According to my calculations, the dentists of my youth were born 500 years too late.
For if they'd been around then, with the Spanish Inquisition in high swing, they could have indulged freely in their chosen profession, which was not dentistry but out-and-out sadism.
They were quite the lot -?dedicated to the principle that while a little pain was good for their victims, a lot of pain was great. To that end, they went heavy on the drilling, light on the Novacaine, and not at all on empathy, sympathy or giving a tiddly-doo about the poor suffering S.O.B. in the chair.
As a result, for years the very thought of having dental work done made me break into a cold sweat. And it still would, had those old time dentists still been around. Luckily, they've gone to that Great Auto Da Fe in the sky, and have been replaced by a technically competent and humane bunch.
For years, my dentist has been Jolly Roger Neill. Roger is a man of infinite insight into the human psyche. He proves this by before doing any work on me, he shoots me up with enough anaesthetic that instead of drilling a tooth, he could perform a decapitation with a rusty hacksaw and I wouldn't feel a thing. He is, in short, my kinda guy.
I tell you all this to give necessary background on last Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve is a magical time, during which we're suffused with peace on earth, good will to men (and presumably women and children too), kindness abounds, and fond memories float about like gentle wraiths.
Or so it should be. Mine was a tad different.
In the late afternoon I was walking out to my car, when I fell in the driveway.
There are, to best of my reckoning, two kinds of falls.
One is when you know you're going to fall and manage to break it -?with a hand or a body roll or something. These aren't all that bad because, generally, you lessen the impact considerably. And if you lessen it enough, you just laugh it off (as do any onlookers).
The other is when you have no warning. This can be further divided into two sub-categories.
The first is when you somehow fall just right and it's as if you were lowered to earth by God Almighty, Hisself. There's no impact and once you realize what happened, you swear you'll never do a mean thing again, or will light a candle for St. Jude, or will put $100 in the poor box -?something, anything, to let The Big Guy know how grateful you are.
The second is The Big Kahuna of falls. With this, one second you're walking along, doing your thing, all's right with the world..and the next you hit the deck with a bone-and-organ-jarring WHUMP! That's what happened to me on Christmas eve.
I landed on my side, directly on my favorite arthritic hip. At the same time, my shoulder smashed into the blacktop. After I realized what'd happened, I just lay there. I was jarred, jolted, and a wee bit less sure about my immortality than I had been one second before. But I was all right.
I took stock. I wiggled my toes and fingers, turned this way and that, and got up all right. OK, my hip and shoulder hurt, but nothing was broken, dislocated, or big time screwed-up. I was one grateful Dope, and to show my gratitude to the Almighty, I decided to dedicate a grilled cheese sandwich to Him.
I got the cheese just to the right level of molten bubble-osity and chomped down on it when a shock of pain blasted down my jaw and up my brain so hard I lost my breath and my eyes watered uncontrollably.
When the pain went away, I took another bite, this one gentle and gingerly, and it hurt like hell too.
It didn't take four years of dental school for me to figure that when I fell I'd clacked my jaws together so hard I'd done something to my tooth. What that "something" was, I had no idea, and wouldn't find it out for a couple of days at least, since the next day was Christmas.
Sparing you the details, I'll just say that with a constant toothache, the time from Dec. 24 till Dec. 26 seems a whole lot longer than two days. If you've ever had a toothache, you know exactly what I mean. If you've never had one, you should quit reading right now and light a candle to St. Apollonia. Really.
I got to Roger on the 26th and he told me t I had a bunch of micro-fractures of that tooth. Next he placed a metal band around the tooth to keep the fractures from spreading. Then we'd wait till my tooth calmed down a bit, and he'd cap it. If, after the cap, it still didn't calm down, the tooth would need a root canal. It was, in short, a waiting game.
Pain free at last
Normally I'm a pretty patient guy, and pretty good at waiting. Then again, normally I don't have a tooth that hurts every time I eat, drink, or sleep. My diet became bland and sparse as did my conversation and company.
Finally, six long weeks later, I went back and got the tooth capped.
"All right," said Roger. "Now this is a temporary cap. You've got to be careful with it. Floss carefully, and don't eat any really chewy or sticky food. Just take it easy, and we'll put on the permanent cap in a couple of weeks."
Amazingly, as soon as the tooth was capped, all my pain went away. I was dazed and amazed. I could now eat and drink anything and it didn't hurt.
For the previous month-and-a-half I'd had to give up everything crunchy, sweet and acidic. Now it was time to celebrate, which I'd do by combining all three in a Nectar and Nepenthe Nosh-o-ganza!
First, I got out the chocolate-peanut clusters that'd been languishing in my cupboard. Then I got out the orange juice that'd been languishing in my fridge. And after that, I proceeded to eat the former and wash it down with the latter.
It was delicious. It was transformative. It was intoxicating.
So I ate, crunched, and drank; ate, crunched and drank, stoned out of my gourd on the joy of pain-free fressing.
Suddenly, I was jolted out of my reverie by a crunchy something that seemed if not too good to be true, then too crunchy to be true. And it was.
Somehow in the midst of my feeding frenzy I'd not only pulled off the cap, but I'd chomped it into slivers besides.
What to do? I did the only things I could.
First, I rinsed out my mouth.
Next, I called the dentist and made another appointment.
And last, I finished off the rest of the OJ and peanut clusters.
I knew the cap'd soon be replaced, but I couldn't risk my prize foodstuffs going bad in the meantime.