38. Toothpicks or When Rednecks Accessorize

16 Jun

At many a Southern eatery, you’ll find a toothpick dispenser next to the cash register. Look for it by the used-to-be-complimentary Andes mints that they now want five cents for. Cheap bastards. But, hey, at least the toothpicks are still free.

I’m not sure how this tradition got started. What am I Wikipedia? But I really wish I could put an end to it. There are few things less appetizing than seeing people pick their teeth in public. Which is why I don’t understand how restaurant owners can recklessly leave toothpicks lying around knowing that the toothpickers will surely be seen by incoming customers.

I’m always tempted to say to the server, “I WAS going to have the filet mignon, but now I’d just like some Sprite and saltines.” But as a former waitress, I try to keep the snarky comments to a minimum. And tip big.

Seriously, people, tooth picking – like nose or belly button picking – ought to be done in private. That’s what bathrooms are for. Ok, that’s not their primary purpose, but still.

What’s maybe even worse than actively plucking food particles is those people who walk around with a toothpick in their mouth ALL THE TIME. Like they never know when they’ll happen upon corn on the cob and must be prepared.

At tote-sum stores in the South, they sell FLAVORED toothpicks for chain toothpickers who presumably aren’t into the natural woody flavor. Cinnamon is popular, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen mint. Maybe even wint-o-green.

Back in junior high, toothpick chewing was popular for about a week. If I recall correctly, we made our own with cinnamon oil. Where we got the cinnamon oil, I don’t know. That doesn’t seem like something they’d regularly stock at Kroger.

Thankfully, some teacher or concerned parent decided that this was a nasty habit/choking hazard, so toothpicks earned the spot of bubble gum’s wicked step-sister. And I was spared from what might have been months of looking like a hayseed. Whew!

What’s your stance on tooth picking in public?

3 Responses to “38. Toothpicks or When Rednecks Accessorize”

  1. The Florida Blogger June 16, 2010 at 4:53 pm #

    I love toothpicks, especially when I don’t have anything to do.. They are good for picking junk out of your teeth, preventing you from biting your fingernails, or flicking at someone you want to annoy.

  2. sarah smith June 17, 2010 at 9:22 am #

    What a hoot! I should have thought of that one! Need to show this to my husband – I’m always on him when leaving a restaurant about grabbing a toothpick….think he does it just to push my buttons!

  3. Sherry June 18, 2010 at 1:30 am #

    My dad was a southerner- a Texas southerner no less- and couldn’t live without the toothpick ritual. It was as important as the coffee before the meal and the crackers on the table in the little basket. He told us under his breath once that only quality restaurants gave you free crackers in a basket on the table (next to the napkin dispenser in some quality restaurants.) but if they didn’t have toothpicks he didn’t even bother to get a table. Those toothpicks usually lasted longer than the meal. At least now I know he wasn’t unusual.

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