The man, having bought himself an electric toothbrush, charged it up and spent the day looking forward to the evening, when he would use it. For a few days he enjoyed the tingling sensation, but the novelty soon wore off. In fact he started to become irratated by the way it would signal the passing of each 30 seconds (one for each quarter of the mouth). One evening while brushing he began thinking about this, the fact of having exactly two minutes marked out for him every morning and night for this activity. Assuming the machine would last at least a year, he realised he could work out exactly how long he’d have spent brushing his teeth in that time, in hours – would it be as much as hours? yes of course, at least an hour… – 4 minutes a day, four times 360 days is 1440… He couldn’t divide it by sixty in his head. Having finished, he went to his desk and punched out the figures on a calculator. It said 24.
It seemed just a bit too neat, and his head swam. He went back to the bathroom and sat on the toilet. Did they start with that, did it seem right to them that people should devote exactly a day and a night per year to brushing their teeth with this machine of theirs? He saw the glass he kept by the sink out of the corner of his eye, and it reminded him of a novel he’d been reading about a sad man who drinks whiskey in a hotel room from what in the book is referred to as a ‘tooth glass’. He finished up and took the glass with him into the kitchen, and poured a little scotch. He sat and drank it neat, in sips.
It tasted horrible.
He was impressed and oppressed by this figure which had appeared to him from nowhere.
On the one hand a year appeared now as a terrifying phenomenon able to accumulate insignificance, piling little banalities up until they formed whole days and nights of gigantic nothingness. And this just as the years seemed to be going by faster than before. The last seven years seemed like nothing: a whole week of tooth brushing, without sleep.
And on the other, a simple two minute chore had become dangerous. He thought of the many other aspects to his life that were generally too intimate and trivial to scrutinize, and winced at the outcome of any further calculations. He remained sat on the chair with the tooth glass at night, not wanting to waste any more time, not knowing what to do.