Kurt slept fine, but decided he needed to eat every two and a half hours last night, which is a phase of our life that I thought had passed. Jeff and I were both very tired this morning, so when I got up today, I didn't even turn on the light in the bathroom. I took out my retainer and tried to put it into the case on the shelf where I usually keep it. But my hand bumped against the shelf and I dropped the retainer into the toilet instead. Then I flushed.
After I realized that what I thought had just happened had really happened, I told Jeff, who was a lot more understanding about this situation than my parents ever were when I lost a retainer growing up. My strategy as a child was to not mention it until my parents noticed I didn't have one anymore, usually about the time my teeth started to look more crooked. This morning I tried to call my orthodontists office, but didn't get anyone.
Jeff swiftly came to the conclusion that 1) the toilet didn't seem to be flushing right and 2) that the retainer was probably affecting the flow somehow. He tried sticking his arm down into it (my hero), but to no avail. We decided we'd need professional help from the maintenance staff. Jeff ran off to their workshop to see if anyone was available and came back looking dejected.
"Here's a kick in the pants," he said," Did you know it's President's Day?"
Actually, I'd had no idea. Apparently, if you have a plumbing problem on a national holiday at our complex, it's your problem. Over the next three and a half hours, we didn't use the bathroom and Jeff made two trips to the store where he purchased first a plunger (I can't believe we didn't own a plunger), and when that didn't work, a snake. He stripped down to his boxers and got the snake going down into the great mystery that is the twisted pipes leading away from a toilet bowl. I brought Kurt in to watch, figuring it would be educational. And lo, the snake brought back my retainer.
Not only did my retainer come back, it appeared to be totally unharmed in a structural sense. Although there was a little debate about that between Jeff and me. He thought it looked bent. "Well," I said, "there's only one way to find out."
"Uh, you're going to boil the hell out of that, right?" he asked me.
"I'm going to soak it in alcohol," I told him.
Digression: When you work in a filthy environment like a hospital, you either start becoming paranoid above all reason about germs, or you start to get a sense of inevitability about them. I'm in the latter group. My personal experience is that people who think their environment is clean are kidding themselves. Unless you can control the behavior of every person you touch today and every person or object that they touch today, you have something gross on your hands right now. Washing hands in the bathroom is good. In the hospital, washing hands between patient contact is good and keeping good sterile technique is prime, but otherwise, I have let it go. Germs are everywhere and I evolved to exist in a world full of pathogens. As far as retainers go, they live in people's mouth (gross) and they have no components of any organic material. In the hospital, we depend on the idea that if you soak something non-organic in an antiseptic solution for a long, long time, you can re-use it for a non-sterile purpose, regardless of what fluid was on it. End of digression.
I poured alcohol into a little glass dish and dropped the retainer in it.
For the record, I said, "I'm not sure what boiling would do that soaking it in alcohol wouldn't do." To which Jeff replied, "Yeah, but people are weird about germs." By "people," of course, Jeff meant himself. So I said, "I'm not…but since you obviously are, and you kiss me, let's boil it."
We waited for the water to start boiling. I sat down on the couch and Jeff stayed in the kitchen making us breakfast, and we congratulated ourselves on how much money we'd saved. About ten minutes later Jeff piped up, "Water's boiling! Should we throw it in?"
I yelled back, "Sure!"
I should point out that from the couch I could see the stove and only the stove. I saw Jeff's hand dump the little dish with the alcohol and the retainer into the boiling pot and the blue white fire storm that subsequently occurred. Jeff's hand threw the lid back on, the fire went out and I ran into the kitchen, convinced I would find my husband horribly disfigured.
Jeff was intact, but there was a casualty. The hair that falls around his face had melted back like it had been blown dry Farrah Fawcett-style by a really hot hair dryer. Eyebrows, however, remained untouched.
It took us both several minutes to stop feeling faint. Kurt slept through everything. "Dude, " I said, "Worst President's Day ever!"
"No way!" Jeff said. And I realized he was right. It was a great story, after all. He's okay (except the hair), Kurt and I are okay, the toilet's okay, and I still have my retainer. Yep, I thought, everything turned out juuuuust fine. Just goes to show ya.
The retainer melted.
Don't boil your retainer. Don't pour rubbing alcohol into a boiling pot on a stove. Don't lose your retainer on a national holiday. There are other, more subtle lessons here, I'm sure, but those are the biggies.
Also, I got my hair cut last week and I promised my mom I'd put up a picture: