Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Grim Reaper of Angel Fire

I have a horrible confession to make.

Until last Friday, I hadn't been to the dentist in twenty-two years.

When I was growing up, I went every six months, because that's what you did in my white bread, middle class world.  My last parent-paid visit was when I was nineteen, and that was also when I got my first cavity and had it filled.

Out on my own, as a young idiot adult, I tried very hard to forget that I even had a body for a long time.  Then I started having babies and sort of was forced to remember.  But I had my first three kids at home, so was still on the trajectory of avoiding medical personnel as much as possible.

I still think we're too health-obsessed in this country, and we give medical entities way too much authority over our bodies.  But I've mellowed in my old age, and am not quite so radically against the medical establishment as I was in my twenties.  I've been meaning to go to the dentist for years, really I have, but somehow it kept getting pushed down my to-do list.

It was my oldest daughter who finally convinced me to go.  Another confession:  she made the appointment for me (and one for herself the same day), and called to remind me about it the day before.  I, of course, had completely blocked it out forgotten about it.

So off we went to Angel Fire, because the Taos dentists aren't taking new patients.  I'd never been to Angel Fire before, and it had snowed quite a bit the day before.  It was one of the most treacherous journeys I've made in a vehicle.  The road there is consistently narrow and winding, and the last stretch is the narrowest and most winding, up a steep mountain.  At one point, there was a "curve," actually a ninety-degree turn, without any warning at all until you're right up on it.

I have to admit, I was freaking out a wee bit, driving on a slick, unplowed road such as this.  I inched almost the entire way.  Thank God, at least, that no one was tailing me.  By the time we finally made it to the dentist's office, I was sweating bullets, had a nasty headache, and just wanted to take a nap.

We went in the office and were greeted by an undead receptionist with a massive head wound, and I suddenly realized it was the day before Halloween.  She was wearing scrubs splattered with fake blood; it was a good costume.  A little too good.

I recently went to the doctor for the first time in a while and needed to have my ears flushed out.  While not painful, this was an extremely disturbing experience for me, although in a strange way it bordered on the mystical.  It made me realize that I've become a total wuss about having foreign objects and substances forced into my orifices.  So my already addled state created by the drive to Angel Fire was heightened by the nervousness I felt about having my mouth poked around in.  If you can't imagine the state I was in, here's a visual aid.

I look drugged, don't I?  Well, I wasn't.

When the dentist appeared dressed as the Grim Reaper, that was the last straw.

No.  The last straw was having the Grim Reaper poke an extremely sharp and pointy instrument around my incredibly sensitive gums to clean out twenty-two years worth of nastiness.

To be fair, he was very sweet and gentle (and tall and handsome).  He had ski equipment placed decoratively on his walls,

and provided a lovely view from the very comfortable reclining chair I was in. 

Plus, he has the coolest name ever:  Strider A. McCash (I wonder if the A is for Aragorn.) 

But he was too quiet.  And that instrument was too much like a tiny scythe.  I was too scared of him to ask for a photo.

And then there was the assistant.  She too was in costume, which was basically just an orange shirt and black pants and creepy black eye makeup.  She proceeded to tell me that this was her fifth day as a dental assistant, and that when she'd had her hysterectomy, she'd almost died of an infection because they left some kind of medical foreign object inside her.

Somehow I made it through all this, with my whole body tensed and my eyes squinched shut, and, lo and behold, it turned out that I have no new cavities.  I think Dr. McCash was a little disturbed that I've been such a dental delinquent and still have healthy teeth.  I may have detected a note of contempt when he told me, "Yeah, well, you're teeth actually look good."  He was probably also wondering what kind of freak takes pictures at the dentist's office.

The drive back was fine; all the snow had melted.  When I got home I inspected my teeth in the mirror.  They're so clean and shiny now!

And I swear - I'll go see the dentist again in six months, like a good girl.

Well, maybe in a year.  Next Halloween.


  1. The dentist was dressed as the Grim Reaper? He ought to have better sense than that. Then again, having a name like "Strider A. McCash" just might make up for it. Seeing as how he MUST be a comic book character with a name like that.

    "Aragorn." HA! Good one.

    Dentists aren't all a bad lot. There's one particular dental assistant at my dentist's office who is gentle as a lamb with my gums and that steel hook. Never hurts, getting worked on by her. On the other hand, the newbie girl...YEOWCH.

