Warning: This post contains strong language and disturbing images that might be offensive to some visitors. Reader discretion is advised.
I have an affliction. It’s called the I Hate To Brush My Teeth Away From Home Affliction, and here’s how it works: It doesn’t matter if I’m at a relative’s house or spending the night in a spotless, $500-a-night hotel room, I’ll gag and almost puke whenever I brush my teeth while standing in front of a strange sink.
It makes me so crazy that I don’t even want to go anywhere, and when I’m forced to leave the house, that last trip to the bathroom just before bedtime is approached with fear and dread.
How did this happen to me? I have a few theories:
- As a child, our summer vacations to the beach were spent at a motel that had such horrible, sulfur-smelling water that the foul odor made me sick to my stomach.
- That time when I had an abscess in my gum and had to spit blood and gore into my dentist’s chair-side bowl of swirling horror.
- That time I personally witnessed a co-worker standing at the urinal, holding his johnson with one hand while brushing his teeth with the other, and then spitting into the urinal.
- That time as a homeowner when I had to clean out the drain and yanked up a soapy, toothpaste-tinged wad of stringy hair that caused my eyes to water and turned my bowels to jelly.
But whatever the root of my affliction, it has screwed me up for life. Even the thought of familial hair and toothpaste slime is bad enough, but my symptoms grow that much worse when I stand in front of a strange sink and ponder all the unknown, unspeakable filth that’s spiraled down the alien hole that’s right in front of me.
In the hotel bathroom, I’ll listen to the sound of the water as it whirlpools menacingly around the glazed porcelain hellhole before sluicing past Crest-speckled stalactites of Stranger Hair that are surely suspended from the drain plug, just out of sight. I’ll stand there thinking about the gurgling P-trap of horror while I brush my molars, the volume of foam and saliva swelling inside my mouth until it can no longer be contained by pursed lips and threatens to erupt from my mouth and cascade down my chin. I’ll feel the hot, open-faced turkey sandwich I had for dinner start to rise up my esophagus like superheated steam from a fracking well, and I’ll know then that it’s either spit or explode. I’ll lower my face toward that gurgling maw and spit, trying not to watch as one tiny bit of broccoli spirals away to join the liver-and-onions residue left there by last night’s guest.
There I’ll be, trembling, red-faced and blinking, knowing that any extracurricular habits of good hygiene, like brushing my tongue, are out of the question. My saliva glands are still spewing like the overworked bilge pumps on the Titanic, and now I’m moving toward the toilet in case dinner finally explodes past my lips in a tsunami of filth.
I hang onto the towel bar for support. Finally, the shuddering deep breaths are helping. Another thing that helps is the thought that if I puke, I’ll just have to brush my teeth all over again.
I finish my recovery in the darkened hotel room, weeping silently into my pillow and hoping my wife doesn’t notice. Some things are too private, even after 30+ years of marriage.
My last thought before sleep takes me is that tomorrow will bring another horrific day, one filled with more strange sinks and more vomit-choked spitting. It’s all enough to drive me batshit crazy!