A guest post by Chris Scott from DeadCaterpillar.com.
I went to the dentist today and had a significant thought. There I was sitting in a chair betwixt two professionals (the dentist and his assistant) working on my teeth. Yes, two high-paid professionals who had probably both gone through several years of schooling were taking several hours out of their day to attend to my hygienic needs. That’s two professionals. Several years of schooling. My hygiene. Got that? All thanks to our wonderful semi-capitalist economic system (← I had to get that jab in there).
And on top of that, racial diversity had a role in it: the dentist was Asian, the nurse was a black woman and the patient was white. We each represented a portion of post-racial Western society. We were like a symbol of freedom, hope, interracial togetherness – or something like that. I wanted to say something but with all the cotton balls in my mouth, all I could say in response to anything was “ah huh.”
Aside from not being able to communicate properly, a very pressing issue was on my mind. Where does one rest his eyes when two hunched-over individuals are operating in his facial area?
Do I focus on the half-blinding light overhead? Do I stare deep into Choi’s (the dentist’s) pitch-black almond eyes? Do I look at my teeth through the reflection off Choi’s glasses (he’s Chinese and educated so he has glasses of course). Perhaps I should stare to the left, at the face mask of the black nurse which was bobbing up and down on account of the fact that she was chewing gum?
At any rate the internal conflict was making me look nervous. My eyes were going all over the place. My fingers were twitching. I could not settle on an awkward-less place to rest my eyes. Because my brain was so busy trying to solve the eye problem, I had difficulty obeying the dentist’s simple commands: “open wider” and “close more.”
Then I had an epiphany.
Why not close my eyes? The revelation was brought about by a splash of cold water to the face by the water drill which forced me to close my eyes. Afterwards, I kept them close.
“You must be tired,” Choi said about a minute after I closed my eyes.
“ah huh,” I responded.
After all, what else can anyone say but “ah huh” at the dentist?
When the dentist did something painful I usually clenched my fists or wiggled my toes vigorously (don’t worry, they couldn’t see this child-like reaction because I was wearing shoes). But if the dentist saw, out of the corner of his eye, me clench my fists on the armrests he would ask if I was okay. In which case, mouth still full of objects, I would respond with a simple yet pointed “ah huh.” You see, when the mouth is full of objects the patient has severe tongue movement restriction. They teach dentists that in dentist school but I believe they present it as something like a job perk.
But even if I were physically capable of enunciating something beyond the length of one syllable, what could I possibly say?
“Yes Dr. Choi, that hurts.”
Would Choi then put down his tools and call it a day? Somehow I think not. After the roller coaster takes off there’s nothing much “stop the ride Dad!” can do. I learned that valuable lesson early on in life at the seemingly innocuous Runaway Mine Train ride at Six Flags.
I used to ask for the laughing gas, primarily because it feels like breathing in heaven. “Sweet air,” some people call it. I just don’t see why God couldn’t have mixed a little bit of that stuff into the atmosphere – then maybe people wouldn’t be so uptight all the time.
I didn’t get the nitrous-oxide this time. I got something much better. Because of the fact that all Asian people are short, my head and upper-torso were lowered far lower than usual to accommodate Choi’s shortness. It was almost like being on my bud Steve’s inversion table at about a 145 degree angle. The effect was a constant rush of blood to the head which kept me in a very oxygen-high, dazed state. By the way, getting on the inversion table is my favorite thing to do at Steve’s house.
In my 45-degree-angled chair I was drifting off into a trance. Through many years of boring sermons and school convocations, I have gained the unique ability to bring about miniature self-induced comas. The rush of oxygen to the head only sped up the process I had initiated. While in this state I thought about all sorts of things. I thought about how I would talk to the receptionist with my entire mouth being numb. I thought about how lunch would taste with all the fluoride and chemicals lingering in my mouth. I thought about bow hunting for coyotes with my brother in the Casperkill woods at night with night vision goggles. Yes, we have actually considered doing that. The only things we still need before we can embark on that adventure are bows and night vision goggles.
While at the dentist, I’ve also learned how to fake being a masochist. In my head, I scream things like “that feels wonderful” and “bring it on” when Choi does something violent and painful (e.g.: slowly sticking a 10-inch needle deeper and deeper into my gum and not stopping even after 10-Mississippi). Unfortunately, no matter what I do to mask the pain, my tongue always gives me away. My tongue seems to be in the habit of doing a little dance every time a large amount of pain is inflicted via my mouth. I know this because I witness it through the reflection in Choi’s eye glasses. I swear, that little thing has a life of its own.
Well, that’s pretty much all the funny observations I made while at the dentist today. I wish I had some spectacular way of tying all of this up neatly in a conclusive paragraph but I think I’ll go to bed now..
… So I guess I’ll see you later.