Dangerspouse Rides Again

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Garage - Track

Mar. 06, 2004 - 9:30 a.m.

When I got out of work yesterday I had to put the Mighty WRX into overdrive and hustle my butt to the dentist. Going to the dentist is a traumatic deal for me these days, not so much because I'm shy about having strangers probing exposed nerves in my face with miniature meat hooks, but rather because I have to pay for the entire thing out of pocket.

Does this strike anyone else as self-defeating:

The Union I belong to, AFTRA (American Federation of Radio and Television Artists) at our last contract negotiation was asked by management to make some concessions because...well, because their shareholders want even MORE blood from the stone. AFTRA said "Sure, glad to bend over for ya! No, no Vaseline, thanks. Just fire away."

What was one of the concessions they agreed to, on behalf of their members who all make their livings with their mouths? That's right, they cancelled our dental insurance. Way to guarantee that the rank-and-file are able to continue contributing to the Union kitty for years, dipshits!

Sorry about that, I hadn't meant to go off on a rant. But really, cancelling dental insurance for radio announcers....

But insurance or no insurance, I had to get to a dentist. It seems my lower jaw was about to fall off.

When I was a kid, see, my parents would trundle me and my four sister into our Dodge SuperVan twice a year to go see Dr. Al. Because my Mom was basically bitter towards the Catholic Church for forcing her to have 5 kids in 7 years, she did not have a high frustration threshold when we started squalling. Her main weapon in the war to shut us up was sugar - and usually sugar laced with booze, at night. As a result, by the age of 10 all five of us not only had more amalgam in our mouth than enamel, but also the beginning stages of Cirrhosis.

Dr. Al was our family dentist, and also a childhood friend of my Dad's. Because they were chums, Dr. Al always gave dental care gratis to our brood. However, Dr. Al was savvy enough to know that fixing a facefull of tooth craters for 5 kids and 2 adults, two times a year for free, would scuttle his practice. So he would cut corners with us kids. Like, no anaesthesia.

Man, I still remember the night sweats that would soak my sheets for days before a dental appointment. My sisters and I would huddle together in the back of the van, whimpering like whipped puppies the entire trip down Rt.78. It was pathetic, but my Mom had a heart of stone. She just gritted her teeth and turned the radio up. Some primal defense mechanism doesn't allow me to recall the actual specifics of the time spent in The Chair itself, which is probably a good thing. But I do know that it left me so scared to put anything other than food near my teeth that I don't think I brushed, flossed or rinsed from the time I was 7 until I graduated college.

No, I never had a girlfriend during those years. Strangely enough, my Dungeons and Dragons crowd didn't seemed to mind. Birds of a feather, I guess.

The upshot is, I'm now left with a jawbone that is rapidly trying to distance itself from my teeth. Although I converted to the Church of Dilligent Scrubbing in adulthood, the sins of my youth are still being visited upon me. However, regular care plus 4-times a year strip mining by a Periodontist have stabilized things to the point where my teeth no longer sound like NewWifey(tm)'s Hello Kitty Vibrator if I'm walking into a stiff breeze.

Yesterday was one of those 4x/year visits. I was due for a "Deep Root Scraping", which meant they were gonna ram a steel spatula between my gums and teeth to scrape off as much creosote from the roots as they could. Because the pain is comparable to branding, they only do a quarter of your mouth at a time. They also give you so much Lidocaine beforehand that your mouth is numb all the way back to your coccyx. There is a lot of blood.

The procedure itself went smoothly and they gave me my lollipop at the end, to have when the anaesthesia wore off. That much Lidocain take a LONG time to wear off, though. I still haven't eaten it.

I didn't feel safe driving right after being discharged, so I decided to walk off some of my woozies before getting behind the wheel. The Dentist's dungeon is right on Main Street in Sparta, a pretty swanky area filled with shops that normally don't allow the likes of myself inside. But that was fine with me. Despite a light rainfall, the temperatures were comfortable and I had on my good Columbia jacket with the collar flipped up to keep my neck dry, and my Creepy Eyeball Hat pulled low to shield my face. I was content to windowshop.

So were a lot of other people. Both sides of the street saw heavy pedestrian traffic, as Upper Crust and longing wannabees perused the wares on display. A collection of diamond spattered Piaget watches held my interest for a while, then I headed next door to check out the new Bentleys. As I turned down the sidewalk I spotted a woman in a brilliant Hermes scarf and cashmere jacket walking towards me, leading her probably 8 year old daughter by the hand. The little girl looked at me and screamed.

I stopped immediately, startled. The woman also stopped, scanned my face for a moment then hissed at her daughter "Don't look at the man, honey. Come!" She quickly led the little girl off the sidewalk into oncoming traffic, to the other side of the street.

Wha...? I was used to that reaction from family, but not from strangers. I continued towards the Bentley dealership.

Then I noticed that everyone who saw me was having a similar reaction. Old men in mohair overcoats raised their arms as if to ward off a blow. Women stifled screams and hid children behind their skirts. Nobody was exempt from reeling at the sight of me. I couldn't figure it out.

At the Bentley showroom I stood glaze-eyed in front of cars costing more than the Mars Rover program. It was like looking at a row of 8,000 pound Faberge Eggs. Soft strains of classical music were eminating from the showroom, and salesmen in tails could be seen carrying trays of Champagne flutes to perfectly groomed customers. I felt very, very dirty. I bent down to check my appearance in one of the mirrored hubcaps.

I screamed.

Oh my GOD! No wonder people were recoiling from me in horror!

Because my entire face was still numb, I had no idea what the hell was happening in the space between my eyes and my Adam's Apple. And what was happening was not pretty. My lower lip was puffed out and drooping down, giving me a sort of Dick Cheney countenance. But what was worse was that my gumline was still bleeding copiously, spreading crimson streaks down my chin and all down the front of my jacket. I couldn't feel any of it! Combine that with the demonic hat and pulled up collar and the locals probably thought they'd wandered onto a Wes Craven movie set when they saw me coming.

I cheered up immediately. Usually nobody notices me. This was actually a refreshing change. Sure, it would be nice if the looks I got were looks of adoration as opposed to revulsion. but I'll take what I can get. It still beats being invisible.

The only real problem has been in my ability to talk. Right now, 24 hours after being unshackled from the Dentist's chair, i still find it hard to enunciate, and my voice is raspy. This is bad, since I'm at work. So if any of you are in the NY Metropolitan area right now listening to 1010WINS radio (until 3pm) and you're saying to yourself "Why does that traffic guy suck so bad? It sounds like his mouth isn't working or something.", well you're right. My mouth isn't working just yet - at least not the right half of it. Oh well, at least I use a pseudonym. As long as my Program Director is off on his scheduled Atlantic City jaunt and not monitoring my reports, I should be back on Monday. Hopefully with a real mouth again.

Have a great weekend kids. Don't forget to floss.

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