Do You Know the Real Costs of Braces?

Braces are painfulWhich would you rather pay for: a Ferrari, a lock of Justin Bieber’s hair, a toilet made of pure gold, or some metal wires in your mouth?

If you are a weirdo who chose the hair, please go find a mirror and take a good, long look at yourself.  Look deeply inside your eyes, soul-searching-ly deep, and ask yourself: do I have brown hair? Can I make a million dollars on Ebay?

But the real reason I brought this question to your attention is because it proves our parents are certifiably ‘un-cool.’  Who would choose buying your kid braces over a toilet made of pure gold?! (Yes, the cost is about equal if the toilet is toddler-sized).

However, since so many people make that choice, chances are, you, someone you know, a friend of a friend, or your dad’s sister’s great-cousin’s fiancé’s daughter has/had braces.

So, then, the question becomes: is your dad’s sister’s great-cousin going to invite you to the wedding? Will there be CAKE?

Anyways, braces are a huge drain of money, but you aren’t the one paying (your parents are).  The real costs become apparent as you begin your new life with foreign metal objects in your mouth.

The Fact is: They’re Metal

Braces are not made of plastic (if they were you’d have to worry about lead paint from China), drywall (again, I worry about that stuff coming from China), or baby formula (um, worry time); braces are made of metal.

As you’ve learned in science class, metal has a number of properties.  I don’t remember any of them, because I tuned out once I realized that Mr. Anderson wasn’t going to blow anything up.

When you combine the fact that braces are metal with a number of current social and political trends, you have a recipe for disaster.

Metal Bracelet Causing ProblemsBracelets

For instance, a new fad seems to be that teens, mostly athletic boys, are wearing bracelets that are supposed to improve athletic performance.  These bracelets have magnets in them.  I don’t know about you, but for me it is really hard to “athletically perform” with your wrist stuck to your molars.

 Metal Detectors

Metal detectors also create problems (no, they don’t usually register braces, but roll with me here).  Every time you want to visit a federal building, you end up with a dental exam given by some security officer.  This means you get reminded to brush after meals more than those twice-yearly visits to the dentist.

 Rust

If you are one of those teens who have adopted the secondary facial expression of “neck forward, eyes closes, chin jutting out, mouth half-open,” you need to worry about rust and tetanus.  All of a sudden, accidentally chomping your lip becomes a medical emergency.  And if somebody tells you to “bite your tongue,” that’s pretty much a death threat, so let the police know.

Braces are Visible in Your Mouth

-Unlike glasses (unless you chew on your glasses).  Braces can be seen every time you open your mouth, and if you have headgear, every time you remove that paper bag from atop your head (which is included complimentarily with your headgear owner’s manual).Paper bag, a bank, and braces headgear.  What could go wrong?

When you smile for a picture, depending on the resolution of the camera, it can appear that you have disgusting dental hygiene, or that you have a small gray dead rodent in your mouth.

I could go on and on about all of the things braces could look like (a rare but deadly disease, metal teeth, exposed electrical wires, an accident involving a stapler, etc.) but the truth of the matter is that braces are not considered high fashion, nor middle fashion, nor low fashion.

Thus, you will spend the next one and a half to seven years of your life with a number of beloved nicknames such as, “Metal Mouth,” “Brace Face,” “Wire Chewer,” “Orthodontist’s Pet,” and, depending on how un-creative your peers are, “Braces Loser.”  Personally, I prefer “Os metallum” (metal mouth in Latin).

You Can’t Eat

 Now, you should still be able to drink, so you won’t starve to death, but it is difficult for you to chew anything harder than one of those Styrofoam peanuts that dissolve in water (believe me, you’ll be so desperate that you willingly eat that stuff).

A vat of food and a drowned personEvery few months you’ll get your braces adjusted, which is basically where the orthodontist puts stronger and stronger pieces of wire into your mouth until one of your teeth snaps out.  Then the orthodontist will glue it back into place so it aligns with the other teeth (this is the basic principle behind braces).

For at least 24 hours after these adjustments, you won’t be able to open your mouth due to pain and constant blackouts.  No worries, though, because I hear they are working on a method of straw feeding that involves your ear, and, honestly, most people won’t starve to death in 24 hours.

It Never Ends

Once you’ve gotten braces, your teeth will never again be free.  Sure, you’ll get your braces off, but then comes the retainer.  You’ll have that, as I was told by my orthodontist, “for the rest of [your] life, until the sun explodes, or until Shrek 43 comes out, whichever comes last.”

