The Dental Conversation Restriction Initiative
Black Paint, Cool Cars and Root Canals


Are you a registered voter?  Good.  I’ve got a petition I’d like you to sign, but first, let me tell you my story.

It’s 2009.  I’m sitting in a dentist’s chair about to undergo a root canal procedure. 

The nerve of a tooth lies within its root in what’s called the canal — a soft sensitive area. Yet, the word “canal” sounds massive and historic.  It’s as if one the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever is about to take place in your mouth… or, in this case, my mouth.

To add to the flavor of MY canal procedure, there is carpentry work going on immediately next door to the room where I’m reclined in the dentists “is it safe” chair. They’re drilling and pounding — putting up dry wall.  It’s loud and foreshadowing. There’s nothing like the sound of a Black and Decker to boost your apprehension of dental technology. 

But, positive thinker that I am, I ignore the setting.  All is well, I think.  Then the dental assistant appears and starts to talk.

“Did you hear they’re going to outlaw black cars?” she asks me. 

She’s referring, of course, to California’s “Cool Cars Measure.”

“Stupid politicians,” she says.

At this moment, the only thing political I want to hear about is a law restricting political conversations in dental offices.  After all, do we really want to introduce a Rush Limbaugh or Rachel Maddow topic with a person who’s about to gain unfettered access to our mouth?  But we’ll get to my petition in a minute.

“No one’s going to tell me what color I can paint my car,” the dental assistant says.  Well, she’s right. No one is going to tell her.  Let me explain.

California’s Cool Cars Measure is aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions by reducing interior temperatures of cars.  That’s a good thing. Since, cars with darker paint absorb more heat, their occupants usually crank the air conditioning which then produces more carbon dioxide.  That’s a bad thing.  The scoping plan for California’s climate change legislation proposed exploring the possibility that science could produce dark pigments that would reflect sunlight.  But any consideration of a “cool paint” law was dropped after it was determined that paint technology was not advanced enough to create marketable reflective dark pigment paints. 

No one wanted to tell the dental assistant what color she could paint her car. But a rumor had been started, are there she was, righteously indignant about to stick sharp objects in my mouth.  It could happen to you.  That’s why I’d like you to sign the Dental Conversation Restriction Initiative.

If passed, this initiative would limit any conservation in a dentist office to small talk:  the weather, bad jokes, cute commercials, cat videos.

By the way, the Cool Cars Regulation that did become law requires new vehicles to be equipped with windows that would limit the amount of solar radiation entering the vehicle.  That’s a good thing, but I didn’t say anything about it to the dental assistant.  As far as I knew, she was a climate change denier.  If she were challenged, there’s no telling what sort of dental destruction she would have brought down on my gingiva.

Without good legislation in place, I’m forced to listen to more of her patriotic give me black lacquer or give me death sloganeering. “No one’s going to tell me what color I can paint my car,” she says again.  “No one’s going to take away my rights.”


Choice of car paint color wasn’t exactly what the founding fathers had in mind when they mentioned “unalienable rights.”  Frankly, they couldn’t even imagine tinting windows in automobiles, let alone preventing carbon dioxide emissions.  They didn’t even know what green house gas was.  But I’m sure they did know that a conversion gone awry with someone who was about to work on your teeth could end with bloodshed… or worse yet, litigation.  And that’s my point.

The founding father’s would have supported The Dental Conversation Restriction Initiative, wooden teeth and all.  Please sign.  Thank you.

— Nathan Callahan

First Broadcast May 25, 2012

© / Nathan Callahan / all rights reserved


Broadcasting Fridays at 8:50 am from KUCI 88.9 fm Orange County, California