The Dentist, the World's Media and a Proud Shrub

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By Joel P. Engardio

In the time I was in the dentist chair Tuesday morning, my phone blew up with messages from the New York Times, AP, Reuters, Forbes, Wired, CNN, NPR, BBC, CBS radio, ABC Channel 7 News, the local papers and news outlets from Australia to Sweden.

They all wanted interviews about San Francisco's ban of facial recognition technology. My group Stop Crime SF had the opposing view. We felt a moratorium was better than a total ban — keep the door open for responsible use of the technology when it improves.

Plus we felt large scale events like the LGBTQ Pride and Chinese New Year parades should be exempt from the ban. They are a target and deserve to be as safe as the New Year's Eve celebration in New York's Times Square.

Finally, the world's media wanted to hear our side. Seeing all the messages as I left the dentist office felt like a big moment.

For a second, I forgot the dentist had numbed my mouth to the point I couldn't feel my tongue or the lower half of my face. Drool and an Elmer Fudd drawl was in store for the next four hours. So much for the big moment.

My strategy was to do the print interviews first. Maybe the anesthetic would wear off enough to sound normal for TV and radio.

I recorded my interview for NPR's Morning Edition by phone. When the ABC-7 truck pulled up to my house, full sensation had nearly returned to my jaw. We did the interview on the front sidewalk.

Watching the newscast that evening with my husband was another humbling moment.

"How was it?" I asked.

"Great!" he said. "They got a nice shot of my rhododendron bush."