The retainer will allow you to ditch all those lovely nicknames and the part about having metal in your mouth, but new sets of problems arise.

First of all, the plastic, see-through retainers will give you a lisp until you re-learn to talk. “Look, guythh! I finally got my braceth off! Altho, did you know Thally thells theathells by the thea thore?” (One side affect is the urge to tell tongue twisters that make you look stupid).

bacteria on retainersSecondly, when you are allowed to switch to only wearing the retainers at night (after “half of your lifespan, until the sun doubles in size, or until Shrek 21.5 comes out, whichever comes last”) they will become unbearably gross.  During the daytime, out of your mouth, a layer of bacteria will conquer your retainers to the point where, if you look closely for a long time, your retainers appear to breathe and move slowly across the counter.

There is no real way to get this bacteria coat off, aside from maybe pesticide.  But don’t try that at home.

So, in conclusion, it is apparent that braces will ruin the rest of your life.  Most people feel it is worth it, because, on the outside, your teeth will be straighter.

However, it is what’s inside that counts, so just remember, inside your mouth will be, over the course of braces, metal, your magnetic bracelet, rust, the hands of the security guard, springs, rubber bands, Styrofoam peanuts, and Schwarzenegger-size bacterium.

Readers: First, I’d like to thank whoever first shared my “How to Get to the Airport on Time” post on Facebook, and the three  people who have since shared it. I really appreciate it when readers share my content.  

Second, I figure now would be a good time to up the “hype,” and mention that I am working on releasing my first e-book.  I don’t want to tell you too much, but I will tell you it is currently over 5,000 words (about seven times as long as my average post) and will be illustrated.  Although the subject deals with teens (of course), I think everyone will find it funny (except maybe Thomas Jefferson, because he’s dead).

10 Things You Absolutely Have to do This Summer

Now that it’s summer, I’ll bet that many of you are still asleep as I write this.  That’s really a shame; I started writing at 10:35 this morning.  Do you realize that if this were a school day, you’d have been up for four hours by now? Do you even know how many opportunities that gives you to complain about how tired you are?

But don’t just lie there asleep.  Here are three good reasons to wake up immediately: you aren’t able to read this blog asleep, you aren’t able to tell others to read this blog if you’re asleep, and there could be bedbugs in your bed, especially if you live in New York.  See? That got you up pretty fast.

Now that you’re up, you should start to enjoy your summer. Go outside (never mind that the prolonged sun will cause skin cancer, or that the FDA just released new regulations for sunscreen that won’t take effect until next year).

I don’t want you to have any regrets at the end of this summer, so I’ve compiled a list of things you should do with all your spare time.Food Costume

1). A Large Piece of Food. You should dress up as an over sized piece of fast food, like a ketchup packet, and stand on a busy street corner.  Make a fake menu for a fake restaurant, with odd items such as “The we-packed-even-more-fat-into-a-burger, now only $0.04!” or the “NEW! Unhealthy-shakes: they come out of a faucet with the consistency of buffalo oil; 2 for 1!”  See how many people think you are actually employed at your made-up restaurant.

2). Teach Others to Swim. In a sink or swim situation, 90+% of people will swim or float (unless they just came from your fast food restaurant).  Therefore, the best way to teach people to swim is by throwing them in the pool.  I wouldn’t recommend this with people who can already swim, because they will probably climb out of the pool before you get a chance to run away.

Bug Cemetery3). Visit a Farm. But not just any farm.  Don’t go to one of those tourist farms with the truck rides.  Don’t even tell the farmer that you showed up; just go for a walk in one of his fields.  Try not to touch anything, because all the crops are covered with pesticides that could kill the consumer, that is, if the farmer forgot to get the antidote in the form of an FDA certification.  Also, don’t breath, or your growth will be stunted from the chemical fumes.  Simply relax, take a deep breat-no, wait, bad idea-and enjoy the open fields.

4). Join an International Aid Group.-and rebuild Vancouver, Canada.  Never mind being an extremely modernized city (in Canada, for crying out loud, where the most that ever happens is when someone crosses into it from the US side of the border.  That’s why 43 of the 47 Canadians live so close to the border), Vancouver has shown signs of an Arab Spring recently (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, scan this article).  While the French have valiantly offered to lead air strikes, the I think that sending a group of kind-hearted people to help them rebuild should be sufficient.

