Google reminded me this morning that I have a dental cleaning appointment in two weeks.
Through the sweep of the last four months living under plague conditions, I haven’t done anything that made me particularly nervous. Going for groceries didn’t bother me. Stopping off at Asian Garden for a carryout order of General Tso’s and some egg rolls didn’t feel particularly threatening. Even a quick pop into one of my favorite book shops, depopulated of customers, was fine.
The idea of sitting calmly, unmasked, while someone hovers inches from my face while prodding, poking, scraping, and kicking up the dreaded aerosolized droplets, and “defenseless” against whatever the patient before me kicked up, leaves me feeling deeply uncomfortable. Score one for my highly developed sense of self preservation, I guess.
I’m sure my dentist is following whatever protocols are required to make the experience reasonably safe… which does nothing to eliminate that nagging, and probably completely unreasonable thought that it feels like some kind of high-risk maneuver best avoided at the moment.
At the moment, I’m leaning soft no, but with two weeks to go you can count on me to spend an inordinate amount of time overthinking the situation and creating entire universes of arguments in favor and against. That gives me room to change my mind twenty or thirty times before it really matters.
I spent most of the morning having another close encounter with modern dentistry. It was a little “warranty work” on a filling that failed way earlier than it was supposed to, so at least I wasn’t out of pocket for the extra pain and aggravation. That said, my general hatred for visiting the dentist’s office isn’t really the point.
Since I was a slobbery mess and the day was more or less half over, I plugged in my laptop and spent the late morning and afternoon working from home. If I’m going to spend a few hours dribbling coffee down my chin, I’d rather do it in the comfort of my own office than in the open bay cubicle hell where I practice my trade most other days.
Let me start by saying that I’ve missed working from home. Circumstances the last couple of weeks have conspired to make it something like too hard to do. eventually I hope to get back on a semi-regular schedule. Instinct tells me that’s going to be a long time coming, so I’ll need to steal a day wherever I can.
What struck me most today, though, was how easy a time I had getting through something that I’d spent the last two days in the office trying to knock out. It wasn’t a particularly hard task, but it required integrating information from a couple of different sources into a reasonably coherent whole. It’s the kind of thing that requires attention to detail… and frankly I can’t think of any place worse than a standard office cubicle to try to make sense of something that requires focused attention. Between the random meetings, people dropping by just to chat, the gods on Olympus deciding you need to work on other “priorities” for a few hours, and the general hum and buzz of 30-odd people all working in the same 25’x75′ space, it’s a bloody marvel that anything ever gets finished. Of course that’s assuming that anything actual does ever get finished, which could easily not be a valid assumption.
In conclusion, whoever decided that cubicles represent the best way for information workers to get their job done was a fucking idiot and I hope his soul is condemned to eternal torment… like by never getting more than 37 uninterrupted seconds to try completing a fairly simple and routine task.
It’s Wednesday. There would usually be a well prepared post showing up here. The time I had allocated for that today was supposed to be immediately after my 12:30 appointment with the dentist. That would have been fine except for the part where what should have been about an hour or 75 minutes getting a crown replaced turned into a three hour and thirty minute marathon in the chair. All because the magic computer that’s supposed to scan your teeth and order up a perfectly sized crown refused to work. They couldn’t give me a temporary crown until the base for the permanent one was scanned, measured, and sent off to the manufacturer.
Twenty years ago they had a pretty efficient way of taking those measurements. They’d take a mold of the base of the tooth and then send the mold off to be processed. It might have taken a few days longer to process, but you could be in and out of the chair without killing half a damned day. All things considered, I’m not sure digitizing what use to be a straightforward and quick process has really gained us anything in this case.
As it is, I’m disgusted by the whole process. Rather than writing a whole diatribe, though, I think I’ll just stick my nose in a book and nurse this sore as hell lower jaw for a bit.
