It’s probably just a matter of time before the smartphone – that Swiss army knife of modern technology – includes an electric toothbrush.
A smartphone has everything else, including two small piano keyboards, one of which sounds like a regular piano and the other of which sounds like a row of cartoon cats who meow in different tones as you touch them.
The only telephone cat music we ever had in previous years was accidentally stepping on the cat’s tail while dialing a rotary phone.
So why not a toothbrush on a smart phone? Yes, I know, that sounds silly. But I was thinking the other day of how many devices in our lives I first thought of as silly. And yet they turned out to be useful.
The very mention of an electric toothbrush when it first appeared made a person wonder how lazy some people could be. Keep guys like that away from my sister. Every time he came to dinner, you’d have to feed him like a baby. The poor devil can’t even brush his own teeth without a motor on the brush.
However, the electric toothbrush wasn’t invented to make it easier to brush your teeth. It was invented to make it easier to brush your teeth well. For good measure, the latest version of an electric toothbrush is sonic, simultaneously removing plaque as it cleans my few remaining fangs.
That functional aspect is as typical of small power tools like a toothbrush as it is of large ones like an electric nail gun. A nail gun doesn’t just make a carpenter’s job easier (which is hardly a crime) but it helps him work faster and even more skillfully.
On the other hand, you used to do no worse with an ordinary hammer than hit your thumb. Today, with an electric nail gun, you can scratch your itchy noggin with that new-fangled kind of hammer and accidentally pin your ear even more tightly to your head.
Electric toothbrushes weren’t the first power tool I underestimated. I also had doubts about electric rice cookers. How is that any better than a pot of boiling water?
Well, for one thing, to borrow a phrase from television pitchmen, you just set it and forget it. While you fuss with the fried chicken, the rice cooker goes on about its business in the background, cooking the rice perfectly each time and holding it on warm until you and the chicken are ready for it.
Then there is the electric jar opener. I know. A real man doesn’t need an electric jar opener, does he?
Maybe not, but a real old man, with a touch of arthritis considers an electric jar opener a friend. When the young men in the family are in town, you still let them prove their manhood with a pickle jar. But when you’re the old folks at home and the kids have moved on, the jar opener is at your service.
Ditto the electric can opener.
There is an element of Puritanism in all the carping against so-called silly mechanized tools. In some stuffy circles, anything that makes life easy and pleasant is a little bit sinful. Some sad people in the world fear pleasure and comfort. They are slightly grim individuals who don’t trust what may be the Lord’s mercy that has finally come to us in modern times.
When I brush my teeth at this age, cherishing the few little white ivories I still have left in my big mouth, I am grateful for a toothbrush that hums so pleasantly, cleans my teeth so well and gives me a wicked little buzz of illicit joy.
Viva la machines!Bill Hall can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501