Thursday, October 07, 2004

The First Time I Went to the Dentist

(A loose translation of a story told by Tolla van der Merwe)

This happened quite a few years ago. In those days dentists still had glass injectors, which they filled with poison to put you under.

Our folks had such a struggle just to survive then that they could not pay much attention to one's teeth. By the time you finally made it to the dentist, a few were in such a state that you had to have them pulled.

I finally showed up at this dentist. I was afraid, but one could not afford to show it. As I walked in the door to the waiting room, I saw that the whole place was full of people reading magazines. So I also took one from 1957 (if my memory serves me right), but I saw nothing - I was just paging through it.

In the background I could hear a child scream something terrible. The woman next to me said they must have struck a raw nerve, and I thought to myself: Lord, what is going to happen to me?

In my discomfort I moved a little, and the chair gave a funny creak...the kind of noise that causes everyone look at you. I tried to move again to repeat the noise - so that the people should know that the creaking came from the chair, and not from me - but to no avail. It would not do it again.

Later, someone called me. I closed the magazine and I put it down, not knowing on which page I was. As I walked in (they even politely kept the door open), I noticed the pretty young nurse in a miniskirt, and I sat down.

Here above me, it almost looked like a satellite launch pad with all the tongs, the bent arms, the drilling equipment and other pointy things. I have to tell you, I might be shy, but now I was truly terrified.

Just as I sat down, the dentist stepped on something and the chair fell backwards with such a force that my mouth opened by itself. He turned his back on me, but I saw him filling the plunger with poison (the thing has a syringe the size of my little finger). As he squeezed the air out a few drops of the toxin escaped.

Then he said: "Open your mouth as wide as you can."

I opened my mouth...just far enough that I didn’t open it all the way. Then he dove into my mouth with his syringe and he tried to find a place where he could zap me. At first he got it wrong, and I felt him striking a root. The needle bent, but I said nothing, because I was brave (and the nurse pretty).

He squeezed this venom until I could feel it running down my gums. Then he pulled out the bent syringe to attach a better one, this one the size of my middle finger. He stuck this in a little bottle with a rubber hole and he filled the spout, and blew out the air. This time he meant it!

He speared me under the tongue, and then I felt it: Ohhh ... I almost said it...

At that very moment he struck a gland, and as he injected it, I could feel this merciful numbness... Then, here in the back he hit a tonsil or a thing... (It feels as if they never want to take the needle out, they just keep on turning it!)

Once he injected this tonsil, that's when I realized I had a stroke, because half of me fell asleep and I felt my arm slipping.

Finally he pulled out the syringe, and now he started talking to me as if he had known me for years... He even asked how it was going at home...

"No mpfh hjdss allright man"... was the best I could do. With this piece of lip hanging down, it was like talking with someone else's mouth.

Then the nurse came with a shiny little dish full of pliers and they started working here in my mouth. I had to listen to all this, so I closed my eyes, and handed myself over to the mercy of the Lord.

You could hear the tooth popping. He even said, "What an ugly sucker!" Then it broke loose. I could feel my jaw give...and "Ping" it fell in a bucket

Now I started recovering fast because I knew it was over.

Here came the nurse with a silver can - it almost looks like miniature bed pan – and she held this thing next to my mouth and said: "Spit Uncle..."

I was already miffed that she called me "Uncle", but somehow I still wanted to spit with dignity... So I let go, "Pffft", but too polite - it ended up in my beard. (Life can be so bitter!) Anyway, she wiped it up and said, "Try again, sir..."

Then I fixed my mind on it - this time I was going to get it right! So I ratcheted it up a notch and threw again: "Ffflep"... right on her chest. She kept her pose and wiped it off, but I was so ashamed…

I closed my eyes...then they pressed a piece of cotton in the cavity and they told me I was done.

As I got ready to go, I was planning to light up a cigarette while walking though the crowd in the waiting room, but the cigarette was stubborn, and I could not find my mouth. By the time I reached the car I decided to settle for a piece of gum instead. Now I was in a hurry just to get home and I was chewing the gum... then the cotton... then my tongue...

With all this I must have sped up, because all of a sudden this cop jumped out from nowhere. He walked up to the window to tell me that I have been driving too fast.

"Damn, I can vvvragag not brtfd…” - I tried to explain…

That's when he said, “Sir, it looks like we have a problem. Please step out of the car and come blow in this thing."

"Vait... hdsjkagd kjbkasd jkh", I tried again.

Then he said, "And you have been in a fight as well - look how your mouth is bleeding!"

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