Thursday, February 10, 2005

I did not realize the row of waiting cars on North Broome had been loosed by the light just as I'd stepped onto the street. So I stopped and doubled back as they streamed past me, and again I cursed my inattention.

At the dentist all hell was breaking loose. Hygienists were wandering from room to room, attending multiple patients. On this my second visit I noticed the "Forgive our appearance, we're under renovations" sign. They all seemed harried, short-staffed. The sexy dentist from the first time was nowhere to be seen. Instead I was treated by a man who introduced himself and shook my hand as I lay prone in the chair. He wore a ridiculous clear plastic germ guard resembling a flea-infested dog's head protector.

"You're here to get fillings," he stated. But with the faintest question mark at the end.


"Do you know where?" he asked, unbelievably. I told him lower left and he consented, verifying my chart. I had an unnerving feeling he'd been hired for the day, like a cop on the beach in summer. He excused himself precipitously, saying he had a cleaning down the hall.

When they were at work over my face, the dentist and the hygienist bumped arms and made jerky motions suggesting they had not established the division of labor. He seemed competent enough, and I admired the effort he made to maintain a quasi-normal interaction and to avoid referring to the surrounding catastrophe.

The thing slipped and sucked my cheek and she said Oops!