While social-distancing, with lots of time and few distractions, we have an opportunity for self-reflection, and for remembering those moments that changed how we see ourselves.
I’ve been remembering the time I got my tooth fixed.
It was early 1989, I’d just gotten a training date from Continental Airlines, and I decided that it was time to do something about my front tooth that pointed forward instead of down. I wasn’t particularly embarrassed about my tooth, but I thought it might be off-putting for passengers boarding a plane and seeing a flight attendant smiling like a rabid monkey.
I made an appointment and went to the dentist’s office for an evaluation. It turned out that my front teeth had become crowded when my wisdom teeth came in. Four of my front teeth had to be replaced with veneers.
A few days later I returned for the second appointment. It was going to be a long, long process. There was a television in the ceiling above the dentist chair, and the dentist and his assistant let me choose two movies to watch while they rearranged my mouth. I chose ‘Top Gun’ and some other movie that looked mildly entertaining.
The assistant attached a nose mask to my face. The mask was connected to a big tank of laughing gas against the wall. The dentist turned a valve, and the gas began gently flowing into my nose.
Then, they began power-grinding my front teeth into thin points that would anchor the new veneers. This part of the procedure was a bit more uncomfortable than I’d expected. The dentist, perhaps seeing the look of horror on my face, asked me if I was doing okay. I replied, “I think I need more gas.”
“Okay.” He reached over and took ahold of that gas valve and he cranked that thing to full maximum power. Within seconds, I was free-floating in outer space.
Some advice on choosing movies when you’re at the dental office: Do not choose a funny movie. When that ‘mildly entertaining’ movie started playing, it took every last bit of my self-control to keep from belly-laughing myself right out of the dentist chair. Thankfully, I was able to get through the procedure without inhaling the suction hose.
There’s more to the story. I’ll add another chapter tomorrow.