"It's only quarter after six," my beloved Austrian Snowflake mumbled into her pillow. "Vhat are you doing up? Go back to bed."
"I can't," I replied. "I have to be at the dentist at eight."
"An hour and a half you have before you have to leave. Go back to bed."
I sighed. "I can't. I have to start getting ready..." With that I heave my carcass out of bed and start the morning process. One cup of instant coffee - lukewarm so I can gulp it down in one swell foop. Check e-mail. Off to the bathroom. Brush teeth, comb hair, bathe, floss, brush teeth again, gargle with generic Scope, brush teeth, use waterpick, put clothes on, brush teeth - I think I'm ready. I swish with mouthwash again and head for the door, grabbing some mint gum on the way. "I'm off to the dentist," I say. "Wish me luck!" My wife pats me on the head and kisses my nose, and off I go.
Fifteen minutes later and I'm sitting in the waiting room, desperately trying to keep my breath fresh. I should have brought some mouthwash with me. I could have gargled again in the waiting room...
As I sat staring out the window, waiting for my name to be called, my mind started to wander. The last few times I was at the dentist it really sucked. It sucked quite bad. I remember staring past the torturer's bloodshot eyes at the ceiling, sweat running off my face and pooling in my ears, hands clenched on the torture chair so hard the fingerprints must still be imprinted in the metal. "We're almost done," said the torturer as she grabbed yet another meat hook and headed in for round five...
I shook my head to clear the memory and bring myself back to the present. (I have an Etch-a-Sketch kind of brain. Shake my head and it erases the last five minutes and leaves a blank slate to work on...) The other guy in the waiting room is hogging the only Sports Illustrated in the room as he fidgets nervously. I don't really want to read a ten-year-old issue of Vogue, so I continue staring out the window, trying desperately to think of anything other than dentists.
When I lived in LeMars I had a root canal. It was kind of spooky, but after about five minutes of laying on my back, staring past the two intent faces that were peering into my gaping mouth I realized it wasn't all that bad. Disengagement is wonderful -- I remember keeping a mental chant/mantra going, "That isn't smoke coming out of my mouth, that isn't smoke coming out of my mouth," over and over again. My mantra was broken, however, by the head torturer suddenly blurting "Oops" at the same time the drill made a very odd noise. I glanced at the faces hovering over me -- there were four very wide eyes staring at my mouth. After a second or two, they continued working. Having no choice but to lay there, I promptly forgot the "oops." About an hour later I was wandering numbly through the grocery store, hoping to find something mushy to eat before I had to go to work. I noticed no one at the store wanted to get too close to me, and they were all staring, slightly horrified looks on their ashen faces. When I got home and looked in the mirror I realized why. The dentist had dropped the drill into my mouth. The drill cut the inside of my cheek, then flopped out and made a delicate cut from the corner of my mouth to my chin. My numbed face was covered in blood. It was running down my neck. My shirt was covered in blood, and I had no idea. I never went to that dentist again.
"Chris?" calls the receptionist, breaking into my reverie. "Come this way, please." Back to the present. Man, I hope it's not bad...
"Have a seat here," said the lady, pointing to the chair in Torture Chamber One. I sat. It's best to be polite to someone who is soon going to be waving sharp things around in your mouth. Once again I found myself staring at the ceiling, mouth open, total stranger sticking pointy things in my gums.
"You have an extra tooth," the lady said after a few minutes. She glanced at my X-rays. "Oh, your wisdom tooth erupted. We'll have to ask the doctor about that..." With that she went back to poking at my teeth, occasionally pausing to drown me with a little squirt gun. The whole time she kept asking me questions. "Do you drink soda pop? That's bad for your teeth. Do you chew gum? Don't do that." I kept waiting for her to tell me that eating is bad for my teeth. After slightly less than an eternity she stopped hurting me and started grinding my teeth with sand. (You know, if you have your teeth ground with sand first thing in the morning, you know it's going to be a good day! Absolutely nothing else that happens that day can be worse, so it's all downhill. You may as well enjoy the rest of the day -- the hard part's done.)
"I'm going to get the doctor now," she said, putting the sand away. "We need to see about that wisdom tooth." Out the door she bustled.
About the time I got my jaw popped back into joint, the doctor wandered in. He looked at my X-rays. He looked at me. He looked at the X-rays again. He harrumphed a bit, then looked into my mouth. Then at the X-rays. "That tooth has to come out," he said. "We can leave your other three wisdom teeth, but this one has to come out."
"Out of my head?" I asked, just to be sure I heard him right.
"Yes," he replied. "I can do it here at the office. It really won't take more than ten or fifteen minutes." I could feel myself getting paler. The doctor continued, "You won't even notice it's gone. Post-op pain should be minimal..."
"You want to pull one of my teeth out of my head?" I asked again. "But it's attached! And there's nothing wrong with it."
The doctor gave me a dirty look and pointed to the receptionist's desk. "Make an appointment," he said. I made my dejected way to the front desk.
"That will be twenty-two dollars," said the receptionist, taking my insurance card.
"You mean I have to PAY to get tortured? That's not right!"
"Doctor says you need to come back in June for the extraction," she said, handing me an appointment card. "And we'll go ahead and make an appointment for you to come back in November."
