Monday, February 01, 2021

When you are the bike

 When you take your bike to be worked on, the mechanic puts it into a work stand where it can be positioned to get better access to the parts that need attention.

I've thought about this a lot when lying in a dentist's chair. Dentistry seems to be more like bike repair than any of the other medical or cosmetic services we receive. It involves small parts, small tools, and a certain degree of machining skill.

Last Monday I had the first visit of two, to replace a crown. This required the usual large hypodermic needle into the jaw hinge, but once we all got settled in the two trained experts were working away, elbow-deep in my spit hole. Because of the pandemic, they have installed a high-capacity vacuum system designed to capture the evil droplets flung off by a gaping patient under the pressure of power tools. It was so loud that I couldn't even hear the drill, let alone the canned music that has been the soundtrack to many a cringe and writhe as various nerves have been assaulted in procedures through the years. I rather like the playlist, not so much for itself as for the anthropological musing I can do as I dissect the familiar lyrics. But being blanketed with a thick duvet of white noise turned out to be better still.

I could hear the dentist and the technician well enough to respond to commands, and to catch the general trend of their mix of consultation and banter. I was in their work place, the object under repair. They are kind, gentle, and skillful people, but it's also their job. It was pretty funny right at the start when they had to give me double shots of Novocain just to get me to functional numbness, and then they asked me to move my tongue out of their way. I sent the mental command, but I couldn't even feel whether I had a tongue, let alone whether it was behaving as asked. They seemed satisfied, so it must have worked.

After the drilling and some rather interesting scraping and gouging with specially-shaped little picks, it was time for the dentist to move on to the next patient, while the technician tidied up and made the temporary cap to cover the sculpted stump of the molar. The caps are made of some kind of polymer resin, cleverly shaped in response to a computerized model that they get by scanning the tooth. No more biting the hot wax to take an impression. The cap as it comes out initially needs a bit of fine tuning and smoothing. As the technician stood out of my view, behind my head, I heard the cap fall to the floor.

"Oops," she said. She picked it up. I had a momentary laugh as I imagined her just blowing on it and buffing it on her sleeve, but no, this is a conscientious outfit engaged in medical-grade professional procedures. Besides, she was wearing a mask, so blowing on the little plastic doohickey wouldn't have done anything. She resumed whatever she was doing back there. Tink clink te-tink, I heard it hit the floor again. It's hard to hold onto little things half the size of a tooth, especially when you're wearing gloves. She located it on the floor, retrieved it, and cleaned it again. The third time it happened, we both laughed. I have definitely had days like that at work, some of them quite recently. Between wearing gloves for some things, and having skin as dry as wood this time of year, it's hard to hold onto anything small. She finally got it ready and secured it.

Because the temporary cap has to come off once the permanent crown is ready, the technician didn't go crazy with the glue. Thus, late Friday night I just waved a piece of dental floss in its general direction and it popped off like it was spring loaded. Of course it was Friday night. I had to get through the whole weekend just to be able to call in to get it reglued.

The post-op instructions say that you can stick your temporary back on using toothpaste. I'd had really good luck with previous temporaries, so I had never had to try it. Now I did.

WOW, was that incredibly painful. I got the crown on backwards on my first attempt, so I had to pop it off and press it onto the throbbing nerve of the tooth stub a second time. YEAH, buddy! I kind of staggered around the house while lightning bolts of pain radiated from the back corner of my jawbone out to the periphery of my skull for a few minutes. Maybe I didn't have the right toothpaste. So then I had to get through Saturday and Sunday, eating as best I could, and going to work. The pain subsided to basically nothing unless I managed to hit things the right wrong way. I could be guaranteed to do this somewhere near the time I was going to bed.

This morning I got right in to have the cap reattached. The technician settled me into the chair and lifted the cap off with tweezers. She turned to her workstation behind me and I heard her knock something to the floor. It sounded like a metal bowl with multiple small objects inside it. She said something humorous and I laughed as well. More of the normal workplace slapstick comedy we all deal with. But then I couldn't stop laughing as I envisioned a dentist office where the people working there swear like mechanics. Something hits the floor in my workshop and I let go a string of profanity. I know a lot of you superior motherfuckers are above all that, but to those of us who are Profanitarians, it is part of our rituals and devotions. I have my favorite combinations. Most often it is said with annoyance but without excessive heat. They're like the little fuckin' earthquakes along parts of major fault lines that prevent major ruptures from occurring right there. Of course in geology, the little grinders simply pass stress to sticking points where the whole clusterfuck finally breaks loose in a massive shit storm. The technical terms in geology are different of course; much more precise and scientifically descriptive, as one would hope.

A friend on Facebook posted an item endorsing alternatives to profanity. They're like decaf coffee and non-alcoholic beer. Sometimes you just want the substitute because you only want a hint. Or you might use one of the expressions humorously. Because many of them sound rather archaic, they bring a historical perspective as well.

 Quite a few years ago I toyed with the concept, "what if you tasted everything you said in anger or annoyance?" Fudge nut brownie sundae would become the most virulent curse. Then again, between accidental lapses and some people's weird tastes, you would always have to wonder why a person chose to say a particular thing. It would be even more revealing than their current choices.


RANTWICK said...

Profanitarian! Thank you fiend.

mike w. said...

Ugh, reading about your adventures in dentistry gives me severe flashbacks to my many- too many- root canals and crownings...

As for shop profanities, my old co-worker and leading wrench at The Spokesmen (r.i.p.) would swear most eloquently whilst wrangling with wavy French steel chainrings or pretzeled wheels... ah, simple times in the workshop, simpler bikes... and such fond memories of her streaming maledictions.

greatpumpkin said...

Nice to read that you finally got religion.