The Guinea Pig

Being away from Walla Walla for six months meant that some activities rolled around as soon as we returned, things like dental cleanings. I’d made the appointment on the cusp on last summer, and with the snowfall looking austere in the Blue Mountains next to town, I drove to that appointment today, right as schools all along my route were sending their students home.

In Washington, DC, attempting to get more than 20 blocks entails planning for a 35-40 minute trip. In Walla Walla, it’s more like 5 minutes, but I hadn’t counted on crossing guards. Of course I wasn’t about to mow down anyone’s children, but by school #3, I was worrying about arriving on time to my appointment. Not that most people feel urgency at being punctual to their dentist. Then again, I’m not most people.

Last school passed, I got ready to accelerate over the 20-mph mark, and then I saw that traffic had stopped for a dog—a boxer—standing in the middle of the road, as if there were now some canine patrol duty. This boxer held his ground on the yellow line, refusing to take refuge in a corner of the intersection, almost like a good pugilist on the offense. Now I was a few minutes behind my appointment. I half expected to encounter a stalled bus of nuns around the corner on Tietan.

No such misfortune awaited me, so I parked at the dentist’s office and headed in, only to endure a litany of horrible songs made all the worse by the fact that they had devolved into their Muzak-ified cousins. There are some things the human ear should never experience, including, in no particular order:

  • Jet plane engines landing 50 feet away
  • Heavy metal concert speakers blaring 10 feet away
  • Puff the Magic Dragon, the Muzak version

I waited, realizing that these musical stylings were designed to make me desperate to have a drill cutting into my head. To that end, it worked, and I jumped up all too happily in a vain attempt to get away from Muzak’s rendering of “Always.”

Now then, I like my dentist. She’s careful and capable, and instead of representing the sadistic DDS stereotype, is amenable to hearing all of my ridiculous stories, between suctionings from the hygienist, that is. However, even if we have a rapport, I felt some degree of trepidation when she leaned over me and asked, “So how do you feel about being a Guinea pig today?”

I requested clarification, as any reasonable patient to be would. She explained that she had a new tool in her arsenal—I mean, set of tools—that in one, was a retractor, light, hydrator, and suction. Hell, I would have jumped on it just for the light and suction combo. I doubted my quick agreement once I saw the thing, which looked like a glowing jellyfish in the shape of the number 8 on its side. In that way it resembled the symbol of infinity, which was approximately how long most dental patients feel like they’re sitting in the chair when they’re having a procedure done.

She told me to open wide, and somehow I managed to receive this jiggling basketball. Okay, it was somewhat smaller than a basketball. Carving into my tooth took less effort than one would want it to—seriously, it’s tooth enamel, it’s the hardest substance in the human body. It seems ridiculous that something like Coca-Cola should serve as a liquid jackhammer, but I’ve seen the British cleaning ladies on cable clean crusty stainless steel pots with boiling soda, so I suppose it’s a more abrasive substance than marketing pros would have us acknowledge.

Perhaps I should blame my DNA. I am 13th generation English, Scottish, and Welsh, and there’s only so much my Lebanese half can bolster. Forty years into this life I have one or two cavities to contend with a year. At this rate I’ll be able to transmit radio waves to Neptune before 2020.

Hey, that could come in handy.

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2 Comments on “The Guinea Pig”

  1. February 19, 2011 at 7:48 am #

    Nice post Ev! I don’t have dentist qualms myself but I do find dental conversations between my hygienist & myself funny. She must have the fancy decoder ring!

    • evmaroon
      February 19, 2011 at 9:38 am #

      Thanks! I’m glad you are able to converse with your hygienist. I wonder if they take a class on the subject, now that I think of it.

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