WALKING THE EMPTY streets of Washington, D.C., my hat pulled down against the wind and my face obscured by a fabric mask, I can’t help but notice the unsightly trash on the sidewalk. Lately, the usual litter of the nation’s capital—gum wrappers, empty fast-food containers, unsigned legislation for the common good—now includes a new item carelessly dropped. The formerly ubiquitous cigarette butt has been replaced by the discarded flossing pick.
While it’s good that many people have stopped smoking, must they now floss and toss? Old cigarette butts might eventually compost into something useful to the earth. But plastic devices for cleaning teeth will be with us—much like a 6-3 Supreme Court—long after any possible use to society. And they’re disgusting to look at. (Floss picks, not the Supreme Court, although [name withheld] is looking well past his freshness date.)
My guess is that former smokers have switched to floss devices to keep alive the rituals they so loved. And who can blame them? It’s so satisfying to take a pick from a fresh pack, hold it just so between thumb and forefinger, and go to town on what’s left from lunch. Maybe there should be designated areas outside office buildings where flossers could gather during breaks, bonding while prying out that troublesome piece of bagel and complaining about the boss. All the while looking relaxed and worldly as they move from tooth to tooth, then casually tossing the pick to the ground, followed by stepping on it with practiced vigor. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of peer pressure to floss in public, but just because the cool people are doing it doesn’t mean you have to. Think of the children.