My dental hygienist has been hectoring me for years to buy an electro-mechanical toothbrush. She promised better dental health overall and fewer sessions with the drill. Still, I resisted the honey being poured into my ears. Mostly I resisted what I considered an extravagant expense in replacing a simple $2 toothbrush (that the dentist use to give me for free every six months), with a several hundred dollar battery powered model that also required regular brush head replacement. Frankly, I assumed the mechanical toothbrush would last about as long in my household as the electric razor I tried and promptly threw away twenty years ago.
After not a little bit of consideration I bit the bullet and ordered up one of these sonic cleaning marvels that was on offer as part of Amazon’s big site-wide yard sale. I’m trying to be open minded, though the fact that I just spent $100 on a toothbrush still feels like something of a patently ridiculous expense.
I’m going to do my best to give this thing the benefit of the doubt. It’s got until the first scheduled brush replacement to show me its worth. If it proves to be a case of a fool and his money, I’ll be perfectly happy to go back to ordering 10 packs of old school toothbrushes from Amazon for $5. Or maybe I’ll just knock out all of these awful teeth with a ball-peen hammer and get titanium chompers. At this point I’m starting to think that’s also a perfectly reasonable long-term solution.
I don’t like going to the dentist. You’d never know it from the amount of money that I’ve dumped into my teeth over the last 20 years, but I don’t. That’s probably why I generally put it off as long as possible between visits. I’ve convinced myself that the most logical approach is not to worry about it until something hurts and then I can have the issue addressed. Yes, I know that idea probably compounds the issues and means more time in the chair… but at least those times are less frequent.
I don’t mean to imply I have a random phobia of the dentist. It’s not like being afraid of spiders or thing that lurk in the dark. I avoid the dentist for good reason, the best reason – childhood trauma. My reluctance to fully commit to a modern dentistry stems all the way back to the early mid-1990s. That’s when the old dentist I saw as a kid decided that since it was a small cavity, he could go after it without Novocain and be finished in a jiffy.
As it turns out, having someone drill on a molar without numbing it up first hurts like a mother. I don’t recommend it. You might say that I’m pain intolerant. Being the rational creature that I am, I seek to minimize painful experiences. Which leads me back to the original statement: I don’t like going to the dentist.
I’m sure they’re perfectly good people and that they have the science to back themselves up… but you’re never going entirely convince me that dentistry isn’t just a vast conspiracy of the most sadistic among us to inflict pain on the masses under their diabolical cover as medical professionals.
I’m not a fan of the dentist. Being a responsible adult I try not to let time drag out too long between visits… but given half an excuse, I’ll almost always opt to kick my appointment down the road for a few weeks before showing up.
Today I had ample opportunity to dodge my scheduled time in the chair. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Give the tenor of the week so far dentistry felt like the lesser of the two awful ways to spend an afternoon.
The fact that I’d rather face the drill than another afternoon of meetings probably says a lot about the head space I’m occupying currently. When days have a tendency to roll on with a grinding certainty, any deviation towards something different is a relative bright point. That fact that it’s true even with that “something different” is a couple people jamming sharp objects in your mouth should probably be more alarming than it currently feels.
A few months back I’m pretty sure I cracked a tooth, or to be more specific I’m pretty sure I re-cracked a tooth that I had fixed about a decade ago. It only caused minimal and occasional discomfort and could be easily ignored. We seem, currently, to have slowly worked our way past discomfort and are edging into the legitimate pain category. I’m going to go ahead and blame the sudden appearance of cold weather since it appears to be introduction of cold air that’s set off the sensation of someone occasionally jamming a teeny tiny ice pick into my jaw.
This, of course, is where my problem starts. You see it’s not so much that I’m afraid of the dentist, per se. The one’s I’ve met seem like decent enough human beings and individually are not a fear-educing bunch. I am, however, entirely and completely in favor of avoiding pain for as long as possible. This, unfortunately, has now caused me a dilemma. At some point in the near future this untreated tooth is going to start being more than an occasional discomfort. That may be weeks or months from now. An appointment at my local dentist is a guarantee of pain and a sure and certain time. It’s one of the few occasions in life where I generally prefer the unknown future to the known.
