Welcome to another guest post from the grand mind of Tom Bentley, who is certainly one of my favourite living writers.
For any of you who find the need (and have the courage) to take up a pen, tap on a QWERTY or chisel some hieroglyphs on an 8 1/2" x 11" stone tablet, here is Tom's blog for writers:
His early post, "The Perfect Writer's Martini," is well worth searching back for. "The perfect writer’s martini is the martini in your hand." Silly Tom.
Anyway, here are some effervescent ramblings from his fertile mind, and a welcome reminder for the dentists in the audience of how it all looks from the other side.
Don't Lose Your Wisdom Along with Your Teeth
Did I ever tell you about the time I had several wisdom teeth removed (to my wisdom's deficit) by my one-eyed oral surgeon, whom I paranoidly thought was REALLY OUT TO GET ME? I thought not. Hitch up your horse and settle in—it's a terrifying tale.
Picture a naive college lad who had the jawbone of an ass, but no Samson strength. That's my way of saying that I had a painfully braying jaw, three wisdom teeth at odds with optimum alignment, all clamoring to make hay with my thousand-dollar smile. The fourth fellow in the mix had been eradicated long ago—a little matter of an abscess that had me hitting eleven on the flaming pain scale. But I digress.
Being new in my Sonoma County town, I sought the referral advice of a venerable sage: one of my drinking buddies, who appeared to have all of his teeth. The dentist he referred me to referred me in turn to a local oral surgeon, Dr. Caliban (name changed to protect the guilty). Through some means of expensive trickery, the good doctor had managed to make his office look clean and respectable; i.e., I could smell no corpses in the waiting room.
I was brought in by his perky assistant, whose highly caffeinated manner I mistook for her unbridled enthusiasm for the tooth trade. Little did I know she would be part of the treachery. It began with the administration of the cyanide, er, I mean nitrous. Now, never having been under the influence of nitrous before, yet being an advocate of euphoric states, I presumed a soothing ride on the nitrous train would ease me into the extraction experience. Fool!
Perhaps she turned the dial a twist too many, or perhaps being a nitrous rookie caught me unawares, but after only being a gas-sucker for a minute or two, my picture of mouth matters to come had changed considerably. First, the assistant, who had left briefly, returned to ask me how I was feeling. Probably had she peered deeply into my goggled eyes, and perhaps glanced at the popping veins produced by my death grip on the chair, she would have known: I was consumed alarmed.
I'd quickly worked it out: these people were going to do me some harm. Perhaps install a jukebox in my mouth, open a small oral bakery that peddled burnt offerings, maybe tune harmonicas in there, no matter—they were up to no good.
I was already certain of that even before the dental assistant opened a long drawer that was spilling over with sample drugs, and pointing to it, leaned over to me and said, "There's really no need to feel any pain here." Now this drawer looked to me to be spilling over with various unlabeled pills and small boxes. There were some that looked like how suckers were dispensed in my childhood, long rows of individually packaged pills in cellophane. To me, it seemed like she'd just pluck whatever nostrum was first at hand and pop it in my mouth, whether it was a plutonium isotope or a pinch of sink cleanser.
It didn't help when my oral surgeon entered the room. He seemed affable enough, but one of his eyes was nearly shut, and he seemed to keep struggling in vain to lift its heavy lid. In my nitrous dream, I saw him as the figure in Poe's Tell-tale Heart, someone whose diseased eye indicated deep malice within.
The doctor looked at the nitrous tank, made some small adjustment, and nodded to me and to his assistant, and they both went out. So! They politely went out of earshot in order to discuss whether to behead me, or use their clever crushing chair to shatter my bones.
You see, at this point, I was fully engaged with the paranoiac reaction that I had to the nitrous. My mind was racing with anxiety—I was a bare second from getting up out of the chair and running screaming out of the room. But, either right then I begin to adjust to the drug, or that plus I was able to talk myself down, convincing myself that I was merely having your standard full-blown anxiety attack in an office where they were going to pull my God-given teeth out. Nothing to be afraid of.
And indeed, though having three wisdom teeth extracted at a time is not nearly as much fun as putting soap on your brother's toothbrush, I lived. The nitrous wore off, and I was mouth-sore, but normal. And I haven't had nitrous since, to test if that indeed was the source of my scare. I know now were I to be having a such a reaction in the good Dr. Wilson's office, he would soothingly recite passages from Rogers' Diffusion of Innovations, or perhaps show me some of his renderings of Leonardo's Vitruvian Man, and everything would be just peachy.