I am lucky, I think, to have so far enjoyed a relatively pain-free existence. I’m talking about physical pain here, not the emotional pain that a man feels when when a new ding appears in his car’s paint, or when he’s forced to spend his new bike fund on dental work.
It’s true I’ve had my nose broken by someone else’s head, and one of my fingers has been cut off and sewn back on, but nothing horribly painful has happened. To date, no buildings have collapsed on me such as they have upon the Haitians.
If I were set upon by such a calamity, however, I can only hope that Clinton’s Bush would be standing by to assist (I’m poking fun at our former Presidents, but donate to their Haiti relief effort if you can).
Still I feel I do know what pain feels like. As a bike racer and marathoner, albeit of a certain “huskyness” shall we say, pain is kind of something I do for fun.
The last time I stepped into my dentist’s office, I was prepared to endure rather a lot of pain, but I was surprised to find that the whole process was painless and even sort of interesting academically. It’s not often one lies in a chair looking up at another human being who is wearing a plastic mask flecked with chips of one’s own teeth. After that experience I left feeling good about the whole thing and sort of impressed with how dentistry has come along since I was a kid.
So yesterday I went to my dentist’s place of business expecting sort of a hassle, but not any real pain. When I got there, however, I was told that my dentist was out on maternity leave and that a replacement would be working on me in her stead. I looked down the hall, and he was seated with his back to me at a full pipe organ in a red-lit room with large stained glass windows.
He played some very ominous chords, hunching over the organ, and then threw his head back and laughed as a terrific bolt of lightning illuminated the windows. Then my ex girlfriend joined him on the piano bench and they made out passionately and stabbed pins into a tiny doll that looked like me.
“She never loved you!” he screamed.
Then he purchased my apartment building from my landlord and had me evicted, throwing my bikes and golf clubs onto the sidewalk, where he urinated on them.
Once he returned from that, he sat in a rolly chair and wheeled over to me. I was lying on my back, listening to the opening heartbeats of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. I couldn’t wait to get the gas party started.
The dentist was clanking around with various implements and pulling on rubber gloves, but he didn’t seem to be turning on any gas-related machines. I didn’t want to be rude, but I decided I’d better make it plain that gas would be totally fine with me. So, I mentioned politely that if it were an option, he could bring it on.
He laughed uncomfortably and said no, there would be no gas today.
What the fuck, please? No gas today?
I was upset, but I decided to not be a pussy about it. After all, I’m not a dentist, what do I know? Maybe it’s not so bad.
He started by attaching some sort of metal clamp to my mouth which had a latex rubber frisbee stuck to it. That hurt like hell pretty much right off the bat, and I said as much. He removed the weird frisbee and needled me (ouch) in the roof of the mouth, numbing things more. Then he replaced it.
The new numbness didn’t stop the rest of my hour and a half at the dentist from being very painful indeed. At first I made noises whenever it hurt to make it clear that whatever was going on wasn’t pleasant, but after a while it became clear that these cries did nothing, so I just breathed deeply and tried to get through it.
He explained that he was having to poke tools and implements deep into my jaw, past where he had numbed, and that’s why it was hurting. He even joked about it. I kid you not; on one occasion when he jabbed something and I jerked and inhaled sharply he said “Felt that one, huh?”.
Now, again, I am not a dentist, but I have to wonder why it was not possible to numb that area in addition to the areas already numbed.
Pain aside, I think he tried every tool they have on me. There was even one point where a blowtorch was used to heat up a metal probe which was then jabbed at my tooth. This is not a fabrication. There was a blowtorch.
After an eternity of painful tooth jabbing, there was a second eternity. Then a third and fourth eternities were brought in from elsewhere in the building just to make sure. A fifth eternity arrived by courier, and that’s when it really started to take a long time.
After a final flourish where my dentist leaped up onto my prone body as though he were riding a surf board and brandished a flaming blowtorch in either hand, it was over. He leaped off me and bounded down the hall, presumably to debase me publicly on the internet.
I got up and the dental tech guy and I sort of looked at one another. I felt tired, drained.
He shook his head sadly and gave me an apologetic look. “I tried to help,” he said.
As if in a daze, I walked down the short hallway to the desk where the pretty girls sit. They were somber, looking at me with sad eyes. I said my goodbyes and started to leave, but they stopped me.
I have to come back next Wednesday.