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Tuesday, March 04, 2003  

Is it Safe?

I’ve talked before about how my wife attracts random strangers who want to tell her all about their lives. It’s as if by merely occupying space, she’s broadcasting invitations to anyone and everyone to open up and share. Once, when we were at a play, she left during intermission to get a drink. She returned five minutes later with the bartender’s entire biography. If Trash has a superpower, this is it. Of course, all of the best superpowers are also curses that come with great pain and responsibility and which burden the lives of those who wield them. So, yeah, this is definitely a superpower.

Conversely, her kryptonite is dentist’s chairs. Sitting still under any circumstances is not her strong suit; we’re talking about a woman who can’t get to sleep until she’s wiggled around so much that the blankets are wrapped around her like a skin-tight toga (which is why I keep a comforter in reserve next to the bed during the winter). Factor in people digging around in her mouth, and doing it with power tools and iron hooks, and you’ve got the makings of the seventh circle of her personal hell. And I’m not in a position to be criticizing anybody’s dental hygiene, God knows, but at least I can stay in the chair until they tell me I can get up.

What, you think I’m kidding? After she came home one too many times still wearing a paper bib and with the hose of the plastic suction tube dangling from one corner of her mouth, they put a note in her chart instructing the receptionist to TAKE HER CAR KEYS AWAY whenever she checked in. Seriously. They don’t have to do that any more, though, because it’s become a matter of pride for her. Ever since she sat through a two-hour crowning and got a congratulations card from the whole dental staff. Again, not kidding.

But technically, I guess it wouldn’t be entirely accurate to describe dentist chairs as Trash’s kryptonite, because any kryptonite worth its atomic weight counteracts superpowers. As Trash learned yesterday, this is clearly not the case.

“So I’m getting married soon,” the hygienist said, “and I was trying to decide if I should invite my mom because she left when I was six months old.”

“Aaaaaaaah?” Trash said in confused sympathy around a mouthful of tools and fingers.

“So I decided to invite her, and now she’s all upset because I’m not asking her to get involved with the planning.”

“Uuuuhh haaaaaah.”

“And I told her, ‘listen, you left when I was six months old. You’re lucky I’m even inviting you.’”

“Herrrrherrrr ehhhhuh.”

“I know!”

“I haagh herhahhhurughghehuh.”

“Boy, I’ll say she was pissed. And I’m like, what’re you gonna do, leave again?”

“Oh aay!”

“Way. Now I don’t even know if she’s coming at all.”

At this point, the hygienist put down her tools and settled into so heart-to-heart girl talk. Although with all the gear still parked in Trash’s mouth, it would be more accurate in this case to describe it as a heart-to-rapidly-air-drying-uvula girl talk. The hygienist went on about her situation, pausing periodically to let Trash insert a supportive “gaaghyaghaah” or “hruuhee?” into the conversation at polite intervals.

So there she was, wanting the hygienist to stop talking so she could get out of the chair, wanting to get out of the chair so the hygienist would stop talking, the effects of the superpower and the kryptonite building on each other in an expanding, decelerating feedback loop of awkwardness and suffering.

The only break she got was when other clinic employees would pop their heads into the room and chirp at the hygienist, “How’s it going?” in a tone that barely left the phrase “on this, your first day” unsaid. If the hygienist hadn’t had to answer and thus display some manner of progress on the task at hand, Trash might still be there, listening to the tales of the hygienist’s sad, pathetic birthday parties over the years, while Trash’s car keys sat just out of reach.

Instead, after Trash had had enough cleaning and the hygienist had had enough therapy, Trash sat up and asked, “Is this your first day?”

“Oh, God, I wasn’t going to tell you, because I was afraid you’d ask for somebody else,” the hygienist confessed. Trash was frankly amazed that the hygienist had refrained from telling her anything.

Personally, I think the experience was Trash’s karmic punishment for not having to have twenty-three root canals. But that might just be me.

posted by M. Giant 3:15 PM 0 comments


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