Sunday, August 30, 2009


This weekend has been really boring so far.

I forfeited a Friday night of awful movies and Chinese food for the two-hour drive home to Lebanon. I had scheduled a dentist appointment back in March and had completely forgotten about it until last weekend. I didn't even remember what the appointment was for. I spent the entire drive home worrying that I would show up and the dentist would clasp his hands together and nonchalantly spit out, "Ready for that root canal?"

I've never had a lot of anxiety when visiting doctors or dentists, but my greatest fear is a root canal. I'm not even really sure what a root canal entails, but just the name of it sends me into a panic. Its name isn't friendly.

Root canal. Reading it makes me cringe.

If they utilized some deceptive marketing and called it something else, I might feel differently:

Happy-super-fun-time-with-a-side-of-uncomfortable-pressure procedure.

That makes it sound almost tolerable.

Or, if they called it something vague or complicated:

Extraction and transplantation of nonworking denticle.

I do know some people that have deep-rooted (ha! I'm so punny) irrational fears toward the dentist, though. I remember an episode when I was a teenager where my best friend Kate and I took her 20-something-year-old sister to the dentist. Her sister was having something very minor done and her fear of the dentist is so great, she couldn't even drive her own vehicle there -- I had to drive.

I don't even think we made it inside the building. I think we parked, got about 15 feet away from the door, and turned around and went home. I felt bad for her, but I just couldn't put myself in her shoes or understand what she was going through.

As I sat at home Friday night with my mom, watching her browse eHarmony for a new, rich father for me (because there are so many single, attractive, successful men in the world), I wondered about fears.

Where do they come from?

I can remember one instance from my childhood where I went absolutely bat-shit crazy at a doctor's office. I think I was 6- or 7-years-old. I was getting shots -- standard immunizations I imagine. And I remember that there were several people that had to hold me down so the doctor could inject me.

When I spotted the tray of syringes and vials of liquid, I threw a fit and had somehow acquired the strength of several grown men because my mother and the doctor couldn't subdue me. So another woman came in, and then another, and I think it ended with me kicking some poor innocent lady and screaming at the top of my lungs. I don't know why I went ballistic, but the sight of those needles sent me into a frenzy.

And after it was all done, I was fine. I completely lost my cool for no reason and I felt like a little bastard. Is this a typical childhood reaction, or was I being unreasonable?

And eventually, I thought about what I had done and rationalized that there was nothing to worry about when it came to the doctor.

But why do some people never outgrow these fears? Why do grown, rational adults lose their shit? My friend's sister is really smart and insanely successful, but when it came to that dentist's office she was crippled. Her fear completely hijacked her and transformed her into a child.

I've never really had one of those "novelty" fears: clowns, snakes, spiders, heights, dentists, etc. I feel left out.

And another thing that bothers me is this clown fear. Did everybody just wake up one day with this fear? It seems like the trendy thing to do now and people are just jumping on the bandwagon. Kind of like when being bisexual was cool.

I've encountered so many people in the past few years that are afraid of clowns. Grow the hell up or give up the charade, pansy.

I spent more than a year working at a gay bar and have seen more drag queens than I'd prefer to. A man the size of a linebacker stuffing his balls into pantyhose and applying 2,394,823 layers of Mac makeup is scary -- clowns are nothing.

The rest of my Friday night was spent with my mom who was completely glued to her computer and this really awful show, "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?"

I just need to rant about this show for a minute.

What in the fuck...

Who invented this show? It's a trivia show where the contestant can win $1 million, a la Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

But the questions are selected at random from a pool of facts that children from the 5th grade and lower should know.

Watching some of these people answer questions was hilarious. Watching my mother play along at home was even funnier.

One of the questions was about greek mythology, and asked what the name of the three-headed dog was that guards the underworld.

I think my mom said something like, "I wonder what that dog's name is!?!"

"...Cerberus." I said.

"How do you know that?" she asked.

"...I don't know, but that's the answer. And the asshole on T.V. spelled it with an 'S.' What a douche!"

She then asked why I didn't apply for one of these shows and win us an assload of money. I explained to her that the producers of shows like these are out to make money. They need stupid people to come on these shows and win very little money because that's what is profitable.

Also, Jeff Foxworthy hosts this show. Never in a million years...

So, after a rousing night of redneck television and my mother looking for love in all the wrong places, I needed an escape. I retired to my room and transcribed notes from an audio interview for a few hours. It was a fun night.

The next day on the way to the dentist, I thought more about this "fear" theme that was going on in my head. I was hoping there would be interesting people in the waiting room. That's how I pass my time. Most people will read magazines -- I like to read people. I was hoping there would be a crying child or adult so I could have up-close-and-personal observation of this fear thing.

When I got there, I spotted this woman sporting the fiercest mullet I had ever seen and a guy who had very few teeth -- neither of which looked too anxious.

Out of boredom, I constructured this idea in my head that the man was there for dentures more than likely.

The woman was a different story. I couldn't peg her. Besides the fact that she was probably a fan of Nascar.

...and Jeff Foxworthy.

