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Tooth or consequences.

Although the issue has yet to be settled, I claim that the woman I took for better is the one responsible for my tooth trouble in the first place.

I had entered the living room on this particular night to find her on her hands and knees peering under the sofa. This being strange behavior even for her, I thoughtfully inquired if she had lost her marbles.

Ignoring the clever innuendo, she replied, "No, it's my thimble."

Servile hubby that I am, I helped her to her feet and said, "I'll get the yardstick and sweep the thing out."

If you have ever tried this at home, you no doubt know the results: popcorn, peanuts, Cracker Jack, the cat's little rubber ball, a long-lost earring, a nickel, and two pennies, not to mention-but I don't mind mentioning it to you--dust balls enough to build a sizable snowman.

For my next stunt I risked popping the rivets out of my hernia operation by moving the sofa away from the wall, after which my sadistic spouse gaily announced, "Never mind, it's right here on the end table."

In biting down on the yardstick, I loosened this tooth.

A fairly front tooth, the poor thing had already suffered the trauma of a root canal. (You may remember "Sailing Down the Root Canal," my educational article on the experience.) And I had been under the impression that after a tooth had been canaled, it would last a lifetime, if not longer. At least simply biting down on a yardstick shouldn't cause it to go antigodlin-or slaunchwise, to be more precise.

Now you know and I know that when your own proficient dentist farms out the job to an oral surgeon, you've got trouble--not the least of which could be that my jawbone might come out with the tooth. I further speculated that postponing the removal of this rotten apple from my dental barrel might cause the other front apples to go down like a row of dominoes.

The anticipation of having a tooth pulled is enough in itself to make a man of my limited fortitude wish he had been born with a full set of dentures. Especially when a man's sadistic spouse prints in bold red letters the date of the execution (extraction, I meant to say) on a POST-IT[TM] and posts it on the refrigerator door, where a man will see it whenever he hears the butterscotch pie, the cherry cobbler, or the chocolate mousse crying out to be released from their cold prison cell.

On deadline day, the cause of my trouble bravely drove me to the office of the tooth-pulling expert, courageously steered me into the waiting room, where she hid her deep concern behind a copy of People. I was left to fill out a form asking how I would pay, did I have someone to drive me home (my next of kin, in other words), and how much did I weigh (a subtle way of determining whether they'd need help in carrying me out).

A nurse then escorted me the 13 steps to the electric (there I go again)---dental chair.

With the possible exception of expectant fathers in a waiting room, nothing compares to the tension of sitting in a dental chair listening to sounds emanating from the room next door. That rattle can be nothing less than a brace and bit coming out of the dentist's tool kit. There's the unmistakable sound of an upper tooth being removed through the top of the head. The thud has to be a body falling to the floor. And the murmur of conversation leaves no doubt that the dentist and his assistant are discussing disposal of the remains without emptying the waiting room. To say nothing of the chair occupied by the white-knuckled gentleman next door.

"And how are we today?" trills this exuberant young chap who finally comes bouncing into the room waving my X-ray and ending any hope that my appointment had been for next year.

"Yef geeb ugharr," I respond, the nurse having already minimized my speaking faculties to a trickle.

"That's good," chirps the chap, who turns out to be the dentist rather than a student observer, as I had placed him. "This being a root canal," he says, "the tooth will be brittle and may break off."

Without further ado, he picks up a pair of pliers and breaks it off.

"Are you all right?"

Just dandy, thank you for asking. How could anyone not feel just dandy with a root canal broken off and the roots still connected to the jawbone and the jawbone connected to the head bone and the head bone connected to the spine bone and the spine bone connected to the seat of his emotions?

Luckily, at this point I remembered the wise saying of--was it Solomon who wisely said, "The best way to counter an irritant is with a counter irritant"? Anyway, I'd give it a try.

Let's see, now .... How about the night of my dear wife's Chef's Surprise? That dish delivered all the excitement of a slug race in July. Or her innovative peanut butter pizza? That not only stuck to the ribs, as she had promised, but to everything else on the way down. My rising hackles were countering the dentist's probing and prying already.

Then there's dear wife's association with the automobile ... BINGO! Go no further, Maynard, you've hit the jackpot. Think about how she insists on sharing the driving "so I can relax.'' For reasons of health, I have yet to inform her that with her at the wheel I'm about as relaxed as a housefly in a swatter factory.

If the speed limit is 65, she is going to drive 65, come fog, sleet, hail, dark of night, over hill, over dale, over stumps, whatever. Then there's her unorthodox way of driving with one foot on the accelerator, the other foot on the brake pedal. Perhaps her ilk, or a sizable herd of her ilk, drive this way. I wouldn't know. I do know that she approaches a traffic signal at 40 miles an hour, slams on the brake, wastes a quart of fuel, and bums up a yard and a half of brake lining per stop.

Another tooth grinder (barring a dentist having his tools in your mouth) is the way she waits at a four-way-stop intersection until every other vehicle within sight has cleared, including a spavined horse pulling a load of hay. As for her keeping to the white line marking the edge of the road, you'd think that every other car had a contagious disease, spark plugitis, or fatal valve-in-head. For trucks, she generously drives off on the shoulder. "WIDE LOAD" alerts have her frantically looking for an open field. It matters not that her ashen-faced passenger all this time is left staring at a guard rail, a bridge abutment, or possibly a stray moose waiting to cross the road.

Although counter-irritated by this time to where forceps entering my inner ear could have gone unnoticed, to be on the safe side I thought about dear wife's reaction when the traffic light turns green. So as not to hold up the driver behind who may be trying to reach home with a half gallon of frozen yogurt before it becomes unfrozen, she puts her foot in the carburetor, as they say at the Indy track, and she's out of there. Unable to ingest this sudden flood of fuel, the poor engine begins to gag, cough, sneeze, belch, and finally throw up the excess, for which I, not she, have self-serviced at $1.15 per. I thus responded with little concern when the assistant asked me to raise my hunkers so she could slide a metal plate under me. Not until I awaken to the fact that this plate was wired to a gadget of dials, switches, and blinking lights does the message come through that the remainder of my tooth is about to be electronically dynamited.

But before I could get my legs organized and head for the door, the dentist said, "Are you okay?" And it is over.

My unique composure throughout the ordeal did not go unrewarded, however. Though the going rate for extractions had been quoted at 90 to 150 big ones, I got off for a measly $95. I also was given a packet of pain pills and a small quantity of tea bags, which I was to moisten, one at a time, and clamp down on to stop the bleeding.

My much-relieved wife drove home. On the white line. One foot on the accelerator, the other foot on the brake pedal. Stopping and starting at three traffic lights. I clamped down on a tea bag without moistening.
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Title Annotation:humor
Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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