As I lay back in the chair and stare desperately at the clock, I can feel the beads of sweat trickling down my temple. The water has made its way to the back of my throat as I desperately gargle for air. I look into the face of my tormentor, pleading with my eyes. Finally, she can tell that I’ve had enough and grabs the device that will relieve me of my suffering. Whoever says waterboarding isn’t torture needs to sit in the dentist’s chair for an hour with a hygienist who’s stingy on the suction.
Luckily, I do not suffer from the common fear of going to the dentist. I’m okay with the fact that the bubble-gum flavored paste they put on my gums is useless and I will still be able to feel every bit of that needle making its way through my flesh. I do fine with the sounds of the drill grinding away inside my mouth as flecks of white porcelain dabble my chin. I can even withstand the only known method of torture that is worse than waterboarding – having someone else floss your teeth.
However, I’m not ashamed to admit that I do enjoy the added perks in modern dental offices meant to keep those fearful few at ease. This morning as I entered my new dentist’s office I felt as if I was walking into a spa. The trickling water fountain, the soothing music, and the Kuerig coffee maker made me feel like royalty. The office staff had obviously gone through a rigorous interview process in which they were asked to use their most soothing voice that invoked the image of a Buddhist monk meditating in a rock garden.
Not wanting to discourage all of the kind gestures, I accepted when the dental assistant offered me a set of headphones to listen to music during my exam. I was immediately given the headset and a list of over 100 music stations labeled by their specific genre. To an audiophile like myself this was heaven. After careful contemplation, I decided on the 80’s station with the hopes that the synthesizers and echoing snare drums might drown out the sound of the dentist’s preferred mode of cruelty.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced the thrill of listening to Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” while your dentist attempts to file your teeth down with a scythe, but it’s actually not bad. In fact, the hardest part was keeping still. If you can listen to that little piece of 1980’s gold and not feel the need to tap your feet, than you may not be human.
The other inadvertent problem with this form of relaxation is its limitations on communication. If you thought listening to your dentist jabber on about the weather with his blue surgical mask muffling his voice was difficult, try doing it with headphones on. Just as your dentist does not fail to ask you a million questions while your jaw is stretched to capacity, he will also not stop talking to you while your earmuffs make it impossible to hear. No wonder these people never made it through med school.
About halfway through the exam, and three highly animated stories from the dentist later, I realized that I didn’t have a clue what to do with my eyes. If I stared directly above, I was giving creepy vibes to the dentist and his assistant who were gawking inside my mouth. But if I closed my eyes I would have no way of following instructions now that I no longer had the use of my ears. Instead I decided to look away to the side as if to say, “I’m still here but I won’t shoot my peepers at you while you’re trying to work.” Of course, there could be a downside to this plan. Is that what I think…yep, I’ve been staring at his crotch for the past five minutes. Look away, look away!
As if things could not get worse, the next song on my beloved music station was Billy Ocean’s “Carribean Queen.” For those of you who have not had the pleasure of listening to this gem, you must Youtube it immediately. I kid you not, the first words of the song (“She’s simply…awesome”) are whispered into the microphone as if the audience is being seduced. But the hilarity doesn’t stop there. The next few lyrics are listed below verbatim:
She dashed by me in painted on jeans
And all heads turned ’cause she was the dream
In the blink of an eye I knew her number and her name
She said I was the tiger she wanted to tame
Upon hearing that last line, I lost control. My funny bone took over and forced a laugh out of my lips. Of course, my lips were wide open and the suction Nazi was falling behind again, so what was supposed to be a chuckle came out in the form of a wet cough. Luckily everyone was wearing safety goggles.
Although it was surreal listening to the Beastie Boys stand up for their right to party while I lay there obediently trying to decipher a man’s hand gestures like a confused puppy, I’m not sure I’ll take the headphones at my next visit. After all, I wouldn’t want to look like a fool.