    Great post. Excellent stuff. The new header looks pretty neat, too...though I confess I kind of like the old one better.

  2. Oh yeah: I can tell you this now since you've been to the dentist, but during his second-to-last trip my father's dentist discovered that, during father's crown installment FIVE YEARS EARLIER, his old dentist had left a piece of gauze INSIDE DAD'S TOOTH underneath the crown. The smell when he took off the old crown, apparently, was horrendous.

  3. Yikes! I don't even want to imagine that smell.

    What did you like better about the old header? I've decided I'm going to change it up fairly frequently.

    Speaking of comic books - I was just talking to my daughter who has a friend who's an excellent artist and wants to illustrate a graphic novel, but not write it. Are you actively looking for an illustrator? Or is it not to that point yet?

  4. "When the dentist appeared dressed as the Grim Reaper, that was the last straw."

    Are you serious?! That's hysterical!

    Next time, explain that your pictures are for your blog, and Entrepreneur Chick wants to see the Reaper. Surely he'll understand, but give you a big dose of laughing gas to shut you up just the same.

  5. You're hilarious. I love the post you left for the Bearded One just now. I kept trying to think of something wise and reassuring to say, but you nailed it!

    Yeah I'm serious. I can't make this stuff up.

    Laughing gas would have been nice.

  6. I LAUGHED OUT LOUD more than one time. The picture of you...I so can relate to this. I have just gotten through a week of ridiculous VET stuff with my daughter's cat...and having these same questions...DO WE REALLY NEED WHAT YOU SAY WE NEED? stuff. Yesterday, finally in the office for the VACCINES after a week of dealing with his VIRAL something or other caused by cat fighting, I had to have the light turned off in the examining room because my head was about to explode.

    5 days on the job huh??? What the heck...maybe those of us who just need a break from all the medicalness of life should wear a sign that says, "DO NOT DISTURB MY SERENITY WITH PERSONAL MEDICAL MAYHEM."

  7. The last time I went to the dentist, at 19, he told me I "needed" to have my wisdom teeth out. But they've never bothered me, and Dr. McCash never mentioned it. I'm really glad I didn't have it done.

    It's even harder with pets, I think.

    D ealing with the "medicalness of life" is one of those things other people seem to be fine with, but drives me nuts.

    I'm just not good with upkeep-related life hassles in general - the DMV, filling out forms in a timely manner, getting oil changes, etc. Thank God I enjoy grocery shopping. I enjoy housework too, but not as much as other things that get a higher priority in my life. Consequently, my house tends to stay messy until all of a sudden I make the whole thing spotless. Which lasts about two hours.

    Ah, entropy.

  8. Well, the picture was gorgeous, for one thing (not that this one is any less so). And I love the sentiment expressed: truth in every puddle. Just sort of hits me right HERE, ya know? (He said, thumping his chest.)

    HOLY COW! That's perfect! I want to write a graphic novel but I can't illustrate it. I hadn't quite gotten to the point where I was actively looking for an illustrator (operative word here being "actively") but it's never too soon. Wouldn't hurt to talk with him. If you could put me in touch with him I'd be eternally grateful. I have a sort-of illustrator lined up, but he's working in the animation industry and is eternally busy with his own career, understandably.

    Oh, and thank you very much.

  9. I have noticed the catch word at the pediatrician and veterinary offices is..."population".

    Do they all tag team their lingo?

    Blended medical lingo...Did Dr. McCash use the word population to describe any new dental issues that have arisen in society?

  10. Oh my God, I do empathise. Although when I went to the dentist after ten years it was nowhere near Halloween and my (then) dentist was very boring and called Norman something or other.
    And there comes the envy - I want a name as fabulous as Strider McCash. Wow.
    I like your blog, will enjoy exploring. You're right in your About Me section - what can you (we all) do but pay attention. Thanks for your comment on mine.

  11. Postman - Thanks. I'm fond of that picture and sentiment too, but that blurry white font really really bugged me. Maybe I'll put another puddle pic up later. I have a whole series of them.

    The guy's name is Diego. My daughter gave him your blog address yesterday.

    You're very welcome! I hope it works out.

    Jennifer - Dr. McCash said as little as possible. He didn't even tell me to floss. The silent mysterious type.

    Tess - Thanks for stopping by! I'll be exploring your blog as well. I love making new blogging friends.



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