Monday, December 9, 2013



          In dentistry and in hockey, good hands are essential.
Both professions involve unimaginable pain. In hockey we
like to see the pain. In dentistry... not so much.
          I went to see my dentist this morning.  Things have
gotten a lot better in the modern dentist`s office. Agony is no longer an expected event.
          Of course, agony is always better when it`s unexpected.         

          I`m lucky. My dentist has good hands. He can be agile and careful. He doesn`t tend to lurch as he`s walking across the rug... And he doesn`t lunge at you suddenly, when you least expect it, when he has a sharp
implement in his hand.
            "Laughter is the best medicine." That`s the maxim. 

             It doesn`t always apply in dentistry          

             I  find I`m often giddy when I show up at the dentist . I tend to talk too much and blurt out odd statements, like: "I love to hear my sister vomit, she really shouts it out. She makes guttural sounds you can hear across the street!
 It's almost worth the three hundred mile trip for that alone!"
          I'm giddy probably because deep down inside my body is bracing itself for some REAL PAIN...  Real Pain is mostly
a thing of the past, but not always...

              If  you have gout in the knee, you know Real Pain.
If you are engaged in childbirth, you know Real Pain.
               I'm told agony in dentistry went out with those
rubber band drills or woven rope drills and pretend
freezings that didn`t work.

          Those old magnifying glasses extenders
that gave the dentist a really good view of your teeth -
and gave you  an immaculate examination
of the  nose hairs of your doctor. If he is a doctor...
they're mostly gone, too.
             My last dentist turned out NOT to be a doctor
at all.... I was starting to wonder about him. I swear
I used to hear the sound of laughter over the high-
pitched  howl of his drill, or the low-pitched rumbling
 drone of his more primitive drill.
          (I later learned the low-pitched drill had been
outlawed decades before. It was illegal to use it
on humans or farm animals...  ... 
           In this respect it was similar to the elastrator...
But I digress... )
           I`d sit in his waiting room and listen carefully,
pretending to read a magazine. I`d hear the shudders
and surprised squeals of his unseen patients. And then
the low groan that sounded as if it came from a
400 pound man.
          I`m thinking,  "What`s he doing - working at
two patients at once in there? A six year old child and
a wrestler? I mean, mercy!... mercy me!"
         It got so I started taking my lunches into that waiting
room. I knew something was weird and strange. As
your Roving Reporter it is my duty to investigate such
events, such warps in the fabric of time, such weaves

         I saw many mothers with small children. I saw
them have to leave in a hurry.  I`d watch with complete
absorption the poignant scenes... 
        To see a male child, more or less innocent at
the age of four... play with the bright plastic ducks
and inflated balloons in the corner of the old
doctor`s  apparently cheerful rest area... 
        To see the expression  on the 
little toddler`s face as he heard
the high pitched whine as the  modern drill
 did its work
         To see the child`s expression mature as 
the drill started to howl and scream like
some sort of  electronic whistle... and the realization
was setting in: "that was no mechanical device,
that was a human scream."
        The little fellas would start
to bawl and scamper and look around in all directions...
 and back out slowly, slowly towards the door...
       The look of recognition in the child`s face
was priceless.The kid knew the game had changed
he was no longer in mommie and daddy`s parlour...
He was in a different world where unspeakable dangers lurked... even under the plastic chairs and the bright lights. 
      Something medieval had crept into the little tot`s existence and there was no disguising the fact.  No phony
reassurances from his mama
were going to be believed.
          Soon as a new customer walked in
the little tike bolted for the door.  He had no trouble
walking on two legs now. He was running like
he was in the Preschool  Olympics. The mother
had to get up quick, or she`d never catch her son.

          I could hear her running down the
carpeted hall, calling after her child, "Nemo! Nemo!"
Nemo had made his escape and turned the corner
toward the elevators.

           Imagine my surprise one lunch hour
when the police suddenly came in. Six
of them in uniforms and two guys in raincoats
 entered the waiting room.
 They didn`t wait.
          They walked down the doctor`s hall.
 Immediately one was reading the Miranda
warning in a loud voice.  Two more cops were opening
their handcuffs. And was it my imagination
or was one of them carrying a butterfly net?
           No,  I`m sure that was just in my mind.
I don``t remember that part too clearly, as
soon as the cops showed up
I didn`t stick around.

         My new dentist has a genuinely good sense of humour
and that`s always a delightful surprise. But
humour can be a dangerous thing in a dentist`s office,
especially when patients  already have a tendency towards
giddiness and panic.
        The doctor cracks a joke.  When I`m in the chair, I want to tell another. But of course I can`t speak a word
with at least two hands in my mouth. The most I can manage
is an inarticulate mumble.  I find myself shaking with laughter, though I can`t say a thing.
        I try not to make any sudden movements
when the drill is in my mouth.
           A loud noise, perhaps, or glimpsing
a motion out of the corner of my eye - anything
sudden - can revive an atavistic terror. That terror is
of course more appropriate to standing among ancient Indian
 artifacts  and totem poles in the late evening,  than it is
sitting in a modern office.
       Or standing beside one of the heads on Easter Island around midnight in the absolute darkness, when there are 
no sounds - (that`s when you remember the sacrificial
platform down below) - terror is appropriate at such times - but not in a competent modern dentist's office...
when the man actually is a dentist.
                If sudden fears do arrive, this may result
in sudden movements. That`s when you appreciate
a dentist with good hands and quick reflexes. I do subtle
tests when I`m sitting in the chair, to make sure
the doctor`s reflexes are up to par for the day`s
            These tests are totally subjective and I
invite you to make up your own. 
             Here are a few of my favourites:

        (1) Pretend to be dropping a glass of water
and carefully notice how quickly his hand reaches
yours to catch it;
        (2) Carefully examine his retinas, make sure
they are not pinpricks or overly dilated.... If you're
reading this text, chances are you already have
considerable experience in judging the
various hierarchies of intoxication, so use the
observation skills you have already learned.
         (3) Toss him a ball briskly, as you enter his
office - see which hand catches the ball. Make
sure he is using the same hand he catches with
when he places a sharp implement into your mouth...
make sure he's not using his good hand to fondle
the buttocks of his attractive assistant, behind your
back where you won't notice... it's not so safe for you, if
 he's inserting his less coordinated hand into
your mouth with a razor sharp pick in it;

           (4)  Make sure he's not a sadist, 
I've been informed by a psychiatrist that dentists
are the one professional person sadists most often
 pretend to be, when they act as charlatans and draw up
phony degrees to place impressively on their
waiting room walls... anybody can put up a
diploma. So it's best to check names and birth dates,
accents and countries of origin.
              When I started harbouring dark
suspicions about my former dentist, as I said earlier,
I started having my lunches in his waiting room for
a period of some weeks. Doing so, I was able to
observe his laughter patterns.
             A laughter test is this: if you shout out
a sudden grunt of agony, your true sadist will
invariably laugh. If he laughs each time you
moan in pain - you've got him! He's not
a real dentist. 
           He's a sadistic charlatan,
who has not yet learned to control his
laughter when a patient screams in pain.

         The true professional dentist and
his assistants  will have learned how to
disguise their laughter, control it,
and hide it behind a thin  professional




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