Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I went to my dentist today. One of the great surprises of my adult life was how short a dentist appointment is when nobody stuffs your face with mouth guards full of fluoride for 20 minutes. You go in. They scrape your teeth and floss your gums to make sure you are not a crazy redneck who rinses with beer and flosses with yarn, and then you leave with a goody bag. Still they give you a goody bag. I am OK with that.

Adult appointments do maintain one illogical frustration: hygienists asking you questions while shoving some unpleasant combination of tartar picks, mirrors, polishers, water hoses and spit suckers into your mouth. They never laugh when you try to answer. They act like special education teachers, giving mostly positive reinforcement and simple instructions like "open" and "close" despite your obvious speech impediment.

Why do they do this? I know they cannot understand any of the patients. I think they test to see which patients will try to talk through the instruments. Maybe the receptionists place small bets when you announce your arrival and cash in by the water cooler later.

"That one will slobber all over himself to explain what he does for a living," the one on the left might have said as I retreated to the waiting room.

"No way," number two would respond. "He is reading 'How to Win at Chess,' and it says right here that he teaches high school. He has the patience and intelligence to wait it out. Two bucks."

Well done, number two. You would have won today if such a conversation occurred. The hygienist tried the same old trick, and I gave her the wait-a-minute index finger. I saw her register my response with a disappointed nod. How dare you bet against me, I thought. I am a well-rested teacher on winter break.

Pathetically, I babbled and choked for my whole life until today. The hygienist threw a consolation cheap shot.

"You have a cavity," she said.

Shoot. My first one. No more gargling with beer.

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