Wednesday, April 15, 2009


The last time I went to the dentist was in 2004. I had figured that I'd better go in for a checkup while I still had insurance.

I assumed that everything would go smoothly, since I'd been brushing twice a day and not sucking on Lifesavers candy. I fully expected a pat on the back and a lollipop.

A frowning dentist, cavities, drilling, needles and pain marked that visit. If I wasn't afraid of the dentist that morning, I was by the end of the day.

In 2005, I was working in real estate and had no dental insurance. In 2006, I'd just started a new job, and dental insurance wasn't even an option.

The company finally did get dental insurance, but I was starting to worry about going. Sure, I was still brushing two times a day, but I was also still eating crap like cupcakes and Christmas candy. I would get the occasional toothache and put it off some more, while Larry would tell me that "all your teeth are rotting out of your head!"

So I stalled, and stalled, until Good Friday 2009.

I made the appointment for 1:00. That day, I took a quick trip down to TriBeCa to shop for stained glass. I was only going to "look," but ended up spending $50. Maybe I thought that if I was going to suffer at the dentist, I might as well have some pretty sheets of glass to come home to.

I walked into the dentist's office at 12:50 for my appointment. I almost walked right back out.

Every single seating surface was taken. I scowled and turned to face the receptionist.

As I waited, I noticed that all of these people had one thing in common. Medicaid. They were all likely on a field trip from the nearby housing projects. They all had nasty attitudes; huffing, puffing, sighing, and bitching about the wait.

While trying to avoid eye contact with the animals in the reception area, I noticed a woman sitting on the nearby couch with hideously colored hair. It was several shades of red and pink. I couldn't tell if they'd already worked on her and she was semi-sedated, or if she arrived all fucked up on drugs. She had either drooled or threw up some clear liquid all over the arm of the black leather couch. The man she was with escorted Drooliana outside - for a cigarette.

Since it had been 5 years since my last confession visit, my records were missing. They must have burned them right after I left.

The receptionist gave me a clipboard and some forms to fill out. Since there was nowhere to sit, I stood at the reception desk.

Just then, an angry 70-something crack whore with a backpack stomped up to the counter.

"I don't want no new dentures! Y'all dumbasses gon' do it anyway? I don't think so! Sheeeet."

I wanted to knock her out with my clipboard. This woman had a chip on her shoulder the size of the Javits Center.

The dentist, sitting behind the counter, tried to explain that they could not bill her if the services were not performed, and that new dentures were merely a suggestion.

After a lengthy back and forth argument, Snaggletooth McCrackhead shucked what was left of her teeth and went outside, where I prayed she'd be flattened by an out of control bus.

What the fuck am I doing here? I asked myself. Last time I was here, I was one of two people in the waiting area.

And then it hit me: the time. It was 1:00 in the afternoon. Surely these crackheads would be sleeping at 10:00, which was likely the time I showed up 5 years ago.

After I finished filling out my paperwork, I handed over my insurance card and added my name to the list. That was when I noticed two lists. One with two names, and another with about 17 names. The longer list said "Anthony's Patients Only" at the top. The names were sloppily, frantically added.

I wanted to ask the receptionist how long the wait would be, but I just knew I'd sound like a snotty Manhattanite, so I simply said, "Busy day today, huh?"

She whispered that none of "them" had appointments, so I wouldn't have to wait.

I looked around the spontaneous homeless shelter waiting room for an available inch of seating space and considered going home. Maybe they could just call me on my cell phone when it was my turn.

Pigs people were sprawled out all over the couches and chairs. Any empty seats were occupied by their dirty Conway shopping bags or jackets. I walked over to the low filing cabinet and leaned up against it. Just above my head, some Indiana Jones movie was blaring on the flat screen TV. I was facing everyone in the room, as though I were the sign language interpreter. I could only think of one "sign" at that moment and I wanted to use it on all of them, but I'm sure I'd have died from the multiple stab wounds.

This unique view enabled me to size up the entire room without them knowing, since they were all fixated on the stupid movie, slack-jawed and drooling.

- Two fat men slept on the couch, facing away from each other, with a space between them.

- The creepiest man in the room wore camouflage pants, combat boots, and an eye patch. When he went outside and came back in, I noticed that he was holding his pant leg, as if to keep some unseen object in place. I wondered how fast I could duck a bullet.

- On the other end of the room, an obese 5 year old girl bitched and whined while trying to climb aboard her mother's enormous lap.

- One man was eating an orange, and another man was drinking orange juice.

Drooliana was taken back to the examination room by her boyfriend, who seemed to be dressed in army clothes, only he walked with a pronounced limp that I hadn't noticed earlier. He also took his chair with him.

A man who had been standing near the door, took Drooliana's seat on the couch, so I was now able to stand behind the couch and scowl from there. At least I wouldn't be under the TV anymore. At this point, even if all the chairs and couches were empty, I wouldn't want to sit, especially after seeing what Drooliana did to that couch.

I desperately wanted to take my jacket off, but I was not leaving my jacket on the coat rack with these crack-heads.

I had been wondering why there were so many people here all at once when I overheard two of them discuss the fact that they are only here out of obligation so that they don't lose their benefits.

Such role models.

After an agonizing 20 minutes, I was called into the back. I sat on a chair while waiting for my room.

I had a clear view into the examination room, where Limpy was getting prepped for x-rays. Druggy Drooliana couldn't understand why she had to leave the room while this was done. I wanted to tell the technician, "Just leave her. Maybe the x-rays will finish her off."

I made eye contact with the x-ray technician and said, "How do you cope?"

"We have our ways."

Druggy Drooliana stood two feet away from me and attempted to send a text message on her cell phone.

Limpy finished getting x-rayed, and asked the technician if he could leave. He walked out of the room and yelled for Drooliana to follow him. She shuffled lazily behind him, never picking up her feet. I waited for her to fall over.

The room was prepped and I was invited to sit in the chair. Just to the left of me was a flat screen TV perched atop a DVD player, which was playing the last few scenes of a gritty-looking movie, which seemed much more interesting than the Indiana Jones movie in the waiting room.

The technician came in and took my x-rays, then restarted the DVD for me. I was able to watch enough of if to learn that it was produced by Dylan McDermott, takes place in Brooklyn 1972, and involves a typewriter. (I would later learn that this is the 2006 movie "The Tenants")

The dentist came in. I prayed that he was in a good mood after dealing with all the animals in reception.

He told me that he would give me a cleaning and then start an examination.

As he cleaned my teeth, I told myself No matter how bad this is, it is still better than a drill.

I tried to listen for sighing or some other signal from the dentist to get an idea of what was going on inside my mouth.

He told me to rinse my teeth and then said, casually, "Well, I didn't see any cavities..."

This was epic news for me.

"Really?" I said, not believing him.

"Nope. Whatever you are doing is working," he said.

Then I asked him about one of my rear molars. I had noticed that it seemed darker than the rest, so naturally this meant it was rotting, right?

"No, it's just a little stained from the fillings."

"Okay. What about this little line on this tooth. Does that mean it's cracked?"


When the receptionist told me that I didn't owe them any money, I felt grateful for having a good job with benefits. I wanted to make my next appointment right then and there.

I skipped home, elated. What a way to start the weekend - with Grade A blogging material!

1 comment: said...

Three cheers for illustrations!!!