Choose the Dream In Which You Live

I sat in the waiting room of the dentists’ office, my eyes closed against the commotion from the other patients. Jolly holiday music wafted over me from speakers I never bothered to find. My eyes opened in response to the sound of the office door. Before me I could see CNN on the TV. The tech called a different patient. I read the closed caption on CNN’s coverage of a Newtown fireman talking about receiving 26 wreaths at the station house. Somewhere Bing Crosby dreamed of a White Christmas.

It was a little after 3:00 PM on Monday, December 17. I realized that three worlds mixed uncomfortably around me.

The first world came in over the speakers. It was a happy world, where people went on sleigh rides and gave each other presents. There was snow and romance, and the biggest troubles could be handled by taking them to Santa Claus.

The second world was the silent horror of the television. Unrelenting fear and misery, projecting over us — always questioning our safety.

In between lay the third world. This was where we sat. It wasn’t eternally cheery. It wasn’t constant anguish. It had a bit of each, but only rarely. Mostly it was a lot of anticipation of one or the other. We could focus on the good fantasy or the bad fantasy and live to see them realized.

They never would be real, though. Not really. You could live that way and be always disappointed or distraught, but they still wouldn’t be real. Better, you can live for the moments in between. Learn to enjoy every sandwich. It’s easier to bear the bad times, if you don’t count only the very best times as good.

Then the door opened for me, and I went back to get a filling in a wisdom tooth.


Short of Tooth

I went to see a dentist last month. It’s been a few years; we’d lost insurance after the whole mess with The Workshop, and after gaining benefits elsewhere we decided to find a new place. Wendi hadn’t liked the previous dentist, and I didn’t like running into my former bosses there. Finally, Wendi found an office she liked. She came back from her appointment with a clean, malicious grin and an appointment card for me.

At least she gave me almost a month to prepare myself to go in…

Oddly enough, dental phobia is not one of my hangups. I just don’t like unfamiliar places. Or unfamiliar people. Or waiting rooms. What I especially don’t enjoy is filling out “new patient” forms. There’s always something on them that I can’t understand or honestly don’t know. Then I feel like an idiot, and I panic that I won’t be allowed past the waiting room because I couldn’t finish the form.

This time it was the insurance information. I’m on Wendi’s and don’t actually have a card of my own. I put down her name as the account holder, but I didn’t even remember what insurance company it was with. Plus, after 19 years of marriage I still haven’t memorized Wendi’s social security number. I’m the worst identity thief ever.

Fortunately when I explained that they already had our insurance information on Wendi’s account, the receptionist believed me. When I left I was told that the exam was completely covered, so I assume everything worked out with my patient form despite my complete inability to fill in standard information.

I don’t want to cover the cleaning and the x-rays; it was pretty standard stuff. Although it was my first experience with a sonic pick, there’s really not much to say about that beyond “it was oddly uninteresting”. I mean, my electric toothbrush is noisier. Slighty less damp, though.

For me the biggest surprise was that I didn’t have any cavities. I got the usual rap about flossing more and gums that weren’t bad enough to warrant a real lecture, but other than that everything was okay. Everything, that is, but for the “known issue”.

This is the part that surprised the staff.

I’ve mentioned my mutant ankles. Well, my teeth aren’t exactly to spec either. (Just once, I’d like to get a useful mutation. Like, not having nose hair.) It turns out that my upper canines decided to grow sideways instead of down. In the x-rays you can see them, happily nestled in my gums, dreaming their canine dreams of biting into rarebit.

Where they should have come out, there are two extremely tired baby teeth. One of which is, in fact, sleeping the sleep from which none awaken. This caused some alarm in the exam room. As the dentist calmly put it, “They could explode at any time.” I’m sure that was a metaphor, but he did leave hastily after that pronouncement.

I have to go back in November so they can measure my gums again. No further mention was made of my little time bombs or what we should do to defuse them. I really don’t want my mouth to blow up. Hot fudge sundaes through an IV just aren’t as tasty.