I recently attended a business seminar. After lunch was served, I had about 30 minutes to talk with, and be introduced to, a few potential new clients. It was an excellent opportunity to do a little networking and glad-handing.
Just before the afternoon seminar session was scheduled to begin, I visited the men’s room, and quietly congratulated myself for being so polished and suave while schmoozing with those new acquaintances. As I walked into the men’s room, I glanced over at the mirror and noticed a piece of dark green spinach completely covering a front tooth. I looked like Alfred E. Newman with glasses.
“Rats!” I exclaimed. (I may have used a slightly different word than “rats.”) “Has that stupid thing been on my stupid tooth the whole stupid time?!” (I may have used a slightly different word than “stupid.”) No wonder the people I had just met were smiling at everything I said: they were on the verge of busting out laughing.
When I returned to the conference room, I went over to one of my clients, who is a good friend, and sternly whispered, “Hey buddy, why the heck didn’t you tell me I had some stuff on my teeth?!” (I may have used slightly different words than “buddy,” “heck” and “stuff.”)
He shrugged his shoulders and said, “I dunno. I wasn’t sure how to tell you. Besides, it looked pretty funny.”
“Well, from now on,” I said, “just be blunt. If something like that happens again, just say so right to my face.”
“You mean like if your fly is unzipped?” he asked.
“Exactly,” I replied.
“OK. Your fly is unzipped.”
I glanced down and again exclaimed something that wasn’t quite “Rats.” I had been so flustered in the men’s room at the sight of the Tooth from the Black Lagoon, I had neglected to zip up before leaving. Not surprisingly, I spent the rest of the seminar wondering why asteroids never come smashing through the roof and hit you in the head at 2,000 mph when you really need them.
After this exercise in abject embarrassment, I started wondering why people are so reluctant to offer a bit of hygiene assistance in these situations. After all, when we gather together in social settings, there’s always a lot of talking, and often some eating, which can lead to certain undesirable conditions. Some of the more common, in technical terms, are: spinachia bicuspidus (Tooth from the Black Lagoon), nasal secretus elasticus (dangling booger), and halitosis canis profundo (wicked doggie breath).
At a recent family gathering, I asked my relatives why people are so reluctant to offer hygiene assistance to their fellow man. It turns out the operative word here is “man.” All the women surveyed said if they were in a similar situation, they’d immediately pull the other person aside and remedy the spinach-tooth problem. Some even displayed special dental tools, carefully stored among 4,000 other essential items carried at all times in their purses.
All the men, however, said they would do exactly what my friend did at that business seminar: nothing. My brother-in-law explained, “You’d be angry at me if I told you.”
“I’d be angry if you DIDN’T tell me,” I replied.
“But you’d be MORE angry at me if I were the one to say something.”
“Yeah, that’s true,” I admitted. “But eventually I’d get over it.”
“I have a better idea,” he said. “Keep stuff off your teeth.” (He may have used a slightly different word than “stuff.”)
Exasperated, I got up and began to walk out of the room.
“Hey Bill,” my brother-in-law said. “Your fly is unzipped.”
He was right. But I punched him anyway.