When I was a child, I had the mouth of a Brit. My mouth was simply too small for all the teeth inside of it and on top of that I had a crossbite overbite. Which is a very nice way of saying that my teeth were all crammed in there and with nowhere to go. When I was young as five my hygienist had already warned me that braces were not an option, but rather something I would need when all my adult teeth came in.
Since the moment my last baby tooth fell out, I was ushered into the world of oral health and hygiene. I have seen everyone from hygienists to dentists to orthodontists to periodontists to have every kind of oral surgery and procedure done in my mouth. So, when people say that a good smile is priceless, I can look you dead in the eyes and say that it does in fact actually come at the small prices of somewhere close to 20 thousand dollars (mostly covered by insurance—thanks America!).
But recently I had an encounter that simply stood out from the rest. You see, I had to have the sealants removed from my molars—numbers 14 and two, for reference, in case there are any future dentists reading this article right now. And while the procedure was fine and everything went as was planned inside my mouth, what happened outside of it that made me wonder if I was going insane.
It all began and really was consistently an issue with the dental assistant. For her privacy, we will call her DA, as it seems fitting to me. Fair warning, we will get to know DA pretty well throughout the course of this story. But where do all fantastic stories begin? In the waiting room of course. So, there I was, sitting in the waiting room alone patiently preparing myself for the procedure. That is when DA walked in and called my name, “Tom!” Being the only one in there I simply replied with “yup” because nothing more is needed. It is the dentist’s office not a job interview but it always makes a difference to be polite so when DA awkwardly said “hi” to me I reasonably responded with “How are you?”
Now let’s make a quick pit stop in the story here because it is what DA did next that confused me and should have been my sign to get out. The following words still confuse and haunt me to this day because DA responded with “Of course you can.” Now at this moment I had gotten up from my seat to go back to the examination room, as you do at any dentist’s office, but I couldn’t figure out what she thought I said. So, let’s make a bet? Just you and me. Did DA hear; 1. Can I use the bathroom? 2. Can I come back? Or 3. Can I run away from it all?
If you guessed option one then we both may be right! I can only assume that is what she heard because what followed was her leading me to the bathroom and then pointing to where the examination room is. But I was far too confused at this point to deny using the bathroom plus I had to use it anyways so why not? So, after that weird exchange I went into the bathroom to do my own business but unfortunately the door does not fully close in the jam. I pushed it in as much as I could without making a ruckus and to compensate turned the not only the lights but also the vent on so people knew I was in there.
The lights and vent combo are an almost universal symbol of “hey, someone is in here so please do not enter” and with that combo comes a big whopping bowl of foreshadowing. On the door I heard a knock and as any rational human being would do, I said loudly, “Yup, I am in here!” But alas DA’s ears had deceived her again, either that or she has no concept of personal space, as the door opened with her behind it. I was minding my own business as she quickly screamed “Ahh!” and slammed the door. Now this is where Catholic school taught me well, as I calmly finished my business and went into the examination room. But, as I was walking down the small hallway, I could not help but wonder what was going through DA’s mind.
Did she not believe that I went into the bathroom? I know she saw me walk in there. Did she think I made a break for the hill and ran away? But why would I do that if I had already been there waiting for 20 minutes? I could no, and still cannot, begin to fathom what was going through her head. I was exactly where she had told me to go; but this was merely the first of many weird little accidents that had me wondering if the simulation was breaking a little bit that we all live in.
I entered the examination room, sat in the weird dentist chair and there was my dentist and DA—who was now acting like none of whatever the fuck that was earlier had just happened. But awkwardness is a part of life so as I tried to move on DA only made the day weirder during the dentist small talk. It is that part of the visit while they prepare the tools and equipment and try to relate to you even though they work with teeth for a living and you are—you know—normal. During the small talk, DA found it appropriate to touch my shoulder and chest. Now again, people touch you, that’s just life—it’s awkward, but with everything DA had just put me through, I began to wonder what glitch I was experiencing.
It did not end there my friends and loyal readers. No, it did not! Then as the dentist had numbed me and had the drill up my left molar (number 14) I then felt a weird rush of water on my face. You guessed it! It was DA who was wielding the water spritzer (which should be inside the patient’s mouth) like a handgun and had it pointed at my face! Because when the dentist asked her, “can we get some water?” HE MEANT IN MY MOUTH AND NOT ON MY FACE! Not a single drop of water made it into my mouth. No, that would be too normal for this visit. It all ended up on my face.
The water had to be cleaned off of my face of course but did DA get a paper towel or some cloth to wipe it off? NOPE! She used the dental bib around my neck and effectively suffocated me in the process of wiping off the water. From that moment on I decided to close my eyes and enter into my own happy space for the rest of the visit. But of course, as the visit ended and they walked me out DA had to say, “I feel like we tortured you today.” To which I simply laughed and walked out.
That visit really made me think about life. It made me realize how simple manners can make a whole experience that much more normal or weird. And so, thank you DA, because if it was not for you, I would not have been able to come to this conclusion: life is great, I love life, it is people I hate. But unfortunately, life is riddled with people, so let’s all please try to make it as nice for everyone around us as possible and just double check before walking into bathroom doors.