“No, I need a bigger wedge please.”
The nice dental hygienist dentist helper lady nodded and disappeared from my limited field of vision. A second later she reappeared and handed something to the dentist. I couldn’t see what it was, this wedge they were messing with, but I imagined it was probably about the size of a doorstop.
I decided to try to ignore the activity happening above me. No matter what they’re doing, it can’t be fun. For the last half hour I’d been trying to figure out exactly what tools and clamps and such were stuck in my mouth, but my imagination was starting to scare me. Okay… Go to my happy place. Last time I was here I found a crack in the ceiling that looked like Bart Simpson. I let my eyes roam the ceiling to see if I could spot it again…
“I’m going to need a bigger wedge. Give me the really big one over there.”
I’d just spotted the Simpson crack and was looking for the funny dog when my musings were interrupted by what sounded like a wet German shepherd gargling oatmeal just half an inch from my right ear. It took a supreme effort not to jump, but with various instruments of dubious function jammed in my gaping maw I limited my reaction to a muffled “Whuuuaaaa!!!”
The dentist and dental hygienist dentist helper lady both froze. “Did that hurt? What’s wrong?”
“Nuffing. Schorry.” It’s hard to talk when you have half a toolbox and three hands jammed in your mouth. The dentist and dental hygienist dentist helper lady both relaxed and went back to their business.
What in the world was that noise, though? What could sound like that? There it is again! “Wurbleglubglub blub.” Oh… My right ear is about half an inch from the dentist’s belly. Hmmm… I hadn’t noticed that before. This seems a bit too… intimate. I’m not sure I’m happy with this.
“Okay, can you hand me that hammer, please?” said the dentist to the dental hygienist dentist helper lady. “Burgleburgleburgle,” said his belly to me.
You know, it’s about 11 in the morning. I’m getting a little hungry myself.
“Grrrrllummmp” said the dentist’s belly. “Graaawwwwwwglub” said mine, loud enough I could hear it over the jackhammer in my mouth. The dental hygienist dentist helper lady stopped what she was doing and looked at my stomach.
Okay, now I’m trying not to laugh. My mouth is wide open with a post hole digger hanging out of it, a warning from the dentist “not to move,” and now I’ve got the giggles.
“Blump!” said the dentist’s belly. “Wuuuuurp,” agreed my belly.
Now I’m shaking, making little meek “eee eee eee” noises, trying not to totally lose it. The dentist stopped what he was doing. “Does that hurt?” he asked.
“Naw. Schorry,” I said. I caught sight of the dental hygienist dentist helper lady in the dentist’s mirror. I could see she was trying not to laugh too.
“Glub,” said the dentist’s belly. “Wuuuuuurp.”
“eee eee eee” I said. “Fliiiirrrrrrb,” said my belly. The dental hygienist dentist helper lady started shaking with suppressed laughter. “What?” said the dentist. “What!” Both the lady and I shook our heads, not wanting to explain…
Forty-five minutes later the dentist, still clueless about the concert he gave me, said, “Okay, that should be it! You’re done for now.”
I sat up, my head spinning a little from the combination of anesthesia, pain, and the trauma of having people banging, wrenching, drilling, and twisting my teeth for over an hour. “Thank God,” I said. “I don’t know if I could have stood it for another minute.”
“Well, don’t go too far,” the dentist said, “you’re scheduled for a cleaning now.”
“What? You’ve gotta be kidding!”
“Nope. I have no sense of humor.” About that time a lady peeked her head in the torture room. “Oh, hi Chris. Follow me, please.”
Holding my jaw in one hand and my surprise in the other I followed meekly. Down the hall and into another torture room. I sat down and grabbed the armrests in the traditional “dentist office death grip.” The lady grabbed a meat hook and asked me to open my mouth.
“Aaaahhhh,” I said.
“Oh,” she said. She poked around with her hook thingy. “Oh.”
She looked at some papers. “Oh.” Then back in my mouth. “Oh.” Then she picked up the papers and read them more carefully. “Hmmmm.”
“What?” I said. “You’re scaring me. What’s wrong?”
