Saturday, July 31, 2010

Our most pleasant poison

My wife was furious. The kids wouldn’t take the poison. They cried. They screamed.
“Please! Please, Mommy, don’t make us do it!”
I’d had enough. I dragged them both into the bathroom and roughly put the poison in their mouths.
Then I took them to bed, knelt down and did a soulless auctioneer’s version of the “if I should die before I wake” prayer.
Finally, the house was at peace.
Just another night of trying to get the kids to brush their teeth with the only poison we put right in our mouths.
It’s true. It’s there on every single toothpaste dispenser.
“WARNINGS: Keep out of the reach of children under 6 years of age. If more than used for brushing is accidentally swallowed, get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center.”
Every tube of toothpaste contains enough poison fluoride to kill a deer. 
I thought I’d read or written newspapers stories about every single way a human being choose to end his or her life. There’s self-severed arteries, hanging, automotive involvement -- daily gore galore.
Yet, I’ve never once seen a story of authorities finding a sweet-smelling corpse that OD’d on Crest.
Wouldn’t be a bad way to go, you’d think.
I’ve been sentimental about toothpaste lately because I finally emptied my favorite 8-year-old toothpaste. Some fine whiskeys are considered premium after just seven years.
The toothpaste in my dispenser was 8. It had a heady aroma, a piquant aftertaste and what wine enthusiasts call “a good nose.”
It was a pharmaceutical sort of souvenir I purchased at a chain drug store down along the Riverwalk in San Antonio, a town you can really sink your teeth into.
I was about 12 before I realized the common toothbrush wasn’t made from precious metals. That’s because whenever I left home for the night, my mother would always say, “Don’t forget your toothbrush!”
She never said, “Don’t forget to brush your teeth!”
The emphasis was on having it on my person, as if it were some magic talisman that would ward off vampires and other boogiemen. That could have been true because I never did forget my toothbrush and was never troubled by otherworldly evils.
But one day I came to realize that a cheap toothbrush could be had for about $2 and most hotels gave them away for free if you said you forgot your own.
Same with toothpaste. 
I don’t know why I felt compelled to buy a plastic dispenser of Colgate toothpaste on the Riverwalk, but I’m going to do it again next time I go someplace splendid like San Antonio.
This was my travel toothpaste. I kept it in my suitcase and later at my Mom’s when I started spending more time there.
I’ve known this toothpaste four years longer than I’ve known my second daughter. She’s a good kid, but there’s something to be said about enduring familiarity.
And every time I’d brush my teeth I’d think about the fine time we had there in San Antonio in 2002. It’s a great town and Riverwalk may be the best city amenity of any town in America. And nearby The Alamo is a stirring shrine to heroism and an oddly inspiring name for a popular rental car company.
Why any business would want to associate itself with historic slaughter is a mystery. But Alamo seems to be doing well. Who knows? Maybe one day some entrepreneur is going to make a fortune franchising Pearl Harbor Dry Cleaners.
The Colgate really became special to me in October 2005. That’s when the toothpaste reached what it said was its expiration date.
I never pay the least bit of attention to expiration dates.
They are a corporate ploy to get us all to toss perfectly fine products and run out and buy more. Things like toothpaste aren’t like milk. They don’t go bad. If anything, the lethal capabilities of the poison are likely to diminish.
So for the past five years or so every time I used a pea-sized drop of toothpaste I’d feel like I was giving the finger to the greedy shills at Colgate-Palmolive HQ in New York.
It’s been empty, as empty as toothpaste can be, for a month now and it still perfumes the air with minty freshness with just a little squeeze.
So all hail toothpaste!
In a world riddled with so much toxic violence, it’s nice to know there’s at least one poison so pleasant that every day it does something dazzling to brighten all our smiles.


lexcade said...

you're so funny. another brilliant little look into what most of us never even think about.

i'll be brushing my teeth a bit more cautiously tonight ;)

Chris Rodell said...

I'm e-blushing at your flattery, lexcade. Thanks so much. That's very kind of you. I hope you'll share with friends.

And remember: just a pea-sized dab of toothpaste will do the trick. Keep on smilin'!