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The Dentist, AKA Twenty Minutes of Hell

Twice a year I receive a letter in the mail that I fear more than any bill, credit card statement, or even student loan statement.  Okay, maybe not that last one.

That letter, which is actually a post card filled out by me, is a dentist summons, and arrives in January and July of each year, without fail.  Twice yearly, I am forced by insurance and parents, to call and schedule an appointment with my most hated of professional hygiene services.  One year I managed to skip out once, but that didn’t last long.  It’s a shame that all the brushing, flossing, and Listerine in the world can’t save me from the dentist.

Curiously, I actually like the people who work at the dentist’s office, especially the receptionists.  They are funny (one cracked a great joke about my step mother and won a place in my heart), nice, polite, and somehow always remember my name every time I come in, which is something I would never be able to do.  Names float freely in one ear and out the other in, on average, about ten seconds, and sadly, I am not exaggerating that fact.  They even have a large fish tank with some intriguing fish and magazines to read in the waiting lounge.

However, that is all the love I have for this clean, florescent lit, sterile, modern dungeon.

When my name is called, I am entering about twenty minutes to a half hour of dental punishment.  And then there was the time when I had my wisdom teeth removed; I won’t get started on that memory.

The first act of business is updating X-Rays.  A large machine that looks similar to a projector is pointed into my cheek, and an L-shaped piece of material covered in plastic tarp wrap is positioned in my mouth for several X-Rays.  It tastes horrible, is extremely uncomfortable, and if your tongue unintentionally moves it, or the technician doesn’t like the take, the X-Ray is done again.

Once X-Rays are done, my chair is lowered, tilted backwards, and that large, very annoying light is directed to beam directly into my face.  For the past two visits, I have had the same exact room; I know this because this particular room has a poster over one of the florescent light panels of what looks like either a cranberry or current bush covered in snow and with a blue sky in the background.  Sometimes, the technician tries to make small talk, usually centered around how I am doing/liking/studying/etc. at Michigan State University, which would be fine under normal circumstances, but when they are poking around in my mouth, it makes holding conversation pointedly awkward.

During my last visit, the technician was mercifully silent, something I was indeed thankful for.

So, down to the nitty gritty.  First, some type of needle/scalpel/tool is pressed in between the roots of my teeth and my gums, once in the outside and once in the inside, of every. single. one of my 32 teeth.  The higher the number, the worse the shape of your mouth.  I score nothing higher than a 3 and am complimented on the healthiness of my gums.  Thank you, I reply.

With that test out of the way, the technician starts the worst part of the visit: she begins to scrape my teeth with a metal hook, which looks just like this little guy: (It’s relevant and worth mentioning that the google image below was captioned “Tool of Satan.”

Just looking at the image above makes me shudder and sends cold shivers down my spine.

So, with gusto, my technician begins scraping away while I keep my mouth patiently open, wondering how in the world it scratching my teeth with a metal hook could ever be considered a good idea.  Occasionally, the metal torture device pokes my gums, which hurts, and the technician sprays water on my gums, then uses a sucker straw to clear away the water-blood mixture so she can continue on with her grisly work.

After scraping all of my 32 teeth, inside and outside, she sets her terrible tools down on the table and asks me what flavor of polish I would like.  The choices are: bubblegum, raspberry, orange, or mint.  I figured out, a few visits ago, that the correct answer is mint, every time.  There is no polish that “tastes” good.  It all tastes like artificially flavored sand grains, and nothing will change that fact.  Mint is simply the least offending “flavor.”

The polishing part is done with a tool that has an end that spins around and sounds like a slightly less powerful air ratchet.  The polish is applied to the end of this dentist ratchet, and then, just like a mini floor polisher, all of my teeth, once again inside and outside, are polished.  In between refillings, I can’t help but close my mouth and crunch the polish grains between my teeth.  Without fail, my face contorts, conveying to no one in particular, a look of complete disgust.

After all of my teeth are covered in the revolting polish, I am given a “mercy” cup of water to swish around and spit in the bowl that sits next to the dentist chair.  At this moment, I am able to sneak a small smile, because the worst that the dentist has to throw is now over.

After a few minutes, the head dentist arrives and starts to poke around in my mouth.  He usually wears a small headlamp, as if he is going to go Spelunking after his day at the office.  His hand is practiced and deft as he sticks his hook into the crowns of my teeth, then wiggles the tool, presumably to check for the presence of a cavity; I have none.  My little brother, Jonathan (age 10?), on the other hand, has several fillings and several cavities already.

Once he is done with the top set of teeth, he calls out, “top looks good!” and repeats the same phrase when he has finished with the bottom, just replacing the word, “top,” with “bottom.”

