I looked in mounting horror around the room as, over cooling cups of coffee and slightly stale donuts, my colleagues seemed poised on the brink of chaos.
“Come on, doctors, we can’t be serious about this,” I said, still trying to cling to the faint belief that it was all just a joke, some sort of elaborate prank show attempting to pull the wool over my eyes. “There’s no way that we can recommend this.”
The guy sitting closest to me, a short, balding, pudgy fellow whose name I couldn’t quite recall, turned to me and rolled his eyes. “Dr. Stanley, let’s just get this over with so we can all go home,” he sighed. “We’ve got other things that we want to do with the rest of our day, you know.”
I narrowed my eyes back at him. He looked like a Barry. Most of the dentists I’d known growing up had been named things like Barry or Garry or Chad, and they’d all been united in their struggle to reach mediocrity. Hell, that was part of why I’d chosen to go into dentistry as a profession – I wanted to reach people, show them that caring for their oral hygiene could be more fulfilling than brush once, floss when you remember, and wince in anticipatory pain when you get the reminder every six months that you’re due for a checkup.
“Yes, but we can’t recommend this product!” I insisted, gesturing at the object lying on the table in front of us. “Come on, this isn’t going to make anybody lok forward to brushing their teeth! It’s an abomination!”
“But it saves time and hassle,” said the company representative smoothly, a woman with forgettable features dressed in a gray pantsuit that successfully managed to strip her of every ounce of femininity. “Without having to move the brush around in their mouth, total brushing time is reduced down to thirty seconds-”
“But it can’t hit all the spots that a normal toothbrush can, and how do you clean it?” I pressed her, turning away from Barry while trying to ignore the rolling of his eyes. “It’s just a less effective, more complicated solution that’s more prone to breakdowns!”
The other three dentists at the table hadn’t spoken, and I turned to them, hoping to find support. Instead, however, I just found gazes that refused to meet mine, eyes that seemed suddenly, acutely interested in the corners of the room.
I turned to the nearest of them, an African-American woman whose name I remembered as Julia. “Julia, help me out here. You aren’t going to recommend this, are you?”
She looked back at me, her lips pressed together into a thin line – and then finally spoke. “Oral-B is interested in sponsorship agreements with this new product,” she said softly.
Ah. It all clicked into sense. The toothbrush company had already planned to offer some money to these other dentists in exchange for an endorsement. I wondered if they hadn’t chosen to offer any to me because of my morals, or because they figured I’d be a pushover.
“Well, I don’t recommend it.” I sat back in my chair, crossing my arms over my chest.
The woman in the sterile business suit shrugged. “Four out of five is good enough,” she said blandly. “Thank you all for coming.”
“Great!” Barry the Bastard jumped to his feet, his eyes tracking greedily over to the donut table. “Think I’ll take a couple of those for the road.”
The others left, but I lingered for a moment, staring down at the stupid contraption on the table. Really? A toothbrush that brushed all four sides of your mouth, so you didn’t need to move it? And people were going to shove this oversized, bulky, choking hazard monstrosity into their mouths for a full thirty seconds to let it do its work?
Crazy, the whole lot of them.