I went to the dentist last week. My dentist office gives me goosebumps because it’s not of this era. Everytime I’m there I feel like I’ve stepped onto the poorly constructed set of a 1986 high school play. All of the walls seems to be made of cardboard; the medical records are paper-based colored folders; the appointment book is kept in pencil next to the phone. Receptionist row is all beautiful, blond, buxom ladies writing long hand notes and answering shoulder pad phones.
When I look around the waiting room, there is usually a Hasid dad yelling about something having to do with the parking lot, a Polish woman shaking her finger in his face, and someone from Urgent Care looking for an emergency extraction complete with bleary eyes and handfuls of stained gauze. In the back of the office, there are eight partitioned procedure areas, which are a voyeur’s paradise.
Periodically I’ll catch a glimpse of the man who runs this kingdom, Dr D. The only other man who works here is his son, Dr Junior. Dr Junior is objectively hot and wears skinny ties with Converse sneakers under his white coat. But that’s a-whole-nother story. Anyway, since there aren’t closed rooms, it’s a synch to eavesdrop on the routine shaming that Dr D delivers about bad teeth, bad gums, and the cowardice of fear. I’m used to some shaming at the dentist, but more like the need to power blast coffee stains out of my smile. That’s why I love going to THIS dentist. They are so delighted to have someone that schedules plain old cleanings, so they only deliver positive re-enforcement. I’m obviously a glutton for positive re-enforcement, I get drunk on it.
Last week I visited the office and saw the full cast of characters. And they did not disappoint. It was 100 degrees outside, so my fellow patrons were extra crazy. [No we don’t know whose minivan is sabotaging your afternoon, yes your abscess will turn gangrene if untreated, no you can’t leave your children here while you run an errand.] Inside the cool office I was greeted by familiar Eastern European accents, ushered into an on-time cleaning, and diagnosed with perfect health on sight. This is exactly the positive re-enforcement I pay for.
The only part of the visit that was incongruous was a brief interruption during my cleaning. My favorite hygienist, Barbara, is in her 70s and she cleans with a technique assigned more to muscle memory than sight. Her disposition is so lovely that I always imagine this job is a distraction from her real passions, which are baking gingerbread, making fairy gardens, and singing to woodland creatures. On this visit, one of the reservationists came to our area and told Barb that she had a phone call. It sounded important, nay urgent. Barb said she just had to step away for a moment and I should rinse. She picked up a receiver attached to the wall a few paces down the hall, but like everything, still within earshot. She listened. She nodded. She said “Pinot Grigio.” She hung up.
Yeah, Barb. Me too. Me too.