photo by ellen reitman.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

do you charge by the tooth?

the first night of my tooth-ache was the worst. i sat in my chair moaning, groaning, walking up and down the driveway waiting for the light of day. i'd been through that before. i knew what was coming: probably antibiotics, certainly more pain and another extraction. my relationship to dental pain is long and storied. that actual appointment, however, was mercifully scheduled within hours and was not so bad.

after applying novacane, my dentist announced he needed to make some sort of an adjustment and would return in a few moments. i didn't know what he meant. but as i waited my mind drifted way way back in time, to an occassion in india when i had the job of accompanying an old woman to a dinner party. the old woman was a respected member of the indian government being afforded every courtesy as a visitor to the ashram. and my not-so-simple task was to help her lumber up a really long set of concrete steps, built into the hillside, to the house where other dinner-guests were waiting.

aside from being aged, the lady was also unfortunately morbidly obese. the going was slow. we had to stop after every few steps for her to rest. by half-way up we were stopping after each step. at one point, about two-thirds of the way up the hill, the lady leaned against a boulder, took one desperately deep breath and as she exhaled her dentures went flying right out of her mouth and landed in the dirt. i, of course, had to crawl over, pick her teeth up and carry them in my hands the rest of the way up to the house. i washed them off in an outside tap on the porch before we made our grande entrance.

my dentist made his grande entrance as i was jolted back to the present. he slid into the room carrying a large pair of pliers and i spluttered: "what the hell?!" both he and his lovely assistant burst out laughing as he pointed out the pliers were for him to adjust a piece of equipment and i relaxed. the actual procedure was not so bad and i didn't have to re-mortgage my house.

the receptionist asked if i'd like to schedule a cleaning and i responded by asking: "why, to clean my gums?" she really didn't understand so i added: "do you charge by the tooth?"

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