Stop the Brush, I Want to Get Off

JOHN AVERY SNYDER is a junior at the Episcopal Academy, Overbrook, Pennsylvania. This is his first appearance in the ATLANTIC.

One night, in the last days of December, my brother came home from work having squandered fifteen dollars on a new toy. After unwrapping his recent acquisition, he showed us what it was. It was America’s newest practical gadget — an electric toothbrush. At first I didn’t believe my eyes. Had we really come to this?

Being one of the laziest people in the world, I had always considered it a major imposition to have to brush my teeth in the violent back-and-forth shimmying motion my dentist had recommended. My arm was not a piston, and in the wee small hours of the morning, when I was still groggy, the very idea of waking up in this manner was like that of stepping half asleep into a cold shower. This new concept in oral hygiene would avoid all that. I could now start my day with the soft purring of this dependable waterproof piece of precision equipment. The manufacturer had thought of everything. The unit was so easy to operate that even a child could use it. What could possibly go wrong?

Although it looked simple, it wasn’t. It took a good bit of skill and experience, I found, to use the machine properly. I fixed one of the four special brushes supplied with the machine in the end of its large cylindrical shaft. There was no cord. When not in use, the machine was held in a special plastic recharging stand. Having put some paste on the bristles, I pushed the button on the side of the shaft and turned the machine on. That was my first mistake. After cleaning toothpaste off the mirror, basin, wallpaper, and rug, I decided to try again. This time I placed the brush inside my mouth before turning it on. With a click of the switch, I felt an excruciating burst of pain as the plastic end of the brush jabbed into my gum several times before l could move it or could find the switch to shut it off. Slightly shaken, I proceeded to give the machine a last try. This time things were more successful. The brush worked like a dream. I was just getting to the molars in the back of my mouth when I realized that I had more plastic and machinery in my mouth than I really wanted. Just then, the brush fell out of the shaft. My head was vibrating, and everything was banging around inside my mouth.

I extracted the machine and carefully packed it back in its box. To my brother I reported what a marvelous machine it was, and how much pleasure I was sure he would get out of using it.