Shooting the breeze

April 1, 2003
I prompted a Web site, Cliché Finder, to follow up on its invitation to provide me with 10 random clichés out of its 2,000-plus database. It was like reading a whole plate full of fortune cookies.

By Mark Hartley

I prompted a Web site, Cliché Finder, to follow up on its invitation to provide me with 10 random clichés out of its 2,000-plus database. It was like reading a whole plate full of fortune cookies. It was like watching the balls pop up during a lottery drawing. It was like reading a pile of postcards from a friend traveling overseas.

My drawing of clichés provided the following:

• Suffer in silence
• Queer fish
• Bury the hatchet
• Like a bump on a log
• Lean and hungry look
• A watched pot never boils
• Hot as a firecracker on the 4th of July
• By hook or by crook
• Quiet as a mouse
• One good deed deserves another

Here are a couple of more. Shooting the breeze is almost second-hand to you and me. The difference between us probably lies in the fact that I care more if someone is pulling the wool over my eyes.

Let me rephrase that by using the Web site's offerings. You are not quiet as a mouse. I'm not either. You're a hygienist, and I'm an editor. We don't suffer in silence. Sometimes the people we talk to are queer fish, and conversations with them are like a bump on a log. If it gets too bumpy, you will bury the hatchet. However, I might get as hot as a firecracker on the Fourth of July. But, if we don't pursue these conversations ... well, a watched pot never boils. However, we can't have a lean and hungry look while we converse, or it will fail by hook or by crook. When it works, though, one good deed deserves another.

If we're so good at talking, how come most of the conversations we have are about as effective as the preceding paragraph.

Let me speak a little more plainly. Some aspects of our conversational skills are not all that popular. You nag (about flossing), and I'm too blunt (editors have this thing about discerning the truth in other people's statements). However, you are usually sensitive enough to detect a lack of interest in oral hygiene habits and back away.

In contrast, I tend to think people waste my time with comments they are not very knowledgeable about, and my line of questioning makes them a little uncomfortable.

Was that better? The nugget that I derived from Cappy Snider's article about "human interest" on page 42 is that, sometimes, oral hygiene instructions can wait until another appointment. What's the hurry, especially if the instructions are doomed to fail anyway? Sometimes making a connection on a personal level is justified.

Besides, that is the fun part of our conversations. There will always be experts who abhor the lack of productivity that results from these casual conversations. I don't know. I think if the personal connection is established, then people actually look forward to seeing you again. Productivity is not a lost cause when people are excited about the next conversation you will have with them. At some point, though, the experts are right: The conversation needs to return to the real issue — health.

"Human interest articles" refer to a journalistic term where a newspaper estimates that if every story on a page is about taxes, city council meetings, and government budgets, you might get bored and not read anything at all. Something interesting about the humans in your neighborhood might keep you reading.

RDH is guilty of that too. Even though we acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of readers is quite excited and devoted to learning about all information pertaining to the career of dental hygiene, sometimes they need a break. So you'll see an article about a hygienist who rode a bicycle around the world (March issue), or a whole stable full of hygienists who are enamored with horses (February issue). On this month's cover, we have a water skier with loose references to fluoridation in bottled water and health risks associated with excessive exposure to sunlight.

But you can't judge a book by its cover. And I'll end this kiss-and-tell with the following observation: The nuts and bolts of dental hygiene are more than being a walking dictionary of dental terms. Everybody's got a thimble full of something to share with you. So chew the cud and savor what makes all of us human.

You'll be as happy as a pig in mud.

Mark Hartley is the editor of RDH. He can be contacted at [email protected].