The Public Eye

printed 06/08/2018

I’m not allowed to do the shopping at our house because of my inability to abide by our household Magna (grocery) Carta. These are rules that must be obeyed at any grocery or retail establishment, with the exception of tackle shops and hardware stores, which, as we all know, are the demilitarized zones of male impulse buying.

Otherwise, the rules are (1.) Read the labels; (2.) Check the unit prices; (3.) Use coupons; (4.) Do not be distracted by product packaging, as in going to the store for bread, only to spy something cool or shiny and buy it for no reason. (4a.) Example: Billy Bob’s Individually Wrapped Chili Beans.

Under extreme circumstances, I am permitted to make emergency runs, as was the case when I was spotted heading for the bathroom with Vice-Grips to address a dwindling supply of toothpaste.

“GO … TO … THE … STORE.”

Which I did with some excitement, until I entered the bewildering and confoundingly complex Aisle of Oral Hygiene, a feng shui world of mandibular and maxillary marketing from C (Colgate) to shining C (Crest), with lesser members of the club in between.

Here’s the thing: a normal person has 32 teeth, while Colgate and Crest by themselves offer 104 different varieties. This means we, or maybe you, since I had a couple yanked to help my dentist with his Go Fund My Lexus Campaign, could brush each tooth three times with a different toothpaste and have enough left over to fight tooth decay in the Philippines.

Yes, that island nation has the worst oral hygiene in the world, according to Dentists Money Digest, while we are obsessed — obsessed, I tell you — with White, Bright White, Extreme White, Optic White, Optic White Radiant, Optic White Express, Sparkling White, Ultra White, 3D White, 3D White Brilliant, 3D White Luxe and 3D White Diamond Strong.

And this is just one row, because also available are Pro-Health (as opposed to anti-health, I suppose), Gum Health, Enamel Health, Stain-Fighting, Good Breath, Minty Breath, Cinnamon Breath, Deep Clean, Fair-to-Middlin’ Clean, Touchy Tooth Sensitive and, lastly, toothpaste that’s anti-cavity.

You walk in to buy one simple tube of toothpaste, but find that you need a degree in chemistry and a color chart that shows, incongruously, the various degrees of white, or at least the difference between Ultra, Optic, 3D and Extreme.

White is white, I say. If I go to a clothing store to buy a white shirt, I expect it to be white, as in not even a trace of any color. It’s not as if I’m going into a drug store and saying, “I’m looking for something in an Oyster Shell White, or perhaps a Snowflake.” It’s toothpaste, not Sherwin-Williams.

And about this 3D White business — will people need special glasses to see my teeth at their best and, if so, will an image of my biters be projected out into the audience to “oohs” and “aahs?”

As I worked my way down the aisle, my cell phone rang and I put it to my ear.

“Where are you? You’ve been gone for four hours!”

“I know. I’m reading the labels and I’m now between Super Glow Tooth Rust Inhibitor and Superbly Sensitive.”

“Just buy something.”

“I will, just don’t expect me for dinner.”

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