My New Best Friend
to go: 524.75
is my new best
only is she the
first honest-to-God human being I've managed to connect with, after
endless unproductive encounters with voicemail systems/message
machines/automated answering services in dental clinics all over the
greater East Bay area ... but she is also amazingly sympathetic and
knowledgeable and has a pleasantly reassuring bedside manner, even over
much discomfort, dear?" she asks me gently, in a voice that makes me
think of thick cherry cough
when I breathe, I'm tempted to
tell her. Only when I suck
oxygen molecules into my mouth, and they come into contact with my
broken molar. Or when food molecules come into contact with it ... or
Aqua Fresh molecules, or Peet's Italian Dark Roast molecules, or
tip-of-the-tongue molecules ...
I reply. "I'm
experiencing some discomfort."
has been slowly dissolving -- mostly painlessly, and therefore mostly
without notice -- for the better part of a year or two. I remember
sitting at PacBell Park watching a Giants game, one night a couple of
months before David and I got married, and suddenly feeling a big chunk
of the molar simply fall off after I bit into a Gilroy Garlic Hot Dog.
I remember discreetly spitting the wad of chewed-up hot dog and broken
tooth into a paper napkin, while David and Graham weren't looking, and
stuffing the whole mess into the pocket of my Benchmade Knife Company
jacket. (Where it remained, incidentally, until I was getting ready to
give the jacket to the Goodwill earlier this year and I ran a quick
pocket-check. The chunk of tooth was still lodged in the petrified hot
dog.) I remember thinking at the time
that I should probably schedule a dentist appointment 'soon.' But
I forgot all about it ... mostly on purpose, I suppose. Since then the
tooth has continued to erode -- a middle section here, a few crumbs
there, like one of Grandma's prune coffeecakes -- until all that
remains of the original tooth is one bony stub, poking through the
puffy infected gums like the tip of a volcano poking through a mass of
angry red clouds.
wasn't until this
past week that the volcano finally started to erupt, I guess.
there has been a dental convention going on this week in downtown San
Francisco. "That's probably why you weren't able to get through to
of the other doctors," she says soothingly. However, she is quick
assure to me, Dr. Royes will be back
in his office on Tuesday morning. "Shall I put you down for an 11 a.m.,
dear?" she asks in her warm, honey-and-Robitussin voice.
that really necessary? I'm
tempted to whine. This one is
going to end painfully, and we both know it. Can't we just skip the
formalities and ship me directly over to the guy with the Really Big
I reply. "Tuesday
at 11 a.m. will be fine."
takes down my dental
plan number, my home and work phone numbers, my birthdate -- "I have a
daughter your age!" she says, sounding as surprised and delighted as if
she'd just stumbled across a long lost second cousin, twice removed --
and then she gives me a few helpful tips designed to get me through the
twenty-four hours until my appointment. Take Tylenol instead of
aspirin, she says. Don't drink Coke. Don't eat saltwater taffy. Don't
poke at the broken molar with my tongue. Rinse with warm salt water
four times a day. Apply a cold compress if the swelling gets worse.
("Apply it to the outside
of your face, dear," she says.)
feel free to call her if I have any 'problems' between now and tomorrow
morning, she adds. She sounds almost reluctant to hang up the phone,
our conversation has reached its logical conclusion.
know *I* am.
can't say I'm looking
forward to tomorrow's appointment, exactly. In my lifetime I've endured
more than my share of dental horror -- including two years' worth of
braces and retainers, a handful of dental extractions and (in one
grueling stretch in the mid-1990's) four root canals within six months
-- so I pretty much know what to expect tomorrow. They're going to
make me fill out a bazillion forms. They're going to ask me a bazillion
questions. They're going to strap me into an undignified horizontal
chair, and jury-rig my mouth open with assorted instruments of torture,
and poke and prod and x-ray and drill like a crew of derrick operators
for most of the morning ...
... and then they're
going to give me the name of a good endodontist and send me on my way.
It'll be another week, at least, before I get the next appointment.
It'll be another month before I'm back on solid food.
then again, it might
all be worth it tomorrow, if I get a chance to meet my new best
throw a rock