“Have you had any tooth pain since that last time we saw you?”
“No,” I said without confidence, feeling certain I would have remembered if my teeth hurt. Tooth pain is something that could make Daddy cry and he was a Colonel and The Bravest Little Soldier Ever if I believed any of the stories he told. Even with everything I have had going on, I was fairly certain I would remember. Dental visits are a lot like the 5 of Cups; no matter what happens, you tend to focus on what you didn’t like.
(c) Copyright 2011 Marcia McCord
“No,” I said, this time with more confidence. “Cold stuff, hot stuff, everything seems OK.” Everything seems to get chewed up and land on my hips or some other undesirable resting place. If I can type 110 words a minute, why doesn’t that burn up calories?
Have I had any traditional tooth challenges lately? Well, there was no problem with the corn on the cob last weekend. The television commercials used to show that as a challenge, but I guess that’s if you have dentures. I have my own teeth with a few enhancements in the fillings and crowns department. But under all that they are, at least, mine.
Turtles, I thought. John’s been getting those divine dark chocolate turtles from Lileds down the street. They have thick dark chocolate with hard caramel and pecans. Now if anything is going to destroy good dental health, those turtles would do it. Of course, if anything was going to make a soft landing where I already have plenty of soft landing available, turtles would do that, too.
“You want a turtle?” John will holler from the kitchen about 9 pm.
This is a moral dilemma. Do I do the good thing and say, “No, just another glass of ice water,” or do I succumb to temptation?
“OK, but just one and make it a little one.” John likes companionship in small sins. I reflect on how close the candy shop name “Lileds” is to Lilith. Lilith, the vampire chocolatier, I think. Something about that makes sense but I can’t put my finger on it. Who would need a snake if you had turtles in the garden, after all?
Why is the vegetable stand a farther walking distance from the house than the candy shop? I suppose somewhere in there is the element of choice, right? I chose to buy this house. But, hey, the Universe swatted us with the Big Two-by-Four of Enlightenment years ago and said, “Ya’ eedjits, this house is a BARGAIN you will never see again. Buy it now!” We did.
Can we help it if it’s a short walk to Baskin Robbins or Lileds? Was it my fault they moved the Grocery Outlet across the freeway so I actually have to get in my car to get my bargains now? And China Ocean with its artery-blocking delicious General Chicken is a mere 2 blocks away? My closest bodega is El Dos de Oros, my favorite little Mexican grocery named for, of all things, the Two of Pentacles, sort of what I look like trying to manage a few veggies. It happens to be right across the street from my new little favorite restaurant, Quiero Mas with its fiery salsa, flavorful carne asada quesadilla and low, low prices. Yo quiero mas, no problemo.
But I digress. Have my teeth hurt since the last time I was at the dentist? Well, no. I’ve even flossed and gone out of my way to brush my teeth. I never feel self-righteous at the dentist though. It’s like going to an auditor, on purpose. There’s always something I should have done, something I could be doing better.
Trivia time: So did you know that the leading cause of death, death, I’m saying, in the year 1000 wasn’t dragons or swords or plague or plagues of locusts or mead overdoses or even malnutrition? Nope, it was, [insert dramatic pause here] tooth decay. Tooth decay was a cause of death! Sink your teeth into that the next time you visit your dentist or hygienist for a cleaning.
I was impressed this time with the new-fangled technology the hygienist used. I used to suspect they wore masks and gloves to protect their identities since they were, of course, all trained in advanced interrogation techniques a la Dustin Hoffman and Sir Lawrence Olivier’s mano a mano, so to speak, in that old movie. Is it safe?
Well, it’s safer than it used to be. I remember in my tender twenties having to cry uncle to my lower wisdom teeth which insisted on bouncing in and out of my gums. It was like the cat, you know? They’re out, they want in. They’re in, they want out. Zeesh, make up your minds! My dentist back then looked just like Santa Claus on his off hours, so the visions of sugar plums were all guilt-ridden when I visited him. When the critical moment came with forceps—oh, what the heck, they were pliers in anyone else’s toolbox—they slipped off my tooth and whacked me on my upper molars.
Just like that, like lightning, the reflexes honed over time of being ambushed by my older brother like Inspector Clouseau being ambushed by Cato in The Pink Panther, I did it. I gave Dr. Santa Claus a round-house right to his jaw. He reeled and staggered back, not expecting that from the dainty sweet thing in the pink dress.
“Ho, ho, ho,” he laughed—I said Santa Claus, didn’t I? “I guess we’re even!” I apologized profusely, wondering if anyone ever actually died of blushing and we got that wisdom tooth out without further surprises.
So, no, I don’t remember any tooth pain, I told my pert little hygienist in her blue mask and blue gloves, not black like executioners wear. Then she tipped me back so I couldn’t fight back and turned on the power tools including some PowerWash thing that probably loosened everything up down to my toenails.
Damn, I thought. She’s going to get rid of all the good dirt, too!
“Good dirt” was a theory I had developed during my eight years as a secretary back in the old days. (I refuse to say “back in the day” as if there were only one day; there were seemingly endless days.) The typewriter du jour was the IBM Selectric and if you were really lucky you had a Correcting Selectric. This was where I honed my words per minute fingers of flame. Computers came much, much later. Please, no older than dirt jokes, ok?
Inevitably the IBM Repairman, a concept of employment no longer remembered by most people, would come around to service your typewriter. This, I say, had all the charm of the less savory, more barnyard sense of the word service, so I would always step away to be spared the vision of That Man Putting His Hands on my precious machine. And just as inevitably, he would ask, “Have you had any problems lately?”
“No,” I would reply truthfully. “She works like a charm.” Those Selectrics were great workhorses.
When I would return after a discreet amount of time, just as inevitably, something would go wrong with my typewriter.
“It’s the good dirt!” I complained. “That guy took out the good dirt that was holding this thing together!”
He would return, make some adjustments and things would be back to normal again.
Stepping out of the dentist’s office after having negotiated my release for a small fee called a “co-pay” that makes you think someone else is somehow helping you with the payments when it’s just your premiums at work, I wriggled my jaw around. I felt rearranged. Numbers 30 and 31 were a little loose, they said. They call your teeth by numbers just so they don’t have to call them by name. Cowards. That girl took out the good dirt, I swear. And they want to know when I want to come back and do this again.