped free of whatever it is that accumulates on one’s tongue between sessions. (I don’t even want to know.)
In cooking terms, brushing one’s teeth is the equivalent of being able to successfully boil water.
If you’re into sports analogies, it’s a wide-open layup or
a tap-in putt. But sometimes, even with actitivies so routine, so habitual, so automatic, things don’t go as planned.
Saturday morning I was up early, following my normal weekend routine: put the dog out, make a cup of coffee, read a bit, maybe write down a few things that had been occupying that place in my brain where important stuff is supposed to live, put on my running clothes and meet my three buddies for an early five-miler (give or take), followed by an hour of more coffee and “shooting the breeze” (as my dad used to say) before we all headed back to our respective homes to see what Saturday had in store for us.
ASIDE: That was a long sentence, with several parentheticals, yet it reads surprising well if I do say so myself.
The day started perfectly, as I checked off all the appropriate Saturday morning “boxes” without so much as a hiccup. As I sipped my coffee and read my book (a new memoir by Flea, the bassist for The Red Hot Chili Peppers), Sadie sat next to my chair, waiting for nothing in particular, except maybe an occasional scruff on the head, which I gave her every time I turned a page.
Twenty minutes later, I realized it was actually 35 minutes later (i.e., I had lost track of time; it’s a good book), and I needed to get moving so I wouldn’t be late. (Our running group shoves off at 6:00 a.m. sharp, and if you ain’t there, we leave without you, no questions asked, no exceptions.)
I closed my book, gave Sadie one last scruff and finished my coffee. Right on cue, Sadie headed for the stairs on her way back to bed, where she’d sleep until Joan got up.
Even though time was tight, I needed to brush my teeth before I left, not out of respect for my three running buddies (they’d laugh in my face if I told them I brushed for their benefit), but there’s something weird to me about leaving the house in the morning without brushing, even if it’s just to go for a run or walk.
Knowing I was tight on time, and not wanting to be left in the dust because I showed up at 6:01 (we’ll leave without you even if we KNOW you’re on your way), I rushed to the bathroom, oozed some toothpaste on the brush and started scrubbing.
You know how people say you should never go to bed mad? I’m not sure if that’s true, but one thing I do know: you should never brush your teeth when you’re in a hurry.
But that’s exactly what I did Saturday. And I paid for it dearly.
You know that spot where your gums meet the inside of your cheek directly under your eye? Well, midway through the operation, that’s exactly where I jammed the head of the toothbrush in my haste to get out the door.
And since we’re into comparisons and analogies today’s, it was like my mouth’s version of hitting my funny bone or stubbing my pinkie toe on the leg of the patio table. Or to revisit early analogies, like my favorite player missing a wide-open layup or whiffing on a two-foot “gimme” putt.
I won’t try to describe the pain, but I will tell you that it may my eye water, and now, two days later, it still hurts, and I’m pretty sure there’s a bruise up there. What’s even worse is that, at the time it occurred, I couldn’t scream out in pain (or anger) to release some of what I was feeling (physically and emotionally), because it was 5:50 a.m. on a Saturday, and I’m guessing anything like that would have been either 1) misinterpreted as an emergency or 2) unappreciated by Joan, who still had at least 90 minutes of sleep remaining (like most normal, sane human beings would on a Saturday).
I couldn’t even silently – and violently – punch the air (my “go-to” in situations like this) because even that seems to bring with it a noise that can carry throughout a dark, silent house.
In short (and I’m guessing you’ve already figured this out), it hurt like hell. Further, it made me angry at myself because it was preventable if I had just not taken this routine, habitual, “automatic” thing for granted, and had taken my time and done it right.
Will it cause any long-lasting damage? No. Was it life-threatening. Certainly not. But there is a bigger lesson in here somewhere, one I really don’t feel like exploring at this point. I’ll just assume that as an intelligent person, you’ve already sussed it out and are likely moving on with your day, already taking good care when you’re brushing – and flossing, let’s not forget that critical part of the process – and not taking other things for granted; things more important than layups and short putts.
But from a literal sense, let me just say this: for your sake, and more importantly, for your mouth’s sake …
… DON’T RUSH THE BRUSH.
(Any of you dentists out there can use that as a slogan for free; I’m thinking of having bumper stickers made.)
If you’re wondering, I made it in time to meet my running buddies, so all was not lost. And though they probably didn’t even notice, I had fresh breath and clean teeth when I arrived.
© 2020 David R. Haznaw