When I look in the mirror I never see the words “TMI Repository“, “Tell Me Your Darkest Secrets“, or even “Bare Your Body and Soul” tattooed across my forehead. Yet, once I’m out in public those words must flash in neon Vegas colors for all the folks I encounter.
Two years after retiring from managing a dental practice, former patients I run into at the mall, drugstore, and the library continue to freely open wide in public, using fingers on both hands as a speculum in order to reveal their latest cavity, abscess, or broken tooth. This is done with no self-consciousness and an expectation of an on-the-spot diagnosis and treatment recommendation. When reminded that while I DID wear scrubs to work for fourteen years, I never actually WAS a dentist and therefore am unable to help them. The reaction is comically universal. Suspicion, doubt, and wariness, as though I am intentionally withholding something vitally important to them, something that should be so freely given.
Then there’s the cadre of elderly neighbors who snag me in parking lots, gleefully tugging down one side of their shorts to reveal the latest scars from hip replacement surgery, and hoisting shirts above hairy rotund bellies to exhibit the artistry of their heart surgeon. Their eyes dance in anticipation of describing every wound, stitch, and side effect from their medications.
But in line at the supermarket this week, a cashier took a trip in the HOV lane of Way Too Much Information Freeway, which left me wondering if it was her brain or tongue that was missing its brakes. The petite little thing looked enraptured as she clutched my 12-unit bag of Charmin Ultra Soft Mega Rolls against her chest.
“Oh Hon,” she breathed, “you got a really good deal on this here. I drive thirty minutes to Sam’s Club or Wal-Mart and can’t even get such a bargain. I’ve lived here a year now, moved here from Boston (pronounced Baaaa stin, in Kennedy’esque fashion), don’t you know, which is why I remember so vividly that I just now ran out of my 12-unit bag of tissue. Will yours last a year do you think? Mine did, an entire year, just imagine that. How many sheets do you use, if you don’t mind my asking? Cause I only use two sheets for every pee, but of course, for #2, you really have to count out at least five sheets, just to be on the safe side.” Her tiny head was cocked expectantly to one side, patiently awaiting my answer.
I’m sure I was staring at her dumbfounded. A nice looking gentleman was directly behind me in line, and a cashier at a neighboring register encouraged him to come to her line, which looked to be quicker, considering the T.P. chat and all. He waved her off chuckling, “Lord no; I’ll stand here all day just to see where this is going.”
As I scrambled to gather my bag of salmon, wild rice, and asparagus, and get the hell out of Dodge before she could share anymore bathroom secrets with me, I suddenly realized I had a hankering for charred broiled Charmin, or maybe a nice slice of toilet tissue a la mode. But seriously, people, when I see you out in public, can you just keep some things secret? Pretty please? I promise that a little mystery is good for
the my soul.