“People who smoke cigarettes, they say ‘Man, you don’t know how hard it is to quit smoking.’ Yes, I do — it’s as hard as it is to start flossing.”
- Mitch Hedberg
I knew it was going to happen. Walking the last mile of The Scream, I tried to really imprint into my memory how I felt: accepting of my fate, proud of my effort, and completely, thoroughly spent. I wanted to remember because I knew a shipment of disappointment and self-criticism was in the mail, scheduled for a Tuesday delivery. Sure enough! I woke up that morning thinking, “a stronger person would have been able to run through it and hang on to at least give ac a run for his money. I had only a mile left!”
Fortunately I had a dentist appointment scheduled on Thursday. Officially I was there for a cleaning, but really it was a Moment of Truth. I felt confident I was prepared to be judged, and that the emperors of the dental colosseum would give me the ol’ thumbs up of approval. I had been training for that appointment for over a decade.
My last dental appointment was about ten years ago. Which coincidentally was around the last time I played chess. That is, until the morning after The Scream. AC, quite understandably wanting to stretch the record to 9-0 (in favor of him) challenged me to a game. It played out EXACTLY like the race: I started strong, then went defensive, then had nothing left.
Someday I’m going to beat that guy at SOMETHING.
Anyway, my teeth. I decided long ago that of the many variables of life, oral hygiene is one that I could control. The value of flossing is probably the least controversial bit of health advice out there. I didn’t know when my next dental appointment was going to be, I was just going to take care of my teeth as if all of the dentists of the world got teleported to a different dimension, presumably one with a serious cavity problem.
Five days after my failure at The Scream!, that being July 19th, at 1:45pm EST, I was handed a victory ten years in the making.
“I have been looking forward to this,” I told the hygienist. I assume she gave me an odd look. I don’t know for sure, because I’m not really an “eye contact” type of person. “I’ve been very disciplined with my flossing regimen, and I’m confident my hard work will pay off. Please, don’t hold back in your critique of my work. That is, in the unlikely event you’ll have any.”
“I’ll be brutal,” she replied in a “it’s probably best to humor this weirdo” tone of voice. Sharp objects in hand, she started digging around my teeth like an archeologist.
“Oh, and before you begin, it might be of interest to you that I have a mighty powerful gag reflex. So, there’s that.”
She did her best to make my gums bleed, but my gums said “bring it.” After a while she realized what she was up against, and redirected her efforts to what the real job was. That being mere touch-up work on the art that is my chompers.
“Tremendous,” she exclaimed in shock when finished. Yes, seriously, no poetic license here, she said “Tremendous.” The Dentist guy came in to inspect my mechanisms of mastication himself. He inspected with a quiet reverence, then said, “In all my years… I, I don’t know what to say. It is an honor, sir, an honor, to be allowed to witness such an exquisite objet d’art.” He then bowed his head and humbly offered me a toothbrush.
That’s how I remember it. I get fuzzy on details sometimes, but that was certainly the gist.
“Say,” he said, “are you that barefoot running guy? We’re on the road the same time most mornings.”
Now instead of thinking “there’s that barefoot guy” when he sees me, my dentist will think “there go the best set of chompers I’ve ever looked at with a tiny mirror.”
I guess the lesson in all of this is that while sometimes you got what it takes and sometimes you don’t, anyone can be a winner with a disciplined flossing regimen.