Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Official Taster

Consort was already in bed for the evening, bashing away at a crossword puzzle, when I slipped in next to him. After a second, he sniffed.

“What is that smell?’

“I brushed my teeth” I answered, removing the cat from the exact middle of my pillow.

“No, that’s not it. It’s a…sweet, chemical smell. Almost like…watermelon, if watermelons had been engineered by DuPont”

“Like I said, I brushed my teeth.” I answered evenly.

A truly heroic worrier is never appreciated in her own time. I can look at the most benign object and, without working up a sweat, imagine three different ways it could kill you. Part of this comes from having injured myself with things most normal people would consider quite harmless; once you’ve cut yourself on a soup spoon or gotten a severe bite wound from an animal without teeth, you tend to give all new objects wide berth.

But I digress.

Earlier that evening, I had opened a new container of toothpaste for Daughter. I noted that the plastic sticker sealing the lid closed was terribly flimsy. Hmm, I mused. A deranged psychopath could have opened the container quite easily, secreted some horribly lethal poison down the teeny little hole, resealed it with this flimsy tape, and no one would be the wiser. With its syrupy toxic scent, you could enhance “Weird ‘N Wacky Watermelon” with an equal volume of 12-year-old Kim chi, and it would go unnoticed. I stared at the toothpaste doubtfully, and imagined rushing Daughter to the ER in the middle of the night with strange and terrifying symptoms. I imagined the Doctor shaking her head in sorrow and regret. Sorry, there was nothing they could do. Then I saw the article in People Magazine:

FORMER CHILD ACTOR KILLS OWN DAUGHTER WITH TAINTED TOOTHPASTE

This leads me to a side note: when you hear the phrase “Former Child Actor…” don’t you automatically assume the next words will be “…arrested for immoral use of a ferret” or something like that? After much thought, I know why this is. Former Child Actors do get arrested constantly; in any given month, they make up over 20% of the Los Angeles jail population, and 100% of the embarrassing infractions. But why is that? And why isn’t it across the entire FCA population? [This would be a good time to mention that I've never been arrested.] The answer is: free time.

No one ever refers to Jodie Foster as a former child actor because she has done many worthwhile things with her adult life. This is not the case with many child actors, who seem to have used up their reserves of career energy before they were old enough to vote. If you were an actor as a child, but have done nothing worth mentioning since you were 13, you will probably find yourself with lots of free time. Once you’ve appeared on The Surreal Life and alphabetized the videotapes of your Merv Griffin appearances, you’re going to get bored. Soon enough, you’re buying a black-market ferret and making her pretty little outfits. So the moral is: save your money, stay busy, and no video store or transsexual prostitute need ever fear you.

But I digress.

In order to be able to sleep at night, I was going to have to test the toothpaste before I’d let her use it. So, I grabbed it and put it on the high shelf, alongside the truly dangerous medicines and the really pricey eye shadow I wore only once because it makes me look as if I have conjunctivitis. Then, using an opened paper clip, I extracted the remaining seven flecks of toothpaste from the old tube and applied them to her toothbrush, so she could finally brush her teeth. Later that night, I squeezed a bit of the new stuff onto my finger and stared at it distrustfully. It had the same bright, mildly iridescent green hue I associate with Central American cockroaches of a lethal variety. This was a color that announced “Ingest me and experience massive organ failure”. I dabbed a little on my tongue and waited for the seizures to begin. A few minutes passed, during which time I stared at the bathroom tile floor and thought “If this doesn’t kill me, I really must re-grout”.

The first exposure didn’t appear to do any lasting damage, but then I thought “What if it’s a cumulative effect? What if a month from now, Daughter starts reeling around the house as her nervous system shuts down?” (This is why typing the words “poison symptoms children” into Google is a really terrible idea). More research was needed. I decided to brush my teeth with the stuff for a week, to see if I'd lose the ability to feel my fingers or earlobes. Of course, that means I will have used up nearly this entire container of nature-defyingly green toothpaste, but Daughter will be safe. And if I buy and use two more containers, and send in the Proofs of Purchase, I can get a Power Puff Girl tee-shirt in a size 6X.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read about your blog in Newsweek and decided to visit only because I wondered what you looked like as an adult. (I told my daughter, age 25, that I was reading Quinn Cummings blog, and she asked "who is Quinn Cummings?) Well, I've seen no picture of you, but I've certainly enjoyed your essays tremendously. They are quite funny, and you are a very talented writer.

I have not read all of your essays yet, because reading from a computer screen for more than 15 minutes gives me a headache, but I am savoring each one. I had to respond to this one and ask "hahah Did you REALLY test the toothpaste for a week before you let your daughter use it because of your concern about the new-product seal?" What a typical mother. I once drank down three glasses of eggnog (my own and each of my children's) when our elderly hostess announced that even though there were lots of warnings out there about eating raw eggs, she was proud to say that she continued to make her egg nog using A DOZEN raw eggs, and she hadn't killed anyone yet! I silently mouthed across the room "DO NOT DRINK THE EGG NOG" to my stupefied children and when she left the room to get more cookies, I lunged at them, seized their glasses and threw back 12 ounces of probably salmonella-laced egg nog. Mrs. Hughes was hobbling back into the room, as I hurled myself into my seat. For the rest of the visit, I tried to remember if I knew the signs of salmonella poisening...vomiting? nausea? stomach pain? or just directly to death?

At any rate, I lived, my children lived, and they often tell this story.

Again, you are VERY funny and VERY talented.

Vicki Beever

12:25 PM  
Blogger Quinn Cummings said...

Dear Vicki,
I thank you for your kind words, and hope I continue to entertain. Yes, I used the toothpaste. Since I bought two containers at the same time, I am STILL using that toothpaste. I am growing slightly fond of it.
I appreciate your eggnog story more than you can know. We worrying mothers are a large yet lonely army.

8:15 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home