I spent my Mother’s Day breaking out in a drenching sweat worthy of birthing a litter as I combed the entire Upper West Side in search of Johnson & Johnson’s elusive Reach Woven Dental Floss.
It was very warm on Sunday with the temperature topping 80 degrees. Had I known I was going to reenact the Bataan Death March hunting for my preferred variety of tooth twine, I would have ignored my horror at flaunting my pasty white limbs and worn shorts.
Yet, I was not anticipating any difficulty locating this product that has been reliably available for over a decade at my local Price Wise Discount store that is a short walk from my sanctum sanctorum. Granted, Price Wise is the only store in all of Manhattan where I have ever seen this floss, but it never occurred to me that a day would come when they would no longer carry it. Upon reflection, in my youth I never thought that Pillsbury would cease making my favorite after school snack, the chalk-flavored Space Food Sticks, so from a tender age I have been familiar with retail-world disappointment.
I questioned the Price Wise manager about my floss. He said that it was not in their most recent shipment of Reach products. In fact, he was unsure if they would ever carry it again. Upon hearing that, I felt stabbed.
Yet, I remained upright and I hotfooted into countless Duane Reades, two CVS’s, and some stand-alone pharmacies including one on 72nd Street where a woman that appeared to be a direct descendant of Lurch stalked me. Three times she made an overt point to walk in front of me to coo:
Daughter of Lurch: Pardon me.
How I regretted not carrying a mallet.
I left without my floss, crestfallen with the futility of my effort. How could this tragedy happen? Western civilization as I knew it, albeit predominantly from a steady diet of watching and reading cartoons, was in freefall.
I prefer gentle gum care products. I’m a fan of soft bristle toothbrushes, but I’ll resist rhapsodizing poetically about the merits of those because they don’t require I don a pith helmet and hire a search party to find. Regular waxed dental floss is punishing. It makes me feel like I’m sliding stiff cable between my teeth without the benefit of accessing HBO.
I returned home, floss-less, frustrated and sweaty. As I quaffed a quart of iced tea, I searched for my missing floss online. My usual go-to source, Amazon, had a 50-yard dispenser for $12.95 from an off-site seller that doubles as an extortionist. Or, if I wanted to invest $89.95 and another $19.99 in shipping, I could be the proud owner of a case of 144 5-yard packets from BuyNowDirect.
Next, I went on Reach’s web site, just to torture myself further for I was expecting to learn that the product has been discontinued. Much to my surprise, it not only still exists but Reach referred me to Drugstore.com where it’s available for $3.29 per 50-yard packet. Drugstore.com claims that it is temporarily out of stock, but it will ship in a week or two, probably because I’m the first person that has ordered it all year. Orders exceeding $25 qualify for free shipping. Therefore, I’ve ordered eight 50-yard packs. According to my abacus, four-football-fields-worth of woven floss should last me 800 days. That translates into two years, two months and ten days if I use the recommended 18 inches of floss per day. And I will do exactly that even if every tooth in my head falls out between now and then. In that case, I’ll just use it between my toes and behind my ears.