It’s amazing what we become conditioned to, what we unconsciously learn to accept. I can’t think of a time when the preponderance of crushed, singed, and otherwise mutilated cigarette butts scattered willy-nilly offended my sense of propriety—an inexplicable given, like the inescapability of wild dandelions or Weezer’s improbable post-90s career.
Meet the new scourge—not the same as the old scourge. Little. Angular. Plastic. Possessed of a taut, threaded string. Not even remotely biodegradable. Available in a wide array of vivid, eye-gouging colors. Yes, I speak of micro-flossers, those oh-so handy enablers of good, on-the-go dental hygiene that permit the time-challenged and orally-obsessed to clean between molars and incisors between meetings or en route to romantic encounters. Once upon a time, the average person engaged in an age-old dental ritual before leaving the house: brush, floss, rinse. The Holy Trinity, if you like. (The advent of bleaching strips has complicated everything.)
Now, dental hygiene has become like coiffure primping or earwax removal or nose-picking: something to do when driving or wandering the streets or waiting for concert tickets. And the stuff you’ve extracted? That stuff is gross, globs of chicken and bits of corn and plaque and a sort of unidentifiable gelatin consisting of everything you’ve eaten since last Tuesday; there it is, all over the flosser in your hand, challenging the zippy aesthetic qualities of this mass-produced marvel. So you sort of casually stiffen the arm holding the flosser and just, you know, drop it, and shift into that conspicuous/inconspicuous shuffle the guilty adopt when they’re attempting to elude criticism for breaking a societal code. And sure, nobody saw you do it, but the evidence is piling up everywhere, albeit slowly. Gradually. But that’s how every scourge starts. Novelty begets ubiquity so quickly it’ll make your head spin—unless you’re flossing in your rearview mirror.