“See, the thing is…”
“I have this pain in my tooth, and I couldn’t sleep all night because it gave me a headache, and…”
“So, I’ve been thinking…”
“That you should go to the dentist?”
“Oh, thank God, I knew you’d come with me to the dentist!”
“Yeah, well – Hey! Wait a minute! What do you mean, come with you?”
Ladies and Gentlemen, the dentist’s chamber again. Overlook the fact that I was there to, quite metaphorically, hold my mother’s hand while the dentist excavated her mouth, and the main problem was that I was back. This is the same clinic I thought I’d never have to see again once my braces came off, and here I was again a couple of years later, revisiting old memories. Cold white tubelights, check. Impersonal marble tiles, check. Everything that precise shade of sterile white, check. How I hate that shade of white. And oh, in case I forgot to mention, nervous mother telling me all about how she hates people putting their hands inside her mouth? Check.
I, of course, am a veteran. I see nothing wrong with the dentist pulling on his gloves and picking up that spoonlike mirror, but my mother’s looking ready to faint. He tells her to open her mouth and sticks the mirror in, and she gags. He tries to prise her mouth open, and she gags again, apologising profusely afterwards. He then tells her to go and get an X-ray since he can’t figure out what’s wrong. Because she won’t let him.
I sit outside the X-ray room, waiting for her to come out. I expect a scared mother, I expect a creeped-out mother wanting to pour Harpic into her mouth (she has an obsessive-compulsive thing about cleanliness and germs, yes), but I do not expect a sheepish-looking mater.
“What do you mean, nothing? I know something happened. You drag me all the way here and deprive me of all the fun?”
“You call this fun?” From an observer’s angle, yes. I’ve been a victim too many times.
“You know how they put this metal plate in your mouth and hold it in place with their fingers?”
“Yes, and they ask you to bite on the plate, then their finger, and then you have to push the button on the machine so that the X-ray happens. Go on, what happened?”
“You know all this? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t know I had to. What happened?”
“Well, I told the chap I had a gagging problem, but he put the metal plate in anyway. And then he told me what to do, but I bit the plate too hard because I wanted to get over with it, and the plate was ruined.”
“You ruined a plate?” That’s heresy in the dental world.
“Then the second time he put the plate in I didn’t want to bite his finger, so I pushed the button in a hurry, and the X-ray didn’t happen because there was no pressure compressing the teeth into the plate.”
“I’m assuming there’s a third time,” I say, eyeing her warily.
“Well, this time I wanted the X-ray to be over and done with, so when he told me to bite, I, er, bit him too hard.”
I stare at my mother fascinatedly. This is too good to be true.
“You bit the assistant? You bit him?”
“He told me to! I also, er, spat into his hand instead of the spittoon.”
"You bit him, and then you drooled all over him?” Yes, I know what that sounds like, but I said it all the same.
“Well, there’s no need to laugh all that much. At least the X-ray was done.” And two plates were ruined in the process.
“I feel like puking. Oh god, can I buy a toothbrush somewhere? I’m feeling sick. I’ll get germs. Do you think I’ll get infected?”
I surface from my convulsions to say “Don’t you think it’s more likely the X-ray guy got infected since you bit him?”
There’s no way my mother’s glare will work. This is better than any of my dental misadventures.
The X-ray guy seems to have warned the doctor. He coughs a little and explains to my mother that she has a gagging complex, purely psychological of course, but she needs scaling done and possibly a wisdom tooth extraction (this time I don’t blame my mother for going grey in the face) so wouldn’t it be more convenient to consult a top-notch world-famous-in-Kolkata dental surgeon?
Literal translation: Go turn him into a werewolf, you.
So we left, and I begged my mother to let me accompany her on all her dental appointments with the hotshot surgeon (who has no idea of what he’s in for), and she grudgingly agreed. That was on Saturday. Today, on Mother’s Day, I handed her a packet and said, “This is for yesterday.” As a former dental victim, I can laugh at her experiences, but I can also sympathise. After the laughing’s done with, that is. She opened it to find a pair of earrings.
“I expected Listerine” she said cryptically.
And then, before she left the room, this parting shot – “Oh, I forgot to tell you, you have an appointment on Thursday with Dr. Surana, I made it before we left the clinic. Just a check-up, of course.”
Dr. Surana is my orthodontist - or at least he was, till two years ago - who does not know that there’s still some dental cement and wire holding my four front teeth together that should have been removed ages ago. I ground my teeth, and I swear I could see an evil grin on the mater’s face. I am now looking forward to witnessing her wisdom tooth extraction.