The week before I left for India, I asked the Dentist to check my crowns. “I don’t want a problem in the middle of India!”
Of course, that’s exactly what happened. The crown fell out in the middle of India.
Two weeks into my stay on the ashram, (the cleanest place I have ever seen on the planet) I bit into a jujube (a sticky candy) at afternoon tea time. That pulled a crown right out of my mouth. I’m sure you all know that sinking feeling … the ugly realization spiraling up from within, the demon that laughs: “So, you think you are in control. Ha!”
The circular route to the dentist occurred thus: wait at doctor’s office for one hour. Show gap in mouth. “Yes. I have the tooth.” Show tooth stuck in sticky candy. Walk a mile to the local hospital in 85 degree heat. Check with paper pushers on the main floor of the immaculately clean hospital. Check with another paper pusher who signs the OK to see “THE DENTIST” Walk up spiral staircase through a hospital dormitory with ten beds. Wait in line with fifteen others to see “THE DENTIST”
A little old lady with a cane tried to push in front of me. “NO” I said. If she pushed in front, everyone would push in front of me. I have a lot of experience traveling the middle and far east. I know better than to let a little old lady get in my way. (Shame on me, really.) I waved her to the back of the line and nobody tried to get at the head of the line again. A few minutes later, a lady in an orange sari beckoned me inside to the clinic, ahead of everyone else. Eyes stared at me, past me, over me. Guilt plastered my face. Indian hospitality mandates courtesy to the visitor.
Once in the dentist’s chair, a resident checked out my mouth. “Mmmmm” “Aaahhhhh.” Twenty minutes passed until the head guy strolled in. I knew right away that he was “THE DENTIST”
What a guy! Handsome, confident, a navy turban on his head, deep, black intelligent eyes and I was in love. He moved the air as he walked by. Each person stepped back and bowed, just a little, when he passed. The man from Ipanema (“When he walks he’s like a samba, That swings so cool and sways so gentle, That when he passes, each one he passes, Goes “aaah”)
“Yes, Doctor. Yes, Doctor.”
I opened my mouth and he began…
A silent scream raced through my veins until I grabbed his hand and stopped the drilling.
“Don’t you have anything for pain?”
“I do,” he says. “But I am not using it. It’s over so soon.”
“Americans are not like the Indians. I used to suck up the pain when I was younger but can’t do it anymore. Please doctor. Some lidocaine gel.”
“Open your mouth. Just put your hands up if you can’t take it.”
“My hands are up NOW!” I shouted. “NOW. My hands are up. Do you see?”
The nurses and residents snickered. Some laughed openly. My palms sweat drips and drops. My face flushed.
Embarrassment opened my mouth for more drilling.
“There,” he said. “You see. We’re done now. Not so bad, was it.” He patted me on the shoulder. “NEXT PATIENT!”
“Thank you, Doctor.”
I nursed a bruised ego and a bad reputation for Americans. I had acted like a softie.
I trembled to an office window to pay.
“No charge. Our services are free to all. Our pleasure, madam.”
I have to say. He did a great job. The crown is still in there but my face still feels red. Thanks Doc.
acknowledgement to Frank Sinatra for that fabulous song: “The girl or boy or man or such from Ipanema.”