5). Make SERIOUS Money Mowing Lawns. If you already have a mower, you are all set.  Go around to your neighbors and offer to mow their lawns.  A good strategy to get business is usually ‘offer, compliment, veiled threat to subject of compliment.’

A lot of insurance companies use this, for instance: “For only 78% of your monthly income, you can insure your house from African Bullfrogs! By the way, you have a beautiful house, a lovely yard, and an absolutely exquisite kitchen-wouldn’t it be terrible if the amphibians wrecked it! That would be horrible! Oh my gosh, the ‘demo’ cage in my truck has been broken out of-the bullfrog could be anywhere! Quick, sign away your estate and be protected!”

You could use this strategy as well, something like, “I’ll mow your lawn for the low price of $4.99!  By the way, that’s a beautiful car you’ve got on the curb.  Wouldn’t it just be awful if I couldn’t find work, got bored, climbed the tree above it, and fell on top of it? What’s that-you’ll hire me?”Parts Store

That’s only half of the scheme, though.  The next part is really genius, if I do say so myself.  You need to have some hidden ketchup packets, some rubber limbs from a Halloween store, and some acting skills.  What you do is you ‘fake’ a slip under the blade, toss the rubber appendage in front of you (I find that arms or legs work best; I wouldn’t recommend a head, because it isn’t as believable) and cover part of your clothes with ketchup.  Then, just before you run, screaming, back to your house, you make sure your neighbor knows that for as little as $3,000, you won’t sue.

6). Window Shopping. This is terrific if there are some expensive electronics that you really wish you owned.  Ask the store owner if you can buy the panes of glass in his front windows.  Make sure, however, you offer less than the electronic item costs.  Assuming the owner has the brains of a dead plant, he will of course accept your offer.  Then you can come back at night and grab the electronics on display, for there will be no window glass to stop you.

Car-sized Catapult7). Build a Catapult. Frankly, I think this has endless possibilities.  Depending on your craftsmanship ability, you could build one large enough for something, say, the size of an annoying little sibling (if you get my drift).  Regardless, this could lead to many hours of fun, even if it is only large enough for a medium size worm.  To double the entertainment potential, point it in the direction of a neighbor’s yard.

8). Find a Pen Pal. Pen pals seem to have fallen out of style, mostly because they never were in style to begin with.  But if you found a pen pal, that might make it cool again.  Heck, you could even start a trend.  Everyone loves starting trends; do you know just how happy Lady Gaga is when she hears of butchers who wrapped themselves in bloody meat and scared away their customers?

9). Go to a Movie. As I continue to write, it is likely I will incorporate pop-culture jokes (unlike the Gaga joke.  Did you actually laugh at that? I hope not.  In today’s economy, crazed butchers are a serious matter, especially if your neighborhood cats start disappearing).  Movies can help you stay current with pop-culture.  Also, movie theaters usually have other people present, in case you are looking for a client for your lawn mowing business (just adapt your pitch; maybe you could focus on a nice clothing item or a young child).

10). Go for a Hot-Air Balloon Ride. I don’t know about you, but if someone offered to take me 1,000s of feet off the ground in a basket elevated by an over-sized garbage bag and large open flame, not to mention having a couple of containers of gasoline in that basket, I’d definitely say yes.  I’d take that over TSA security ‘searches’ and planes with tops that come off (not to mention snakes-see? A movie reference) any day.

Any one of these things can provide weeks of entertainment (especially if you forget how to land the hot-air balloon), but, in the case you are a busy person who still wants to get the most out of summer, I’ve included a bonus, eleventh choice that combines the merits of the ten above.

11). All-in-one Fun. You need to dress up as a chunk of lard.  Then, “acquire” a riding mower using my window-shopping method.  Drive to a nearby farm, and offer to mow the farmer’s fields (“That is a very fine grain silo you got there-it would be awful if it caught fire”).  Then, accidentally lose a couple of toes.  Threaten the farmer that unless he forms a humanitarian aid group and uses his hot-air balloon to fly you to Vancouver, you’ll press personal injury charges (he’ll be intimidated, because, remember, you are still dressed as a piece of lard).

Once airborne, allow the farmer to watch a movie on your portable electronic device of choice.  This will distract him enough so that you can construct a catapult out of gas canisters and matches.  When you are over Vancouver’s bay, throw the farmer out of the balloon using the catapult and see if he sinks or swims.  Then, light your balloon on fire, and crash into the bay.  Ask the first person who rescues you to be your pen pal.