After he leaves, the technician offers me a goody bag filled with floss, toothpaste, and a crappy toothbrush all of which I do not, will never, and have never used.  I don’t know why I still accept them, it’s just habit by this point, left over from when I was a kid and loved getting goody bags.

In the last step of my visit, I leave the room and proceed through the corridor to the desk, where I fill out the post card that will arrive at my house in exactly six months time.  With goody bag in hand, I leaving the dentist’s office, I call out “thank you, have a good day,” throw the bag in the back seat, crank Country music, and speed out of the parking lot, happy to not have to return to the torture dungeon for another half year.

July 22, 2010 Posted by | dislikes, writing | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Props to Samuel Mikalonis, you made it.

Tattooing a Tale

Samuel Mikalonis.  Once a boy, now a man.  I just hope that you will remember all the little people you karate chopped, flipped out of egg chairs, poured water bottles on, and have gone to the same school with since preschool.  Word.

July 21, 2010 Posted by | Friends | , , , , | Leave a comment

What Happens When I Drink Coffee at Work?

I don’t drink coffee often.  I don’t drink it for fun, or for dessert, or because I get the shakes and a headache if I don’t.  I drink it for one reason: to stay awake and get energized.  I can count the number of times I’ve drank coffee this summer on two, or maybe one hand.

So, with the aforementioned preface in place, I found myself in the awkward position at work yesterday of feeling my eyelids droop, and my head slowly start to tilt backwards.  I assume it’s safe to say we’ve all been there at some point in time?

So, I get up, walk to the Keurig coffee machine, pick out a random packet from the eight boxes available, and start it up.

Returning to my desk, I take a sip, then another, then another.  Gradually, with sip after sip, I finish the cup.  Though I don’t drink coffee often, I do enjoy the aroma and taste.

A few minutes pass, and I become gradually aware of a strange, foreign feeling in my body.

Suddenly, I notice the God of Thunder demo (which is far faster paced than the regular version), by Kiss (courtesy of Derrick Pettelle), start pumping through my headphones.

All at once I can feel the power of the caffeine coursing through my veins and my heartbeat starting to race.  Checking to make sure no one is looking at me, I rock the air guitar along with Ace Frehley and stick out my tongue in imitation of Gene.  Rock on.

I don’t feel like I’m sitting at my desk in Lansing, Michigan anymore.  It feels like I’m racing a bright, cherry red Formula One Ferrari at the head of a pack through breakneck speeds in the Monaco, France race.

The office building suddenly begins to shake, and small pieces of wall in front of me start to peel away and fly past my head.  A particularly large chunk hits my monitor and bounces, smashing into the whiteboard behind me.  As I watch the deteriorating wall, I can see the oceanside on one side and the city buildings on the other through cracks and holes.  My keyboard starts to undergo a transformation, becoming a steering wheel with the black horse logo at the center.  My damaged monitor rolls down my desk and jumps onto my head, morphing into a red helmet with the Italian flag on the right side.  My office chair molds around me into the cockpit of the Formula One car.  The entire office quakes once more and then everything falls away, leaving me looking down the track of a real, live Formula One race.

Powerful engines whir and whine all around me.  Tires screech as cars scream around corners.  The scenes blur in my peripherals.  The smell of melting rubber, exhaust fumes, and sweat invade my nostrils, and the blanketing heat presses in on my suit.

My heart is in my throat, but I swallow and push it back down, grip the steering wheel with white knuckles, and jam the accelerator.

Right!  My head whips left and then to the right as I hit a successive right, then left turn.  Ted’s driving school never prepared me for this, but today I feel like a natural born racer.

Straightaway!  In my mirror I can see cars behind me fan out and start to creep up on my sides.  I glance back in front of me.

The finish line is up ahead!

The close second reaches my rear tire; I drift slightly left, then back to the right, edging him towards the wall.

500 feet!

A car on my left tries to make a break for the lead.

400 feet!

The car to my left reaches the center line of my car.  I can see the helmet of the driver and the reflection of the sun in his helmet shield.

300 feet!

I straighten the wheel and move back towards the center.  It’s no use attacking one and letting the other take the lead.

200 feet!

The car on the left noses forward ever so slightly.  The car on the right falls back.

100 feet!

If this were the Fast and the Furious, this would be the moment where I would hit the red nitrous button and secure the win, blue flames shooting from my tailpipe.

50 feet!

40 feet!

30 feet!

20 feet!

10 feet!!!

I drive a Ferrari; I don’t need nitrous.  I win the race by inches.  Cheers erupt into my helmet microphone.  I ease off the gas and raise my right fist in celebration.

My car presently sits, retired in the Ferrari store in Rome, Italy.

I don’t drink coffee often, but when I do, I prefer French Roast…

July 21, 2010 Posted by | writing | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments