Wednesday, 6 May 2009

When getting serious is a laughing matter

The only up-side to being an object of derision to your wife is that you’re also a source of entertainment to her.

This became clear to me the other day when I was brushing my teeth, an activity I regard as essentially private for reasons that will become clear as you read on, and she came into the bathroom to brush her own.

‘Why do you keep glancing at your watch?’ she asked me, when she saw me doing so for the second or third time.

‘Timing myself,’ I spluttered back.

‘You’re what?’

‘TIMING myself,’ I replied, a little less indistinctly.

‘You time yourself brushing your teeth?’ She laughed as though she’d just heard a wonderful new joke. She kept laughing at regular intervals for the next few minutes.

I deferred any further comment until I had finished, preferring not to splutter my way through what was obviously going to be a long explanation.

Frankly, I don’t see what there is to laugh about. My behaviour is perfectly rational. I read some time ago that you should brush your teeth for two minutes. Now two minutes is a short time if you’re chatting with friends or watching a film, but it feels like ages when you’re brushing your teeth. I don’t know about you, but brushing my teeth that long just strikes me as a massively boring experience, and I’ve spent decades avoiding boredom.

On the other hand, brushing your teeth for 15 seconds is dead easy. Child’s play.
Within a set of teeth, there are various areas that need brushing: upper and lower, inside and out, left and right. That’s eight possible combinations. One eighth of two minutes is 15 seconds.

So there’s my system. I work my way through tooth surfaces from upper, outer, left to lower, inner, right, giving each 15 seconds. Since that short time is easy to handle, I can get through this process without dying of boredom. But I do have to check my watch from time to time to make sure everything is getting its fair share of attention.

As it happens, my new electric tooth brush has a ‘timer’ built in. What this means is that after two minutes it stutters, stopping momentarily two or three times in rapid succession. I loathe this ‘enhancement’. I can’t get used to it. Every time it happens, I think the brush has stopped working, before I realise it’s the ‘timer’ kicking in. My method seems much pleasanter.

There may be people out there who regard my apparent obsessive-compulsive behaviour as anally retentive. I can’t help thinking that something like that lay behind Danielle’s hilarity. But she and they are wrong.

It’s dentally retentive.

1 comment:

Amynah said...

It's nice to know that after several decades together you can still surprise one another!