Yes, I know this is a ridiculous approach towards dental health. Yes, I know I should have had it taken care of months ago. Yes, I know it’s utterly out of character for a guy who thrives on adding things to a list and getting them knocked off as quickly as possible. I’m unpredictable like that.
I also know that the last three times I’ve walked into a dentist’s office for anything more than a cleaning I’ve walked out chewing on a couple of thousand dollars worth of bills to pay. Pain in the mouth. Pain in the wallet. Completely ridiculous or not, there’s no doubt in my own head why my approach to “modern, painless” dentistry is so often avoidance.
Life is full of ironies. When I was a young careerist just starting out you, I barely had two hours of vacation time to rub together. What I did have were almost limitless invitations to go places, do things, and generally raise hell while I was young and stupid. Since I never seemed to have the vacation time, I took a pass on most of those opportunities and hoped against hope that I wouldn’t get sick and need to burn off any of my limited reserve of days off.
Now, after a a decade or so of experience, I’m sitting on a pretty respectable war chest of paid time off. What I seem to be lacking are the invitations to raise hell and be stupid. While that’s probably for the best, there’s something disheartening about taking the vast majority of days off over the course of the year to do things like having bloodwork done and going to the dentist. I’m sure this is not how 25-year-old-Jeff planned to spend his days off when he was 35, but there you have it.
Sure, it’s a four day weekend, but I’ll be spending a big part of the first day with my mouth hanging wide open letting complete strangers poke, prod, drill, and fill. If I can manage not to spend the afternoon drooling all over myself, I’ll consider it a victory.
After almost a week of Congressionally imposed exile, it’s back to work for most Department of Defense Employees. It feels a bit like the first day of school after a long summer of not giving a damn. Suffice to say that I am something a little less than motivated. What can I say, I’m having a significant emotional response to being told for a week that my services are unessential and then getting a call after 9PM on Sunday to hurry up and get back to work. Look, I know the old hurry up and wait is the Army Way and all, but seriously, taking care of your people should involve more than jerking them form pillar to post around the time many of them are headed to bed. Decent behavior and a basic level of respect are apparently expectations that are all out of proportion to reality. Good to know.
The great irony is that I’m going to be missing at least part of this first day of school. Instead of being on my way to the office, I’m killing an hour or two before heading out for my second root canal in the last seven days. Is it bad that dental surgery almost seems like a better way to spend the morning? It probably is, but Uncle Sam is currently ranked higher on my shit list than the dentist. As sad a state of affairs as that is, it doesn’t seem at all unreasonable.
Some pain is worse than others… while for most run of the mill problems, the standard dosage of ibuprofen is more than sufficient to dull the aches to a minor annoyance, missing half a tooth calls for something a little more substantial. Thankfully I keep every prescription I’ve ever gotten and usually have something high potency floating around in the back of the medicine cabinet.
For the last couple of days, my happy pill du jure has been oxycodone left over from the summer’s sprained ankle. To be honest, it didn’t just dull the toothache so much as it made it completely unnoticeable, which was just fine by me. To say that it improved my mood, even on a Monday morning is a profound understatement. Even with half a tooth missing, I was feeling downright chipper when I rolled into work. I can see how one might be tempted to keep these little gems on hand at all times. Sadly, my stock is now depleted and since I have no intention of turning into prescription junkie, I’m holding the last few in reserve for whatever great pain comes next. And when you’re me, you’re only ever a week or two away from a new and interesting pain. I write it off to the indignity of middle age settling in.
It’s probably for the best, really. If my mood were to improve dramatically for any extended period of time, I’m seriously concerned that it would be curtains for any kind of decent writing you might see around here. The best stories always seem to come out when I’m just short of being agitated enough to punch someone in the nose. Being chipper on Monday mornings just isn’t worth what I’d be giving up.