I think that I’ve pretty much covered every possible fun thing to do this summer, but I may have missed a few (such as play Republican Presidential Candidate Bingo).  So, readers, is there anything you feel is a ‘must-do’ this summer? (Please follow my example and keep any ideas legal, or, at least, legal in the Middle Ages).

You might also check out part 2 of this list, entitled “10 More Things You Absolutely Have to do This Summer,” published summer 2012.

The Point of Marking Up a Book

Here’s the average English Curriculum of a student, from kindergarten to high school, in order: learn to stop writing in books that aren’t yours, learn to read, learn to read without pauses, learn to talk about what you read, learn to read with pauses, learn to write in books that aren’t yours.  Huh.  Seems like we’ve come full circle by high school, doesn’t it?  Personally, I wouldn’t have minded if they had stopped teaching us in kindergarten, leaving us to scribble in our 12-page level 1 novels.  Certainly, I would have kept mColorful Sticky Notesyself occupied (do you realize just how many pictures you could draw in a book as dense as “A Tale of Two Cities”?).

Alas, this was not the case (but if you vote for me, I promise that I will chang-oh, sorry, slipped into campaign mode again.  That’s what happens if you’re addicted to C-span, I guess).  So, accordingly, in high school we are now being forced to ‘mark-up’ our books.  This is a fancy term for ‘now-we-can-finally-use-all-7-sticky-note-colors’, but that made students too excited (so they changed it).

Apparently, the idea is that for us to truly understand a text, to the point where we could easily recite it on our deathbeds (and by easily, I don’t mean propping yourself on your arm with a fair amount of strength and having open and focused eyes.  I mean last breath, eyes closed, as they cover you with a sheet.  From under the covers, the teachers want to be able to hear you clearly enunciate those iambic pentameter lines) we have to mark symbols and themes (I’ll pause here so you can re-read the part outside the parentheses and see that, yes, that was all one sentence).  The thinking is that, as students frantically rush to remove the 100+ sticky notes from all ten class novels the night before the school library closes for the summer (to avoid the outrageous fees climbing into the upper single digits) pages will be ripped.  Then, when the student tapes the page back together, they will be forced to focus on the text, lining up the top and bottom halves of the letters.  According to science, this should burn the words Guy with memorized textinto our memory.

Because this tearing and taping is where the true value comes from, the actual symbols and themes teachers ask students to follow can be chosen at random without negative side effects.  While there are many ways to do this, the usual teachers’ favorite is searching for a four or more syllable word and then translating that into French.

When dealing with marking a text, one cannot avoid using sticky notes (unless they own their novel, which means that they will have to have a peer rip the pages to get any value from it).  This is why marking a text has turned into what many people feel other holidays have: an excuse for companies to sell more products (like New Years.  You think that, in the Middle Ages, people celebrated it so extravagantly, with streamers and noise-makers? Of course not.  Since they didn’t have widely available calendars, or plumbing, for that matter, New Years was everybody’s birthday, and it went something like this: “Happy New Year, Grog.” “Yeah, sure, Ivan, another year passed of my 13-year life expectancy.  You think we can get them to lower the driving age?”).Dartboard

I mean, who makes up 98.6% of the sticky note market? Teens do (or maybe not.  I might have gotten my statistics mixed up with my average body temperature again).  Adults don’t need sticky notes to learn things, because they get junk mail to rip up.  Therefore, it is teens that need these sticky notes, and, accordingly, Post-it has placed all of its commercials on television programs teens are likely to watch.  But, sadly, being a company that makes glue and paper, the sticky-note companies have fallen behind present times.  They need to realize that teenagers don’t watch TV anymore; instead, they spend all of their time searching the aisles of Office Max and Office Depot for those cool blue and green sticky notes that another person at their table had.

There are so many varieties of sticky notes (and of teens) that the old, wise saying about how you could judge somebody based on the way they tie their ears in knot/bow (or maybe it was shoelaces) can be applied to books.  A color for each symbol: control freak. Using all three sides of a book (top, bottom, and side): disorganized.  Randomly and sloppily Different Book Examplesplacing sticky-notes in the wrong places: normal.

I’d love to talk more about this subject, but, if you’ll excuse me, I just found out my school library is closing tomorrow, I’m all out of tape, and I need to fully concentrate on applying just the right amount of tree-sap.

