Why are there so many floss picks littering parking lots?
September 15, 2017 9:12 PM   Subscribe

I keep seeing floss picks in parking lots. Gas station parking lots, supermarket parking lots, strip-mall parking lots... all the parking lots. Why? I don't understand how floss picks are ending up in so many random parking lots. Do people keep and use and discard them in the car? Are there a coterie of dentists who are confetti-ing local parking lots? What the heck in going on?
posted by lazuli to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
posted by zepheria at 9:49 PM on September 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

people use them during their commutes and when they are finished they throw them on the ground because they are disgusting animals
posted by poffin boffin at 11:24 PM on September 15, 2017 [26 favorites]

Do people keep and use and discard them in the car?

If they use them while driving, they are either tossed out the window to be scattered along the highway (where you aren't seeing them) or saved to be thrown out the window while stopped in a parking lot. And then you have the people who fill their time waiting in the parking lot (like while their buddy is inside in the bathroom) cleaning their teeth, or who just ate dinner inside and now want to clean their teeth before starting the drive, and of course tossing it out the window.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:42 AM on September 16, 2017

people are pigs, I'm curious, did you see any cigarette butts?
posted by patnok at 7:34 AM on September 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've definitely noticed this over the years and think that is has a lot to do with people feeling okay with personal grooming in public, especially when they are on their way somewhere. Similarly, some people think it is totally normal and okay to spit on the sidewalk or open their car door and spit out onto the street. Some restaurants have a jar of toothpicks (sometimes even individually wrapped!) at the cashier counter, so people can pick at their teeth on their way out. Other examples: Nail clipping on busses, trains, even while in their office at work in front of their colleagues. Putting on mascara while in your car at the stop light. It all seems kind of odd to me but to many it is normal. There are somehow a large number of people who are comfortable with personal grooming in public and often will do these things while on the way from here to there.
posted by belau at 7:50 AM on September 16, 2017

Too heavy to blow away in the wind, too thin to get picked up by the street sweeper?
posted by thejoshu at 8:32 AM on September 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Honestly, I imagine even more plain regular dental floss got thrown out car windows back before they came out with the floss picks (and might still do), and it's just that it blew away more easily or washed down storm drains or got built into birds' nests or who knows what.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:49 AM on September 16, 2017

Too heavy to blow away in the wind, too thin to get picked up by the street sweeper?

I'm not sure how so many get there but I think this is why so many stay there.

One thing I can tell you is that I use them, and they are slippery little fuckers sold in slippery little bags, and somerimes when I reach in to get one a few get tangled and fall out. Doesn't explain why someone wouldn't pick it up but maybe more people are doing then you'd think.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:55 AM on September 16, 2017

Best answer: As a cross-cultural note, I have never seen a floss pick on the ground in the UK, though they are sold in every supermarket/pharmacist. Since factors such as littering, driving and drug use are common to both, and but flossing is waaaaay more obsessed about in the US, I would suggest that it's people flossing while driving. I think that the above about them floating and not getting washed away is the thing, but I'd also wonder if the fact that you can use them one-handed (ie while driving, whereas most dental hygeine things need either both hands or a sink) is the key here.
posted by Vortisaur at 2:07 PM on September 16, 2017

OMG, I thought I was the only one noticing these all over the sidewalks in Brooklyn. So much so that I have been thinking about starting to snap a photo every time I see one. I always thought it was weird, and wondered what was up with it.
posted by old_growler at 2:08 PM on September 16, 2017

I have noticed these for years, along with those plastic cigarillo-butts, and any other litter the wind can't blow away.

Many people spit or drop small things on the ground thinking it won't matter. I first realized just how often it occurs when someone told me that the black spots on the sidewalks in a major European city were, in fact, gum. Something driven home after I stepped on somebody's and had to clean sticky pink goo off my shoe.

People litter, and those floss picks are probably just heavy and colorful enough to hang around and accumulate and get noticed.
posted by Crystal Fox at 2:57 PM on September 16, 2017

Response by poster: OK, I'm willing to believe people are flossing while commuting, and I guess I've been underestimating the number of people who floss regularly. I've also never seen anyone flossing in their car, but I can't say I've specifically been looking out for it, so I might start trying to notice.
posted by lazuli at 4:32 PM on September 16, 2017

FWIW, I carry these around in my pockets and sometimes they fall out when I pull out a tissue or pen or whatever. I would believe that I've accidentally dropped them without realizing. I have even found them in my own driveway, so they've somehow managed to fall out of my pocket just by the act of getting into or out of the car! So, maybe not all of them are left on purpose....
posted by rabbitrabbit at 12:03 PM on September 18, 2017

I can personally attest to the fact that because I'm a gross person who uses my car like a giant trash can, I often find floss picks/receipts/crumpled water bottles etc. in and around my parking space at my house. They fall out when I open the car doors because it's basically a trash dune in there and things tumble around.

I can also personally attest to the fact that there are a LOT of other gross people out there using their cars as trash cans. I used to repo cars for a living - I've seen a lot of dirty trash-cars. Not judging! Like I say, I drive one myself.

My guess is that a lot of what you're seeing is accidentally dropped rather than actively tossed.

Why do I floss in my car? Because if I'm coming from lunch back to work I'll often floss + gum as a make-shift breath-freshening exercise. I can floss-pick with one hand and no sink.

Yes, I pick up my dropped trash when I notice it because I'm riddled with guilt about it...but not so riddled as to actually clean my car, so I'm sure some gets away without my noticing.
posted by DSime at 2:59 PM on September 18, 2017

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