It turns out the woman was there with her husband, brother, boyfriend, whatever; a male companion of some sort. She was sitting there the entire time reading Ladies Home Journal, which I thought was hilarious because she didn't strike me as LHJ's key demographic. Especially with her awesome "Rider" jeans and Tweety Bird T-shirt. Field and Stream magazine seemed much more her speed.

After about five more minutes of waiting, my name was called to come back to one of the rooms.

My root canal theory was squelched when I asked the hygienist, "I'm here for a..." and let her finish the sentence.

"Cleaning and check up," she said.

She seemed like a nice woman, and possibly new because I've never seen her there before. When she opened up her mouth, it was a different story. Her voice was...unusually happy. This woman was too happy. It was frightening. Nobody is that happy.

She had prepped me for oral x-rays to check the status of my wisdom teeth, which have been happily resting in the back of my mouth, with little action happening for the past several years.

While I was reclined in my chair and she was done putting some bite guard thing in my mouth, she draped me with a lead apron and said, "...for a little extra protection from the radiation!!!"

And she said it in this way that just...cut right through me. This woman had just moved from my list of "nice stranger" to "unforgivable asshole."

Bitch, I know what the apron is for. Is what was going through my head.

And I tried to be nice, but what came out of my mouth was just as bitchy.

"You're directing a short beam of radiation directly at my head, and you think my neck is the area I'm worried about?" Except it didn't sound like that. It sounded like I had a bite guard in my mouth.

I always hate dealing with hygienists. They somehow think that small talk must come into play when dealing with patients. And without fail, this chit chat always occurs when they're wrist-deep in your mouth.

After the x-rays, she got to scraping and cleaning my teeth.

"So, are you a student?" she asked.

I gave her a thumbs up, since nodding and speaking wasn't an option.

"Where do you go?" she followed up.

I thought about what it would take to get this bitch to shut up. What was I supposed to do to answer this question? There's no easy or simple way to mime Penn State. And I couldn't pretend as if I didn't hear her, because I just gave her a thumbs up to the last question. She tossed out the line and I took the bait. There was no going back, so I threw her a bone.

"Pwlenn Schtate" I half-assed.

"Oh, cool. I had friends that went there," she answered, still scraping and polishing my teeth.

Everybody has friends that went there. Is what I thought.

But I just tried to smile with my eyes and said, "Cool."

Then she went on to tell me some story about her children. I started to zone out. I hate when strangers tell you stories about their children. It's just bad etiquette to assume that people give a shit.

So, after she was done poking and prodding in my mouth, she gave me a little plastic bag with a toothbrush, toothpaste and floss.

Does it bother anybody else that the bag says, "Smiles" instead of "Smile"? It seems like the bag would be directed at the person holding it. "Smiles" is third-person singular. If the bag were speaking (let's pretend), it would be talking to you. You smile, not he, she or it smiles.

It was a nice gesture, but I tried to give it back to her.

"I'm more of a Crest kind of guy," I said. "And, I already have a toothbrush, toothpaste and floss at home. Just keep this for somebody else."

"Oh, that's fine, just keep it, you never know when you'll need it," she said.

BITCH! You're not listening! I don't need this crap! Is what I wanted to say.

She wasn't budging, so I just complied and said, "Okay, thanks."

I've learned that a little diplomacy goes a long way.

Then, she went and retrieved my x-rays and tried to convince me that I needed to get my wisdom teeth removed.

I feel kind of fortunate that I don't need to get them removed. They've essentially stopped developing and are resting in the back of my jaw, kind of closed in by my jaw line, which grew over them.

It's hard to explain without a photo, but suffice it to say I'm fine.

But this hygienist kept going on about how I should get them removed so they don't cause problems later on in life.

"But later on in life they could absess or become infected," she said, with the same intonation that many Republican lawmakers use in those "doom and gloom" scenarios.

"But I don't really feel like having my jaw broken to remove four teeth that aren't bothering me right now and probably won't in the future. The doctor has already told me I'd more than likely be fine," I replied.

"It just worries me; I've seen a lot of people who think they're fine but end up with problems," she shot back.

This bitch was getting on my nerves...

I thought she was going to pull out an antiquated film strip from the 60s that illustrated "when wisdom teeth go bad!"

You know the type of video.

Like those ones they showed you in high school health class, where the two naive teenagers are at "makeout point" and give into their "urges." And then almost immediately, the video cuts to a scene of their graves, side by side.

Here lies John and Jane. They couldn't keep it in their pants and as a result of their sinful premarital fornication, they died.

I decided that this woman was a little too thick for civility and finesse. I needed to be more direct.

"Look, I'm not going to take time out of my schedule for an unnecessary surgery that will set me back a few days. Break my jaw to extract four teeth? No thanks! I'm fine. Thanks for cleaning my teeth."

So, then she bowed out and told me the doctor would be in to check me out.

I love my dentist. He's the coolest old guy ever. He has to be in his late 60s now, at least. I've been going to him since I was 12-years-old. He's seen my teeth through five years of painful orthodontics and one or two cavities. He just seems like the type of person you'd want to have a beer with and talk about politics. I feel like we understand each other.

So, when Dr. Daugherty comes in, he inspects my mouth, compares my past three x-rays and says, "There seems to be no development going on with your wisdom teeth. I don't see any need to remove them."

"If it isn't broke..." I said.

"...don't fix it," he finished.

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