I keep a clipboard next to my bed where I attach newspaper articles, snippets from magazines, photos, anything that might be an inspiration for my next column. If I still can’t think of anything funny to write by deadline, I just whack myself in the head until something dawns on me. In the past 13 years, I have done that 650 times, which should explain a lot.
On the top of the clipboard this week I inserted a little instruction pamphlet that came with a new device my dentist suggested I buy. I have several dental implements in my bathroom, all the result of Dr. Smith going to some convention in San Juan or the Sandwich Islands where he sits through lectures about flossing instead of hitting a golf course or going parasailing. He told me I needed this thingamajig because after Alyssa, the hygienist, dug away at my gums for 40 minutes last week, there was some bleeding. The doctor asked if bleeding had been a recurring problem, and I said yes – every six months when Alyssa digs away at my gums for 40 minutes.
The package arrived three days later. The box said: Hydro Floss – A New Generation of Oral Irrigators.
Yikes. This sounded like my mouth required not just a qualified dental professional, but a small team of agricultural workers, as well.
I opened the pamphlet and, as is always the case, the buyer is admonished not to use the product until all the directions have been read. There were four subsections on the first page, all related to eliminating the possibility of electrocution: DANGERS, WARNINGS, CAUTIONS and SAFEGUARDS.
These are not the kinds of words you want to see associated with a machine you are going to fill with water, plug into a wall socket and then insert into your mouth. The first caution is: Never let children use the Hydro Floss without supervision. Too bad, because with two of these gadgets, kids could have a great water fight.
In big bold print it also says: DO NOT USE WHEN DROWSY. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that how we all feel at bedtime when we are finally ready to address the needs of our teeth?
Using the Hydro Floss requires a deft touch. The manufacturers recommend that you first practice in the mirror without the water stream.
“Dick, what in heaven’s name are you doing?”
“I’m practicing cleaning my teeth. What does it look like I’m doing?”
“It looks like you’re practicing cleaning your teeth. That’s what’s weird.”
“The pamphlet says that if I don’t first do a couple of dry runs (literally), I won’t develop the proper technique and water will spray all over.”
“Dick, you have been watching yourself brush your teeth for 67 years and you still get toothpaste all over the sink, on the bathroom mirror and, unbelievably, on your slippers. So much for practice.”
The instructions say that once you feel proficient, you can fill the machine with warm water and begin. But now the manual warns you NOT to watch yourself in the mirror because, “this will cause a mess.”
Since I comb my hair and shave while looking in the mirror, I couldn’t imagine how this would be a problem. But it was. Water ended up everywhere: the floor, the mirror, all over the walls. I even got some in my mouth.
Now that I’ve learned how to use it, I can recommend the Hydro Floss. I’d also suggest you buy the two-year extended warranty. And a good mop.