May 25, 2012

I Am Not a Shelf

Some of you may remember that I had a very bad, no good experience with my last dentist.  The worst of it was his hygiene. He visited patients in other rooms while wearing the same plastic gloves on his hands that, upon his return, he inserted directly in my mouth. I was very, very suspicious about where those gloves had been.

But glory hallelujah, I have found a new dentist who puts the gloves on in front of me and never leaves my sight.  She's gentle and sweet and has already found a tooth problem my old dentist never did. Oh, the relief: at every pause in a procedure, like when she enters data on her computer, she puts on new gloves before sticking her hands back in my mouth.

But I'm finding that one aggravating practice is universal with dentists: they all use your chest as an extension of their work area. There you lie on the dentist-office equivalent of a chaise longue, parallel with the floor and somewhat flat.  The dental assistant clips a plastic-backed, square blue bib about the thickness of a piece of cheesecloth around your neck, and the dentist gets to work.  Soon the dentist and the assistant are chatting to each other across your face, setting tools on your chest and picking them back up, and occasionally wiping schmutz on the bib.  They act like your chest is a handy-dandy shelf and the bib a tea towel.  And since I'm female, by 'chest' I mean breasts.

My internist doesn't hang her stethoscope around my neck while she gets out her prescription pad. Nurses doesn't set the blood pressure cuff, thermometer, and heart rate monitor on my lap and ask me to keep them from rolling off.  My ob-gyn doesn't perch the speculum on my knee like a little mountain top observation tower before she rolls back her stool.

So what is it about dentists and their penchant for turning chests into work surfaces?  If you have any idea, please let me know. In the meantime, here is my Dental Patient Manifesto: We are patients, not tables or shelves; get a bigger tray. Bibs are for our protection, not general clean up.  Eliminating those extra long scary needles would be nice, too, but let's start with taking us off the list of office equipment.

May 1, 2012

Just the Facts, Ma'am

Everyone's good at something, right? Some people are great tennis players, some can negotiate a truce between warring factions, and some can perform brain surgery.  Me?  I'm good at making pronouncements.

I have perfected the art of declaring things.  I do not like to muddy the waters with facts, however.  That just slows down the process and dilutes the enthusiasm of the pronouncement.  If you start to aim for accuracy you end up with a very long and hedgy sort of pronouncement, like "I am never going to get angry with anyone, ever, ever again, except for those stupid drivers who cut me off, and probably ATT and, oh, most likely politicians, airline reps, cell-phone yakkers, and possibly even people I love now and then, but otherwise, just Buddha-like peacefulness for me from here on in, yessiree Bob."  You see how that loses some punch, don't you?

So, in the interests of style and effect, I just blurt out unequivocal statements whenever I am so moved and figure I can always reverse course later, sometimes even later in the same conversation.  Actually, let me correct that; it's not that I even consider the possibility of reversing course, it's that in the moment, I am absolutely, one-hundred-percent certain I am speaking the truth.  See what I mean?

Last year I decided at two different times to attend my MFA program's residency abroad program.  First option was Puerto Rico in the winter.  "I am definitely going to Puerto Rico this winter," I told all my fellow grad students. "There is no way in hell I am coming back to Vermont for another cold, icy winter of walking up that steep hill to campus in my inadequate California coat and gloves.  No way, no how, nuh uh."  Then I started to think about how much I would miss all my friends and the lectures (yes, the lectures) and decided to return to Vermont after all.

Same thing happened with the summer residency in Slovenia.  I attended the information session and at the end of the presentation I announced to everyone in earshot, "Oh, this sounds so exciting. Look at those pictures!  Castles, Eastern Europe.  This is going to be grand. I am absolutely, definitely, you betcha, going on this trip!" When the sign-up sheet came around, I put my name in the 'Very Interested' column. Then I decided not to go.  The reversal took about two days.

Recently I declared that per my personal trainer's dictates I am no longer eating grains, only to be caught soon after stuffing a cookie in my mouth.  Ditto with the occasional oatmeal for breakfast. Oh, and we're going out for pasta on Friday night. Otherwise, absolutely no grains. So don't go asking me out for sandwiches because I cannot eat bread. Weren't you listening? No grains! No wheat, no rye, no bulgar, no rice. I told you last week. Man, sometimes I wonder why I bother talking to you people.