Sunday, December 02, 2007

Dodging the Christmas Cat

Over Thanksgiving dinner last week, my wife Kara got caught giving me the Signal.

The Signal is a special smile that she reserves just for me, a smile that she sneaks across crowded dinner tables to deliver a message that is to be received discreetly, lest some unsuspecting diner intercept the communication and conclude that Kara is improperly signaling to someone other than her husband the desire to have answered that most intimate of questions: “Do I have anything in my teeth?”

We’ve developed a system that allows me to reply using a series of hand signals, like I’m her third base coach. I’ll point to my left to let her know that she should start her search to the right of center. Before I could wave Kara home last week, though, my sister-in-law’s boyfriend Brad said, “What are you guys doing?”

Brad is in his first year of dental school, so he’s especially attuned to matters of the mouth. We shouldn’t have been so careless. It’s like we were trying to embezzle in front of an accounting major.

While Brad’s official dental education has just begun, he can already throw around words like buccal and occlude, making him the most knowledgeable dental person I’ve ever seen without an appointment. He spent a good chunk of the weekend rotating around a 3-D model of the human mouth on his laptop, presumably because he didn’t have Warcraft III installed.

A perk of being in dental school, besides getting to participate in spirited debates with proctology students over which end is better, is that industry reps shower budding dentists with free oral care products. Brad gets all sorts of free stuff from dental industry reps, making him a really good person to know if you, like many people I know, use toothpaste.

The dental theme also makes Christmas presents from Brad way less scary than presents from my sister, Lindsay Lohan* (name changed to generate more web hits). She recently moved into a Manhattan apartment with her significant other, with each of them bringing enough cats to start a feline Brady Bunch. The kitty territory wars began shortly thereafter. Lindsay Lohan has been trying to unload her field general on various family members ever since.

“Hey, Buddy, can I ask you something?” she’ll ask.

“Dude, I don’t want the cat,” I’ll respond.

“Think it over. I have to go call Mom now,” she’ll say. Lindsay Lohan’s a lawyer, so it’s only a matter of time before she cracks one of us. Until then, the joke around the family is that Lindsay Lohan is going to show up for Christmas bearing a large meowing gift box with airholes in the side.

With Brad, though, you don’t have to worry that his presents will shred your couch and soak your carpet. It is much more likely that they will leave you feeling minty fresh.

When he intercepted the Signal, I said, “Sorry, we were trying to be sneaky. Kara wanted me to check her teeth.”

My sister-in-law Sarah said, “I can’t understand Brad’s directions when I have something in my teeth. He’s always like, ‘You have something stuck between numbers six and seven.’ I don’t know what numbers my teeth are.”

Brad said, “You can count them with your tongue. They go from one to sixteen on top and seventeen to thirty-two on the bottom,” confirming my previously held suspicion that the average human head contained somewhere between twenty and forty teeth.

Really, Brad’s system was much better than the hunt-and-pick method Kara and I had developed, and it was nice to hang around with someone who was learning actual useful skills. If I were Brad, though, I’d be spending a lot of sleepless nights deciding what I’d do when the time finally came and I had to make a yes or no call on Trident. If you voted your conscience and went the wrong way, would the other 80% of dentists still hang out with you?

You can punch Mike Todd right in the number eight at


  1. Amy should give that meowing christmas box to Brad. Maybe he could brush the cat's teeth.

  2. ah yes - life's most important question... if 4 out of 5 dentists recommend sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum..... why does that 5th dentist want you to chew gum with sugar in it? My answer: He's the smart one.... it brings more $ his way in filling cavaties.

    I say take the cat from Lindsay Lohan(doing my part to help you out with hits here)... it would make good blogging fodder. Funny stories with a crazy General Cat and the Ferrett.

  3. Funny *lindsaylohan*, at least you try to use clandestine signals. I remember one Christmas*lind* Eve *say* making fun of my aunt's inability *lo*to *han* cook with my other cousins. I didn't realize she was standing just behind me. I couldn't even come up with anything once I realized that. I just slinked (slunk?)out of the room. Ha.