On Mondays, Dentists and Cleavage Before Lunch
Generally I don’t mind Mondays. On Mondays I am rested, hopeful. By Wednesday, hope has died and I am left to drag its corpse behind me until Friday when, exhausted, I drop it and fall into the bottomless sleep of the failed, mourning another week passed during which I achieved neither “Powerball winner” nor “New York Times Bestseller” status.
As I’ve said, I’m usually good with Mondays. This Monday was different though; I had a dentist appointment. Going to the dentist is among my dislikes, along with being wet, wet food (think soup) and men who wear shoes without socks.
As I was about to walk out the door, I remembered the receptionist had asked me to bring my plan ID card with me. Now my plan administrator, claiming to be green, but really just cheap, doesn’t provide ID cards but you can print one online. I climbed to my office on the third floor and booted up my computer. I had to register online to actually print an ID card. The registration site asked for “Member ID.” I was stumped. I had no clue what my member ID was so I called the Benefits Analyst at work. “I would think that would be your social security number,” she said.
“Oh, really,” I said sarcastically, “and why would you think that?”
There was silence at the other end of the phone but I could hear a faint rustling and scraping as she readjusted her crown of thorns. Chastened by her silence, and my own ingratitude, I keyed in my social security number and gained access. Then I remembered my work computer is not connected to my home printer so no way was I going to be able to print an ID card. I pulled out my phone and took a picture of the ID card screen.
When I walked in, the 50-something, bleached blonde behind reception desk regarded me suspiciously. I looked at her in amazement for she wore a low cut leopard print blouse and a gold mesh sweater. Her heavily accented “Good morning,” both question and accusation, hung in the air while I stared at her freckled bosom jacked up high under her chin like the Sunday offering plate. I suppressed the urge to bark back “Fahrvergnügen” and instead thought that cleavage before lunch, along with the wearing of silver shoes to work and texting while driving, ought to be outlawed.“May I have your ID card?”
“I don’t have one. They said you could look me up.”
She sighed. “Your employer’s name—and spell it, please.”
After a few key strokes and many more sighs she said “It’s not coming up. Does your company have another name?”
Really, Mary? How many companies do you know have more than one name? Well ours does but that’s another story.
“Um. No.” I remembered my phone and silently handed it to her with the picture of my “ID card.”
“Thank you.” Before I could sit, I was waved into an exam room.
The hygienist, flat, sharp as a board, leaned over and peered into my mouth with what I could only guess was gleeful anticipation at my coming discomfort. Despite the smile, the Howdy Dowdy hair and the lime-green plastic-framed glasses, I was sure she was a sadist in need of a pain fix.She looked at the x-rays in my file then peered curiously at me. “You have all your wisdom teeth?”
“Yes,” I said. “I do. We have an agreement—I don’t bother them and they don’t bother me.”
She looked at my x-rays again. “They’re really far back and they all fit—I’ve never seen that before. I won’t say you have a big mouth but…”
As a point of fact, I do have a big mouth. And no gag reflex.
Sitting down, poking about my open mouth with her sharp sterilized instruments, she said, “You have the straightest teeth! How long did you wear braces?”
As if to make up for my unnaturally straight teeth she said, “You have a lot of tartar.” Only she called it “calculus” which made me shudder, bringing to mind as it did that mathematical quagmire that very nearly derailed my college career. I stared at her glassy-eyed while she explained I would need a dental debridement which involved the use of ultrasound to break up the calculus and what can only be described as the world’s tiniest pickaxe to hack away at the embedded fragments.
I’d (barely) survived this exercise when the dentist arrived to review my x-rays and do an oral cancer screening. He turned on a million watt spotlight and proceeded to look into my mouth through magnified glasses. Next, he stuck a finger under my tongue while palpating the underside of my jaw. This was nothing compared to what he did next. To my astonishment he wrapped a piece of gauze around my tongue and yanked on it, then twisted it this way and that. I was ready to beat him when he finally released it and called to Sadist Number 1—I mean, the hygienist. They had a brief whispered conversation behind my head and then she grabbed a piece of gauze and my tongue in one fluid motion. I balled my fists ready to pummel this smiling Howdy Dowdy.“Uh, oh,” she said.
I looked from one to the other as they exchanged looks. Finally one of them—I don’t know which one I was so distracted by pain—said, “You have a lesion on your tongue¾”
“Whoa,” I said. “I fell on my face about six weeks ago and my tongue got caught between my teeth—”
“You fell on your face?”
“Yes. I was walking with my hands in my pocket and tripped on the sidewalk.”
“What’d he say?” the dentist, who is deaf, asked her.
“I fell,” I yelled, “And bit my tongue.”
“Oh! Then it’s probably just a scar.” He leaned in close. “Did you break any bones?”
“No. They did CT scans in the ER. No broken bones, no head trauma.”
“Good. Next time, don’t walk with your hands in your pockets,” he said and left.
The hygienist regarded me with an odd mix of curiosity and sympathy. “Still,” she said, making a note in my file. “We’ll keep an eye on it.” Was that hope in her voice? I hopped out of the chair, flung a check at the receptionist and ran out the door.
If you’re looking for me next Monday, you’ll find me in bed with the covers pulled over my head.
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