Lockers are Not Your Friend

Funny Combination Lock“It’s a tough transition,” said one.  “It’ll take time to adjust,” said another.  “It’ll probably sap what little sanity you have been hiding in your brain’s most secure vaults more efficiently than Bernie Madoff,” offered a third counselor.  For those of you who have forgotten your high school memories (and are consequently leading carefree lives unburdened by frequent nighttime episodes of awakening and screaming, “No, no, don’t do ahhhhh!-it was just a dream, just a dream”), you may not know what I am describing.  I’ll tell you what I am describing: the single most overrated event in the history of the world, above the release of Harry Potter movie 6.  I’m talking about the transition to high school from junior high.

It’s not that big a deal.  Oh, sure, you’ll be with students whose voices alone could probably bench press your weight, with teachers who don’t fall for the “My dog gave my homework rabies” excuse, and with assignments and grades that will, in all likelihood, effect the rest of your life.  Big deal.  Guess what? It’s a tough transition.

The change isn’t tough because of these new items, but because of only one new aspect: you are expected to know how to use a locker.  No more confiding in your friends that, “I’m scared of the lockers because I might lose manual dexterity in my fingers trying to insert my combination,” and getting an empathetic, “So is everyone, dude,” in reply.  Now, were you to say that, you’d probably be scorned: “Manual dexterity, dude? Really? That’s got, like, seven syllables too many!”Manual Dexterity Difference

Without the support from peers, teachers, janitorial staff, and the ACLU, the battle with these lockers becomes a hopeless struggle, similar to that of trying to chew gum and think, at the same time.

To start, there are the combinations.  The problem isn’t that you’ll forget the combination, but that the locker might forget the combination.  This requires some reminding on your part, usually using brunt force and words you wouldn’t normally hear on ‘The Muppets’.  However, I wouldn’t recommend using this method of ‘reminding’ on live organisms.

Suppose you forget your combination.  What happens then?  It turns out the administration has gotten thoroughly fed up with students forgetting their combination, so schools everywhere have modified the locks to open with a little…encouragement.

You don’t have to worry about friends taking your combination and causing mischief, though, because in high school, they have moved on to bigger and better things. However, you do need to worry about those above you on the food chain, the ones whose arm is as thick as your chest.  If you aren’t careful, you’ll get nice and close to the inside of your locker, and it is very difficult to help your locker “remember” the correct combination from the inside.Inside a Locker

As if that’s not bad enough, your locker might break.  In middle school, this could be solved by a kick, glue, or a trip to the office.  In high school, a kick will dent the locker, glue will be seen as vandalism, and, thus, a trip to the office is your only choice.  Here’s how a trip to the office will probably go:

You: [Stand Awkwardly by Stage Left, just in front of Secretary’s Desk] [silence]

Secretary: [Looks up at you with an expression that one might see on a beached whale’s face after someone said, “Look, a whale.  Do you think it’s stuck?”] Yes? [somehow conveying that if you were to die from sheer uncomfortable-ness right now, she would not attend your funeral].

You: Um…my locker is broken.

Secretary: What?

You: Er…my locker is broken.

Secretary: Oh.  Locker number.

You: 367-no 376-no, um, um, 673.

Secretary: 673.  What’s the problem?

You: Well…it’s broken.

Secretary: We’ll send someone over.

But they don’t send someone over; they just want to get you out of the office before you die of embarrassment so they don’t have to drag your rotting body to the recycling bin (to meet the arbitrary quota of recycled goods).  So the process is repeated, at least twice more.  By the fourth time, you realize that, in reality, no one at the office cares whether or not your locker is broken, because they are too busy skyping other secretaries and perfecting their facial expressions (“Oooh, that was good, Mildred! Now try a “you just killed my uncle and I found out he left nothing in the will for me.”)

Naturally, then, you try to fix your locker yourself. However, since you can’t bring anything larger than the wrench that they give you in self-assemble furniture kits (the one that looks like the CEO robbed his child’s dollhouse for) without breaking school policy, you give up.  Slowly, you sink into despair, regretting any visit to your locker and avoiding it at all costs.  Eventually, you forget you ever had a locker, instead carrying your three-ton textbooks around the halls in shopping carts, mumbling incoherently.Locker DIY Project

Shopping Cart with TextbooksThis is why there is a locker in every hall that nobody ever uses.  There used to be therapy groups, but that was before high school counselors realized that they could address any problem by telling freshman that, “It’s a tough transition.  You should take a study hall.”