Flossing devices
June 8, 2012 10:18 AM   Subscribe

Is there a non-flossing (maybe drug-related) use for those little plastic floss holders?

I'm a student at the University of Washington. I live about a mile and a half north of it, and walk to campus everyday. There's a stretch between that has a lot of sketchy, druggy behavior--buying and selling, sometimes use on the street. In the morning especially, I see a lot of drug paraphenalia on the street--syringes, empty baggies, baggies full of white substance. I've lately been noticing a lot of those disposable plastic floss holders on the street as well. Not a ton, but maybe ten to twenty on the sidewalk, just abandoned.

I think this is weird. I have a hard time believing people are flossing (using relatively expensive little gadgets) on the street, and they're only really located in this one sketchy block. Is there another purpose for these things?
posted by Ideal Impulse to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I have lived in a number of sketchy areas in Chicago, and I have never encountered this anywhere. And I see a lot of weird shit on my sidewalks.

Perhaps your corner seller just has impeccable oral hygiene.
posted by phunniemee at 10:24 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

They could in theory be from just one person. Maybe a dealer, like phunniemee suggests, or a person who walks the same route every day, like you, and is just in the habit of flossing while walking and discarding the floss holder on the sidewalk there.
posted by Balonious Assault at 10:28 AM on June 8, 2012

Could be that a shelter, a roving safe-sex program or some other social service is giving them out in kits with other small personal stuff. A lot of those places get donations of small free items like tiny floss kits.
posted by Frowner at 10:30 AM on June 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have absolutely seen people flossing their teeth with these and dropping them on the sidewalk (I know, EW).
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:30 AM on June 8, 2012

And I think Frowner's thought is probably spot-on; a local shelter probably gives them out and then when those folks who have spent the night at the shelter are coming to score, they improve the shining hour by flossing and then discard the floss holder along with their baggie or vial or whatever.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:32 AM on June 8, 2012

I'm in San Diego, and I can report that from here that I've also seen a curiously large number of flosspicks lying in the street, although I have no explanation for it. There are a number of homeless in my area, some of whom are users, but I've seen no evidence to connect the two.
posted by LionIndex at 10:34 AM on June 8, 2012

FWIW, a friend of mine saw them so often she started a Facebook photo album and collected pictures of flossers on sidewalks. She was trying to get at least one photo from all fifty states.

In other words, they are everywhere. I see them when I walk to my train station (clean suburban town with no large visible drug use zone) so I just assume someone who does the same walk before I do likes to clean their teeth.
posted by bondcliff at 10:37 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

When I used to smoke weed, I would always feel the need to floss and brush my teeth for a long time. I don't think it's all that analogous, but I could imagine someone tweaked out on meth obsessively flossing their teeth all night (in vain, I'm afraid, with the meth).
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:38 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have absolutely seen people flossing their teeth with these and dropping them on the sidewalk (I know, EW).

Ditto. And if this is the accumulation of one or more people who regularly commute through the area, it makes sense that they might drop 'em in the same stretch of street daily.

I used to commute on the same schedule as another bus-rider who would sit down, pull out a flossing tool, and start using it on the bus. EVERY DAY. I never saw her toss one out the window into the street, but possibly only because by the time she started workin' her gums, I was studiously focusing my attention anywhere else.

Of course, there's another factor in their accumulation on the street: they're rigid and hold their form well, so they're readily identifiable long after other, softer kinds of street rubbish have become unrecognizable.
posted by Elsa at 10:52 AM on June 8, 2012

If you keep your eyes open you'll see lots of non-biodegradable personal items littering the streets of our cities and towns. Tons of:
  • Flossers

  • Hair Ties

  • Bobby Pins

  • Cigarette Butts

  • None of these are drug-related, as far as I can tell.
    posted by alms at 11:01 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

    I suspect (like alms and elsa) that its because they float and never disappear, so when it rains, they go with water flow to the same places where water accumulates, but they stay behind when the water evaporates.
    posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 11:09 AM on June 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

    I've always thought they looked like giraffes, maybe kids are playing with them.
    posted by Confess, Fletch at 1:08 PM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

    It could be something that powdered drug users are using to bump up out of their baggies, maybe? It's more innocuous than carrying a small piece of straw or having one grotendously long fingernail.
    posted by elizardbits at 1:12 PM on June 8, 2012

    Could there be an overlap between the type of people who frequent that area and the type of people more likely to litter--have less respect for the environment, or society, or rules, or just are less outwardly-conscious?

    (I see those things on the ground in DC and Virginia, too. I sort of think the product simply shouldn't exist as a disposable item because it incites littering. An un-American opinion, to be sure.)
    posted by davextreme at 2:13 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

    I see these in the parking lot of my work and have developed an elaborate internal fantasy wherein I find the floss-litterer and perform the death of 1000 cuts, except it's the death of 1000 flosses which takes even longer but is slightly more hygenic. If you throw flossing equipment on the ground you should be run over with a tank.

    And no, I don't think it's drug-related. I think people are just assholes. And they litter.
    posted by Kafkaesque at 3:26 PM on June 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

    Chiming in to agree that people use them and then just toss them in public. Not only that, but at least twice a week I find them . . . brace yourselves . . on the floor or on the shelves of the bookstore where I work. Bleeeargh!!!!! So the sidewalk people have an etiquette up, actually, on the bookstore floss & tossers.
    posted by mygothlaundry at 4:13 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

    Unlikely, but the ones I buy are really stiff and really sharp. I'm completely certain I could effectively stab someone with one and do some damage in a sensitive area. Minor weapons with plausible deniability?
    posted by cmoj at 7:14 PM on June 8, 2012

    Are the flosspicks burned at the sharp ends? I was just reading this article about a "toothpick heist" (http://onlineathens.com/local-news/2012-06-08/athens-clarke-police-investigating-toothpick-heist) and it got me thinking about this question again, so I did some digging and found this Yahoo answer: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080628064354AATUKek (short theory: crack; big question to me, which may not matter to folks smoking crack, but...isn't burning plastic supertoxic?)
    posted by jenh at 7:56 PM on June 11, 2012

    I have not been able to get this question out of my mind since it was first posted. At first I thought it was strange, and then I started noticing floss picks on the ground everywhere.

    Recently was out on a long bike ride in the country and noticed at least two of these while riding on roads where the only traffic they are getting is cyclists, tractors, horse & buggies.
    posted by JennyJupiter at 12:18 PM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

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