Dentists, razor blades, and new friends

I didn’t know yet that another layer of institutional bureaucratic chicanery was going to keep me from getting my teeth cleaned yesterday afternoon, so I sat in the waiting room with the other patient patients while daytime TV sucked brain cells out of our eyes. A nervous teen did a roller skating trick, and we all managed another afternoon without learning or doing anything. Anesthetized in the waiting room.

waiting room


A woman of color near me and I shared a “well that was ridiculous” look. I wanted to say something, partially to alleviate my pain that daytime TV exists, but more because after so much time reading about race relations in this country, recognizing the centuries-built rage and smothering ubiquity of iniquity, I am frustrated that I am not somehow manifesting a better way, every day. The awareness of it looms over even a stupid little moment like that.


After the insurance companies finished off my hope for a cleaning, I unlocked my bike and headed home, thinking I should blog but “I miss Belgian healthcare, which differs from American in that it’s designed to function” isn’t a very uplifting post. I guess I’d delve back into travels, further confusing my friends who keep greeting me with “I thought you were in India?”


Then the bike lane clanged. I’m well used to sticks, trash, and random objects, and broken glass is wall-to-wall carpet in Oakland, but this sounded more serious. And very metallic. I doubled back and found not just a set of drill bits shining in the sun but a fine splay of razor blades. 38 razor blades. This is not the first time.

razor blades and drill bits

Struggling against misanthropy, focusing on the drill bits as evidence that it was an honest mistake and not anti-bike malevolence, I started picking them up, eying the buses woofing by within arm’s reach so I’d at least see which one smashed me into plasma.


“Excuse me, can I give you my album?” I was listening to an NPR newscast so missed a lot of his intro spiel, but I heard something like “It’s my music, a blend of hip hop, R&B, and other styles, has no disrespect towards women and no swearing, I’d be in trouble with my mama if I did that. You can listen to this with your mama and your kids, no problem.”


The guy handing me a CD was young, fit, and had the sort of calm eye contact that makes you like someone immediately. “Half the proceeds go to a local organization that works with the community, helping local kids learn lessons about… Hey, you throwing those away? I bet you could sell those.” I knew I wasn’t going to try that but he was willing. While he looked for a bag to put them in, we chatted. As people do, nothing big, maybe two minutes.

handfull of sharp

120 seconds. Less time than you’ve spent reading this. And yet when we fist-bumped goodbye and I got back on my bike, I felt good. One of the things he said was “Thank you for talking to me, for not being afraid. You could have ignored me or ridden away,” and it touched exactly the pain I was feeling in that office, the pain of separation that just shouldn’t be there.


I don’t know what this is. Me fighting my misanthropy, or a white guy feeling all buttered up because he talked to a black man on the street (and god it saddens me that that’s not a daily occurrence anymore) or just another case of the uplifting experience of talking to people. You decide. All I know is those 120 seconds made this afternoon much better.


Now. Does anyone have a CD player I can borrow?