“Well, you have a lot of…” Then she proceeded to go into a very technical explanation, very little of which I understood — my mind was still reeling from the previous hour and a half in the other torture room. I caught a few words. “…under the gums,” and “I bet that’s really painful,” and “we need to re-measure your gums,” and “I bet that really hurts.” I nodded, pretending to understand what was going on around me.
“Do you snack?” the lady asked me. “Do you have a favorite?”
“Yeah, I usually don’t eat much except for sand and Jolt Cola,” I answered. “Is that bad?”
“We’re going to need to… Wait. Do you have insurance?”
If ever there’s a warning flag in the dentist’s office, that’s it.
“I have a card my wife gave me this morning,” I said. “She told me to give it to you.” I wriggled my billfold out of my back pocket and handed her the four or five insurance cards I carry around. “It’s one of these.”
She took my insurance card and disappeared for a few minutes. Then came back. “Yep, you’re covered,” she said. “We’re going to need to take some X-Rays.”
“But you guys just did that a few months ago,” I said.
“Well, we need to do it again so I know how to approach your problem.” She grabbed a chunk of cardboard. “Here, put this in your mouth.” Not having any choice, I did. She dropped the lead apron on me and ducked around the corner.
Now, I’ve had dental X-Rays taken five or six times in my life. Usually there are four “sessions.” Four little pieces of cardboard, one at a time, that you gotta put in your mouth with the traditional “bite down, please, and hold still” while they aim something that looks like an animatronic dinosaur at your face. This was NOT like that at all. I don’t know what they were doing, but I would estimate they took twenty or twenty-four X-Rays — and only a few of them were with the little pieces of cardboard. Most of them were some chunk of… I don’t know what it was, but it was on a big stick or clamp or something. “Okay, put this in your mouth,” the lady would say, coming at me with something that looked like it was two feet square, aiming to jam it in my mouth.
Finally she finished with the X-Rays. “Okay,” she said, “this will take us a few minutes. We need to develop them, then we put them all together and we’ll have a good picture of your condition.” I noticed that the whole time I’d been in this particular torture room she’d been referring to “my condition,” but never once told me what it was. “I’ll need you to go out in the waiting room and fill out this form, please,” she said, handing me a clipboard with a piece of paper. “We’ll come and get you when we’re ready to start. This might take a while.”
I mumbled something, grabbed the clipboard and staggered back to the waiting room. Flopping into the nearest chair, I glanced at the form. It was asking me what anesthetics I’m allergic to.
Wait. What are they planning to do to me? I thought I was coming in to get an imaginary cavity filled, but that was nearly two hours ago, and now they’re talking about insurance and anesthetic and “my condition.” This isn’t good.
My jaw throbbed.
I found my phone in my pocket and dialed my favorite number.
“Hallo?” said my Beloved Viennese Bride, Dagmar.
“Hi Honey. What anesthesia am I allergic to?” I asked, holding onto my jaw.
“Vhat? Are you still at de dentist? Why are you still at de dentist? What do you mean, ‘anesthesia?’ Vhat are dey doing to you?”
“I don’t know, Snookums,” I said. “They filled a cavity I didn’t know I had; now they want me to stay here and wait while they develop X-Rays and they’re talking about putting me under, and I have a meeting in an hour… I just don’t want to be here. My mouth hurts and I just don’t want to be here.” We chatted for a few minutes longer, then Dagmar said, “You just fill out your form. Take it up to the desk when the secretary’s phone rings.”
“What?” I asked. But she’d hung up already. I mentally shrugged to myself and filled out my form, rubbing my aching jaw, pausing every now and then to reflect on my upcoming misery. I still felt bruised from the dentist, now I gotta go back for more. Just as I finished the form, the secretary’s phone rang. I reluctantly took the paper up to the desk, shuffling my feet. The secretary was still talking on the phone. I set the form down. I just don’t want to be here, I thought. The secretary wasn’t paying any attention to me. I gazed wistfully out the front door for a moment, wishing I was elsewhere, anywhere, then glanced back at the secretary. She was laughing into the phone now, not paying the slightest bit of attention…
I bolted. Out the door I ran. I was in the car and on the road in about twenty seconds. My cell phone rang. It was Dagmar. “I vunder if the secretary has noticed you’ve left,” she said.
“How did you know I was gonna run away?” I asked.
“I know you very well,” she said. “Just who do you think the secretary was talking to, anyway?”