That was a tough hour, I’ll tell you. When it was all done, all the scraping and the polishing and the pauses to suction the blood from my mouth, I was told that I was cavity-free for something like the seventh year in a row, but that my teeth looked much plaque-ier (not a word) than they had previously.
“Well,” I offered by way of explanation, “I left my toothbrush in Toronto four months ago.”
Back in July, I visited Canada to drive some awesome cars and receive the news that my services as TTAC’s Editor-In-Chief pro tempore were no longer required. Since I was traveling solo, I spent most of the nights on my friend’s air mattress, surrounded by his enviable collection of vintage hi-fi equipment and first-rate musical instruments. Somehow I left without my old Braun Sonic Complete. I was really angry with myself for having done so. The Braun has long since been discontinued (which is maybe why Walmart is trying to charge $439 for it?) and I’d recently sprung for eight new aftermarket “Genuine Delrin” brushes from some dodgy-ass Amazon Marketplace seller. Since I expected to see my friend again within a couple months, however, I didn’t worry too much about it.
Unfortunately for me, our planned get-together didn’t materialize due to schedule problems on my end. My interim toothbrush was the nicest regular Oral-B toothbrush I could get at the local pharmacy, but I have to admit that brushing your teeth by hand is a real hassle compared to the easy-clean action of the Braun Sonic Complete. I lost ground in the war against plaque and its associated swelling of the gums. My teeth went from looking like the binding on a three-year-old Les Paul to looking like the binding on Les Paul’s original Les Paul. I caught myself smiling in a mirror and resolved to frown until further notice. Then, of course, came the less-than-perfect report from my dentist. I was shamed. My dentist is a woman in her mid thirties, about five foot ten, slightly flighty with her hands — we can file this for future notice simply as my type — and disappointing her feels oddly like failing to perform at the end of a lovely evening out.
Something had to be done.
My initial searches for “sonic toothbrush” on Amazon led to the Philips Sonicare line. It appeared that Braun was out of the sonic business. The array of available Philips toothbrushes is staggering. There have to be at least twenty of them. How could it be otherwise? In our modern America, it isn’t enough for the Aspirational 14% to have sonic toothbrushes; they (we? I hope not we, I’m poor, I drive a Honda) have to have better ones than everybody else. Can you believe that there was once a time in history where rich and poor alike used similar toothbrushes? Next thing you’ll be telling me that the wealthy used to drive the same Ford station wagons as everyone else. I don’t believe it.
The top of the Philips line is DiamondClean. This seemed like a reasonable purchase. If a toothbrush saves you just one cavity over the course of two years, it’s paid for itself five times over. Might as well get DiamondClean. I wouldn’t want to just get QuartzClean or PyriteClean. But wait — at the apex of DiamondClean there is a limited Black Edition. How could I not buy this? Do I not in fact frequently roll around in the AMG SLS Black Series? Okay, I do not. But it has happened a few times and if the Black Series toothbrush was half as exciting as the Black Series SLS it would be worth buying.
Well, that couldn’t possibly be the case. But I still wanted one.
But wait. Once upon a time, the research showed the Sonicare to be more effective than Oral-B. But since Braun went to Oscillating-Rotating instead of just plain sonic operation, the shoe is now on the other tooth, with Braun demonstrating considerably more effectiveness.
Aw, fuck. So much for the Black Series toothbrush.
The best Oral-B is the 5000 Smart Series, but there is a travel-optimized hard-cased variant above it, with the same wireless brushing control and aesthetic-tooth-polishing mode. Ladies (all three or four of you) and gentlemen, I give you…
The 7000 Series Black.
At this point, let’s pause to consider the bizarre consumer-social implications of the fact that both manufacturers of upscale electronic toothbrushes offer a Black Edition. At no other point in human history could this happen. Not only does it depend on the absolute explosion in “luxury” products, it also depends on the existence of online retainers, because no Wal-Mart or CVS in America is going to stock a toothbrush that costs this much money.
Let’s also consider that these products, like the Mercedes Black Series cars, are direct references to the Centurion Card. It’s amazing how many people know that the Centurion Card exists, even if most of them have little to no idea what it actually does or how you get it. It’s also interesting to see the escalation of American Express cards over the years. I remember my father telling me about the Amex Gold Card when I was a kid. “It has no limit,” he said, in the tones that an earlier generation used to describe the bomb at Hiroshima, “you could charge a Rolls-Royce on it.” When he eventually got one, I was deeply disappointed that he didn’t immediately charge a Rolls-Royce. Given that our local dealer had precisely one Rolls-Royce in stock, however, and it was a fucking Camargue, I no longer resent him for not doing so.
I get the sense that the Platinum Card is now what the Gold Card used to be. My Platinum Amex doesn’t seem to have any limit, although to be fair I’ve never tried to charge a Rolls-Royce. I have had a couple of days where I made five figures’ worth of charges to it in a single day, an action that prompts panicked phone calls from my Visa Signature card issuer, and I had no trouble doing so. Lately I’ve been thinking about downgrading to the Gold or even the Green card, however. I’m not really living much of an upscale life. And the USAA American Express card is both an Amex card and black in color, although it has none of the visual panache of the Centurion Card. Let’s see:
Also, it’s plastic instead of titanium. It’s primarily good for two things:
- the lowest APR of any Amex;
- the laugh you get when you say, “Let me use my black Amex to pay for this” and you whip out the same credit card that “butter-bar” second lieutenants use to buy diapers at the PX.
Which brings us to the point of high-end credit cards; impressing retail personnel. But if you’ve ever worked retail, you know that you don’t care about what stupid credit card the customer has. So maybe the point of a high-end credit card is to imply that you don’t know how little the retail people care about it, because you’ve never worked a retail or foodservice job and therefore wouldn’t know that kind of prole-ass detail. Very meta-impressive. I think.
I’d like to wrap this up by saying that I paid for my black toothbrush with my platinum Amex, but the truth is that I had an Amazon gift card. Amazon gift cards tend to be black nowadays. So there’s that, at least. Instead, we’ll wrap up by showing a photo of a house in which I lived as a kid, with a AMG Black Series parked in front of it. The lesson is that you can rise from humble beginnings. Except my beginnings weren’t that humble, it’s just that my parents were divorced at the time. No wait, maybe the lesson is that you can go from a rental house to a loaner car. Hold on, it’s possible that the lesson is that…
…even in this modern upscale era, you can still screw up a photo by having your thumb in front of the lens.