Friday, July 8, 2011

Where tooth fairies fear to tread

Yesterday I sat in the dentist’s chair, with the sound of a drill boring into the bone in my mouth. I felt like I was in a road construction crew, with me as the road. The drilling finally stopped, and then for some reason the dentist had to start hammering. All in the process of raising my sinus and putting in an implant.

This wasn’t my first implant, although it was my first raised sinus. There is a commercial on Israeli television advertising “direct car insurance” without the middle-man agent - mocking the fact that we are simply financing the agent’s rich lifestyle in not going the “direct insurance” way. Well, I feel like I am supporting a whole dental clinic, with the dental work they have done on me lately. Yesterday I asked where Carmit, the head of finances at the clinic, was. “Gone away on vacation,” they told me. “Of course she is,” I thought. “I am probably sending her first class.”

And I ask myself - “What is the point?” Is there any point in investing so much in such an old horse? Maybe the money would be better spent in a continuous supply of whiskey. The good years are clearly behind me. Adva, my wife, gets mad at me when I talk like this. Go figure.

Dentistry has gone a long way, since I was a child. I remember the sound of the drill and my sister’s screams, as she went into the dentist before me. My sister, being three years older than I, has led the way through much of my life. She has met all of the milestones, such as turning 30 (officially “over the hill”), well before me, preparing the way, so that by the time I reached such milestones, they were quite anti-climactic. As was the pain in the dentist’s chair, taking my turn after her. It was never as bad as her screams built it up to be.

All in all, the pain has been taken out of the dentist equation since then, with all of the drugs that have been developed. Although I often manage to be the odd case out. The last time they had to pull out a tooth, when it was discovered that it had become shattered under a filling, it had to be taken  out in bits and pieces, a process that took much longer than expected. And towards the end, the anaesthetic had worn off and renewed anaesthetic would not take. So the last bit, including the sewing in of stitches, was done without pain killer. Did it hurt? God, yes. How did I take it? In quite a philosophical vein, actually. I figured that at this time of life, I deserved the pain. For what exactly? Does it really matter? If we dig hard enough, reasons can be found. And the pain was welcome in a weird masochistic sort of way.  It was probably the only exciting thing that happened to me in the last couple of months.

But yesterday, the treatment was quite painless. The young Israeli dentist, in gleefully arranging his tools, told me to raise my left hand if there was anything wrong. But I just settled back and the left hand never went up. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could approach life that way?

Left hand goes up. “Ah... God,” I say, “this is a bit too painful.”
“Yes, I know,” God responds, as s/he goes on drilling.
“Ah...,” I say, shifting uncomfortably in the chair, “why did you tell me to raise my hand if it won’t change anything?”
God smiles and stops drilling for one brief moment. “We like to give you the feeling of control over your own destiny.”
With that, God chuckles and pulls the goggles back down over his/her eyes and goes on drilling. Who says the gods don’t have a sense of humour.

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