"Wait," I said. "Why do I have to come back in November?"
"To get your teeth cleaned," she replied.
"But I just got that done!" I wailed. "Why do I have to have it done again? Didn't you do a good job?"
"You have to have your teeth cleaned every six months until the doctor's kids are all out of college," the receptionist told me with a straight face. "Tuition is high, you know."
So now I have to have a perfectly good tooth ripped out of my skull. I am unhappy. AND I have to pay for the pleasure.
In about four hours or so I have to go to the eye doctor. Wish me luck! I hope they don't have to grind anything with sand..
Within Walking Distance?
As people who peruse this blog may know, I'm a bit disenchanted with my neighborhood. My neighbors have mowed their yard exactly once since last August. There's a man living in a bus in front of my neighbor's house. Grocery carts can be found in almost any alley in the area. Graffiti and vandalism are rampant, as can be witnessed by my back door. Theft is on the rise, too -- ask me about my missing weed whacker, or let me tell you about the time we caught the neighbor kid stealing our door knocker. As near as I can tell, there are four people in our neighborhood that have jobs -- the young people are living on government assistance and the old people are retired, leaving Dagmar, myself, and two 70+ year old Vietnamese immigrants as the only legal wage-earners around.
But there's another blight that's been creeping up on us in the neighborhood as well. Since the Bush administration gained control of the government in 2000, we've seen an increasing number of businesses fail.
The little rib shack around the corner is gone. The diner across the way is only open two mornings a week now. There are two gas stations across the street from each other, both boarded up, and a third locally owned station was recently bought out by a national chain. There's an abandoned building a block up the street that no one will rent or buy. But the big problem now is the grocery stores.
A few years ago Hy-Vee bought out Boulevard, a grocery store on Hamilton Boulevard a few miles away from our house. We thought that was a bit odd, since there was already a Hy-Vee store just up the street the other direction. The new Hy-Vee raised their prices right away, which didn't bother us much, as we went to the old Hy-Vee anyway. The new Hy-Vee is part of a mini-mall, a mile or two from the residential district. The old Hy-Vee was right in the middle of the neighborhood -- within walking distance for many of the poor and elderly people in the area. In fact, low-rent apartments bordered the old Hy-Vee's parking lot on two sides.
Sure enough, the new Hy-Vee expanded, and they closed the old Hy-Vee. Now all the people in the neighborhood had to walk an extra mile to get to Cub Foods instead. That truly was a burden on many of the elderly people in the neighborhood. Well, Cub Foods closed about a month ago. They couldn't compete with the new Hy-Vee either.
So, in the past few years we've lost two neighborhood grocery stores in favor of a massive Hy-Vee. Prior to that, we've lost three or four small "general stores" in the neighborhood, too -- the kind of stores that don't have much, but you can always get some milk and bread. Yet the Republicans say the economy is booming. It ain't. Look at the price of gold, compare the dollar to the Euro, look at my paycheck, and look at my neighborhood. The economy ain't good.
It makes me sad that we can't walk to the store any more. It makes me even sadder that those who don't have transportation - the poor and elderly -- have no option now but to pay for a cab to go to the store. As far as I can tell there is no bus line that goes to Hy-Vee.
UPDATE: After writing this, I found out that there IS a bus route from the parking lot of the old Hy-Vee to the new Hy-Vee, and the new Hy-Vee actually gives people a $1.50 rebate if they've taken the bus, as that's what the trip costs. That's a good thing. But still not as good as having a grocery store in the neighborhood...
I saw a cartoon the other day that may explain our current oil woes. It starts in 1976 with then White House Chief of Staff Dick Cheney telling President Ford that there's "plenty of oil." The next panel, set in 1986, has congressman Dick Cheney telling congress that there's "plenty of oil." The third panel, 1996, has Haliburton CEO Dick Cheney telling people there's "plenty of oil." The last panel (2006 of course) has President Bush telling Vice President Dick Cheney we need an alternative to oil. Cheney responds, "Nonsense, there's plenty of oil. And there always will be."
We've elected monkeys to guard our bananas. What did we expect? Bush and Cheney are simply too deep into the oil industry to get us out of this predicament.
If our government was showing true leadership, all government vehicles would be hybrids at the least -- preferably E85 hybrids. (If they don't make E85 hybrids yet, well, they should.) All government buildings would be retrofitted with solar panels and wind generators to jump-start that technology. True leadership would mandate that all new cars get at least 45 miles per gallon. I guarantee you the auto industry could and would find a way to do that if they had to. True leadership might put a hefty tax on gas-guzzling cars -- due when you pay your registration. True leaders would be meeting with Brazilian officials on a daily basis to find out how that nation managed to wean itself from foreign oil.
We do not have true leadership. I surely hope we make some changes come election day!
Quote of the Day
BERLIN (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush told a German newspaper his best moment in more than five years in office was catching a big perch in his own lake.
"You know, I've experienced many great moments and it's hard to name the best," Bush told weekly Bild am Sonntag when asked about his high point since becoming president in January 2001. "I would say the best moment of all was when I caught a 7.5 pound perch in my lake," he told the newspaper in an interview published on Sunday.