Last month, on Ash Wednesday (the day before Mardi Gras, for crying out loud, which made it imperative that I not party down since I didn't want my breath to assault the technician as she peered past my lips into the maw she'd be scouring), I went into my dentist's office to have my teeth cleaned. My new hygienist introduced herself to me and told me her name was Peggy. Peggy was attractive, on the younger side of middle-age, with bottle-lightened curls. She was also personable and efficient, blessed with the gift of small talk.
Small talk is often looked down upon or taken for granted, but it is a worthy goal to try to attain and a skill that takes time and study to master. It is also something that is imperative to have if one works in a dental office where total anesthetic immersion is not generally the rule.
Like I said, Peggy had it down, and I was able to relax as she scoured and buffed, and probed and prodded my inner oral orifice.
I have no recollection of what she talked about. I'm sure it included her asking me about my Fat Tuesday adventures, but since there were none, and since I couldn't respond with her hands in my mouth, anyway, she gave up any semblance of a conversational exchange and went about her business of polishing and rinsing, accompanied by her cheerful chirping about this and that.
Every now and then, she would stop and tell me that she wanted the good DMD to see me before she cut me loose. (DMD, for those of you unfamiliar with the finer elements of dental acronyms, is Mississippi dental college language for DDS.) She would exclaim, "Let me see if the doctor is free," and skip out of the room, only to return a few moments later with the sad admission that he was engaged. But, brightening, she would add that she would not let me escape until she had brought him into the room to decide if I needed anything more than what she was providing.
It occurs to me now that she probably cleaned my teeth for a lot longer time than was necessary simply because the good DMD was unavailable for consultation. Eventually, a shadow blocked the light at the door to Peggy's cubicle, and it was he.
He seemed brusque with Peggy, impatient, as if his time were too valuable to be wasted on the natterings of a bottle-lightened "bimba", which is a woman past the "bimbo" phase of maturity but not yet at the height of her fully-flowering "bombo" stage.
She gamely mentioned that she thought she might have noticed a tiny cavity in tooth number something or other in the upper left side of my cranial structure.
"Well, of course, you would," said my dentist. "There's another one in tooth number such and such in the upper right side, too. We're going to make an appointment to take care of that before he leaves."
And he was gone from the room.
Peggy gamely gathered herself back together, told me we were done, set me up with appointments for my next two cleanings, and brought me to the reception area where the lovely young lady who looks like Cate Blanchett collaborated with me on a date to have my cavities filled. [Sigh]
That day was yesterday. I arrived on time, which was no small accomplishment seeing as every road leading to my dentist's office is under construction, and was soon ushered into her usual cubicle by Carmen, one of the two assistants working for my good DMD.
Like everyone in that place, Carmen is an adept at small talk. Being Spanish, she is also an adept in dealing surreptitiously with the male ego. If you're a guy who has never had the experience of being tended to by a female of Hispanic extraction, you do not know what it is to feel like a man. You could be standing in six-inch stilettos, encased in a two-bit knockoff Givenchy, and sporting an iridescent green synthetic wig. It doesn't matter. A Spanish woman will have you convinced in no time at all that you are the macho hombre of her dreams, and she is only there to serve at your pleasure as your pedestal for as long as you care to have her there. Carmen is that good.
Soon, my doctor sauntered in and did a little small talk of his own. He seemed to like Carmen better than Peggy. Much better, in fact. But then how could he not? He asked her for the "instrument" and injected me with Novocaine, first in my upper left gum, then in my upper right. Then he left me in Carmen's care while the drug worked its insidious magic in my skull.
My right side was fine. But there was a problem with the other side of my face. The left side of my upper lip grew heavy and elongated. It soon draped itself along my left left shoulder. My nose began to harden into pitted plaster. My eyes became numb and began to glisten. Soon, my frontal lobe decided, hey, who cares, man, just go with the flow ... this is copacetic, duuude ...
I heard my voice mutter, "Carmen, demasiadas drogas ..." (and I don't speak Spanish).
She whispered, "No, no, mi querido. Estás haciendo muy bien. Disfrutar."
So what could I do? I did.
The drilling went fine. My DMD packed his silver paste into my cavities like a pro even though it felt as if he were drilling a tunnel through the Rockies. When it came time for me to spit, I drooled, but Carmen was there to wipe my lips dry. I wish I could have felt her soft Spanish touch.
At least, I was able to feel her strong yet tender Spanish hands as she held my arm to help me sit up and rise from the mechanical chair and led me out to my car.
Ah! Carmen! Ma Carmen, adoree!
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