Thursday, May 22, 2008

teething problems.

i am so full of myself. as in big stuff. as in wagging my tail my broer. and more superior to everybody else at home. i went to the dentist, and this time, not because i had to. not because i had cavities the size of ngorongoro crater, ingrown wisdoms or throbbing abcesses or anything dramatic like that (which is usually the case and how i end up at the dentist.) but because of an angel pact (as previously blogged) and because i have decided to overcome my insane assume -foetal- position fear of dentists and be responsible about my teeth. what's left of them. and because once i read in an Oprah Mag...that you shouldn't say "oh I've GOT TO go and pick up the kids/go to the doctors/go to the dentist/visit my uncle/water the garden/wash the dishes/ go to the dentist/ go to the dentist." instead you are supposed to say " oh i WANT TO .... pick up the kids/ go to the doctors/go to the dentist/go to the dentist/go to the bloody dentist waaaaaah aaaaargh i want to i want to i want

"Any problems then?" asked the very kind and gentle dr dirani - whose office is below dr sheriff's of almond eye fame.

"Oh no! Just in for a check and a clean. (but really meaning - you know, those six months are up and aren't i the responsible one?" i brightly reply. airily, breezily, confidently for once. "and remember, i am really really scared," i laugh. bloody hell. fucking terrified, more like it. pulse rate already racing, palms sweating.

he is not surprised. my mouth is literally full of mercury fillings. all that lead. it will kill me in the end no doubt. no names mentioned but whew, i have seen some tooth butchers in my time. 1970's zambia wasn't exactly brimming with the latest dental technology, never mind dentists...most of the dentists were sad czechs who had escaped the iron curtain life and found a new zambian socialist sun. they didn't know about anaesthetics and i am convinced they procured their drills from the local trucking yard. in fact, maybe they were simple mechanics from the local trucking yard in retrospect! if you didn't consult a czech, then it was a chinese dentist who practised root canal for fun. it was like you would sort of casually mention, oh my tooth is a little sensitive and before you knew it, you would be staring at your nerve... and again with no anaesthetics. after writhing and squirming with head splitting, nerve shattering pain, and sort of howling through metal implements, she would then say,

"HAH SO! *&(*@#^&!! mING Noi ping po pong *@&&#^*%." as you lay there in a sweaty mess, looking at a wriggling, pink ,live nerve literally inches from your eyes, being held aloft by metal pincers as she sort of grinned savagely back at you. oh no. it was horrific.

or getting my wisdoms pulled in the government hospital in malawi by a scottish VSO dentist who looked like he was 12 years old. all ruddy cheeks and auburn hair. i had met him at the local amateur drama society, behind the bushes smoking pot. i complained of tooth pain and he said, "man. i am a dentist, well almost. pop by and i can check them out for you. hey, pass the doob maaaaan.."

can you believe it? i went. to get into his surgery i had to pass through all the malawian trainee dentists all working on patients in the "waiting room". just horrible. groans and moans. my scots dentist (almost dentist apparently) x-rayed and said "oh easy. they aren't impacted so it will be easy. come on then."

"WHAT? NOW? no ways pal!" as i gripped the door knob white knuckled, fierce and cornered. he quickly backed off and we made the appointment for the following week. at least i had time to mentally prepare myself. i drank four brandies prior to the appointment. i had at least six injections before the extraction. i must admit, i didn't feel the teeth being pulled but i heard it.

and then dear dr r, the tanzanian dentist. whose hands are as big as plates. it wasn't so much the drilling which hurt, but the way he held the little mirror against my gums, scraping and bruising them...while he filled my teeth with those large hands. his fingers are the size of usa river zuchinnis.

and none of the above had calming fish tanks, or music, or laughing gas. nothing. just brown industrial views out horrid little windows.

so dr dirani is like a walk in spring. fresh. kind. hopeful. he is quiet. he doesn't have a fish tank either. or calming music. but he has a lovely painting of a mosque in the desert somewhere. AND he doesn't do that thing which every single other dentist has done, as soon as you open your mouth:

" oh! gosh! wow - you've had some work done, eh?..OH! MY! GOD! that hole is HUUUUUUUUUUGE! oh well, we can see you are a smoker eh? tut tut tut! ok lets fill it might hurt,....hmmmm this is reeeeeeeeeeeeallllllllllllllllllllllllllllly close to the nerve......" and just when your mouth is full of every single goddamn metal implement possible and you can't move a thing and you're about to drown in your own spit, because the nurse who is supposed to be in charge of the spit vacuum has gone off to never never dreamland, the dentist says ," so how are the kids? craig? your music going well? when is your next gig?"

how the hell you are supposed to answer beats me...or they say " is this hurting?" and all you can do is sort of widen your eyes or punch him to get your answer out.

dr dirani doesn't do any of this. like i said. he is like a walk in spring. i have to go back next week to check if there is a cavity in one of my back teeth. please please please please angels let there not be one...if there isn't one i will um give up um (ciggies? done. booze? done) uuuum......eating?


Chimera said...

I love this stuff!!! Your writing is just wonderful Janelle - a riotous multi coloured, emotioanl blast!
I know those Zambian dentists. I too cannot face anything near my face that 'whirrs'. They don't let you come in drunk for surgery here in Cambridge although I tried. dentist made me get prescription drugs instead.
I miss Zambia too - and tiny bright moments from childhood.
With love to the angels!
T xxx

family affairs said...

Your "MIssing Zambia" post is beautifully written...very evocative...maybe because I lived in Malawi for three years when v young and my Grandmother/father lived in Zambia before that....

I too know the terror of dentists - all my fillings were done in HK when I was a child and I can't believe how different going to the dentist now is for my kids..

btw will be doing a special thank you post to you later as you seem to have singlehandedly put Tanzania into the Top 10 list of places where people read my blog most!

Janelle said...

thanks Tanvi and Lulu! aha about tanzania! yes have been spreading the news - good and excellent. and thanks for your very kind words! seriously...lots love x j

tam said...

haha. so funny. I haven't caught up with you in a couple of days, but guess what I've just come back from the dentist. bloody hell. I actually tracked down a lady I went to four years ago coz she was the least of several evils. Man, how do they make these people? THe last one I went to was the creationist who has plastic toy dinosaurs in his fish tank and gives you anti-evolution lectures while he does your teeth. The other one was in grahamstown and he had a late career change - went to go and be a a geologist!
you make me laugh lady. may you be rot-free.