Dr. Dentist

Dr. Dentist
A short story by Val
Sitting and waiting. Again.
I was here two weeks ago for a cleaning and checkup and I waited 75 minutes. Once I was finally in the chair, the exam took 20 minutes. I thought I’d be done after that, but my x-rays revealed three cavities. My first, second, and third cavities ever. So here I am, back again- sitting and waiting. 30 minutes so far. 

The other patients in this waiting room seem to have more patience than me: a teen girl sits across from me with her headphones on, happily bopping her head to a song I almost recognize. Her denim shorts are very short- but it's summertime, and she’s young enough to pull it off without looking inappropriate.  She arrived with her mother, but I guess, just like me, Mommy hates to wait. She announced to the room that she was off to get a mani/pedi and left. I smiled at her as she left, then regretted it. Fuck her for gettting to leave.
Next to the latchkey teen sits a male whose age is not apparent. He is either 17 or 47. He’s got the kind of lean, blond, bland features that will cause him to be carded for the next 30 years. He’s smiling and watching the wall. Neither of these people seem to mind waiting at all.
Maybe one of them would switch appointments with me, let me cut them in line? Waiting drives me crazy. When I have to wait too long, I get a powerful urge to smash things. I’m staring at a vase in the corner right now: it’s clay, painted white. It’s got a black, green, and yellow floral design painted across it in big, clumsy strokes. I bet when you pick it up and look at the underside, the naked terracotta is gritty and orange and horrible. I hate it. I want to smash it against the carpet and scream, ‘Fill my cavities so I can get the fuck out of here!’.  

This office, like so many New York offices, was once an apartment. I’m in the living/waiting room now. When I get my cavities filled, I’ll have to go the to guest bed/exam room.  The reception area was once a wet bar. A cutout in the wall where drinks were passed from husband to wife, or hostess to guest, now serves as the check-in window. A window with no glass. Which is probably good, because if there was glass I’d probably be dreaming about smashing that, too.

On the other side of the cutout sits a woman to whom I’ve only said four words, “Hi, I’m Janie Wassle?”, and to whom I’m currently giving the stink eye. I’ve nicknamed her Screaming Mimi the Terrible Temp. She has the nasty habit of yelling for help instead of getting up to ask questions. The hygienist’s name is Vanessa. Every time Screaming Mimi does anything new (which is everything, because she’s a temp) she yells out to Vanessa:
“Vaness! Vaness!”
“What?!” Vanessa shouts back, from the master bedroom/larger exam room. Vanessa’s in the middle of assisting the dentist.
“Where do you put the information for the patients’ insurances? At my last office we kept it with the main folder but you guys don’t do that?” Screamed Mimi.
“We keep it in the main folder, too!” Vanessa yelled.
“Thanks, honey!” Screamed Mimi. I want to smash her. She’s giving me a headache.
I’m trying to focus on reading a brochure on oral cancer screenings, but that loud-mouth is driving me crazy. What must the patient in the exam room think, having these two women yell back and forth as the doctor drills holes in his teeth? Would he rather the hygienist left the procedure momentarily every time Mimi had a question, or would he prefer Mimi to come in to the room and stare down his gullet as she asks where the free toothbrushes are?
“You know who you look like?” Suddenly, the Teen girl is talking to the ambiguously aged dude.
“Yeah, I do,” he smiles big, “I look like that guy from Super Bad.” His voice does not hint at his age; smooth, not too deep, not too high.
“Yeah! You must get that a lot, huh?” The teen asks.
“Who do you look like?” Mimi asks from behind the wet bar, just the tip of her head peeping over the ledge. He stands up so she can see him.
“The guy from Super Bad?” He smiles the smile that people who look like famous people smile when you ‘recognize’ them.
“You look just like him!” Mimi says. “That’s a compliment, by the way.”
“Plus, my name is Steven King,” he, Steven King, says.
“Like the writer? Or wait, was that the guy’s name in the movie? The one you look like?” Mimi asks. I want to smush her face between my hands.
“The writer, but spelled different,” Steven King says. “So yeah, it’s weird. I look like one famous guy, and I’m named the same as another famous guy. So people are always disappointed when it turns out to just be me.” Stephen King was getting too philosophical for this waiting room. The teen had already put her earbuds back in. Mimi nodded like she got it, but didn’t respond. After an awkward beat, Steven King sat back down. Plug it up, Steven. Plug it up.

The teen girl  got called to the exam room, and already is done, in and out in 17 minutes. Now, just me and Steven King remain. And Mimi. And my headache.
I’ve been waiting 55 minutes now and I just realized I don’t even know my dentist’s name. The practice isn’t named after him, it’s just called Central Park Dentistry, and I’ve never heard anyone say his name or seen it written. He introduced himself once, but I don’t remember what he said. So I guess I’ll call him Dr. Dentist.

Dr. Dentist knows the pain of waiting. The last time I was here, as he was giving me my check up, he had asked me what I did for a living:
“Ahmam acwess,” I explained with his hands in my mouth. I'm an artist.
“An actress? Very cool. You know, I was an extra for a while. I like acting.” of course he couldn't understand anything I was saying.
His eyes looked down at me, the rest of his face obscured by the seafoam green surgical mask. I noticed then that he didn’t have any wrinkles.  His skin was smooth, and a very nice dark brown. He told me that the worst show to be an extra on was Gilmore Girls. “Hurry up and wait. That’s what they say, isn’t it? Well on Gilmore Girls I did a lot of hurrying and waiting. And the actors were very rude to the extras. The stories I could tell... ” he trailed off, and then he didn’t tell any. Changing the subject, he asked, “How did you get started in acting?”
“Wew, waw worr ahmam acwess,” I answered, speaking around his hand and through his fingers.
“Your father was a dentist?! Very cool! So was mine!” He exclaimed.
“Naw-”, I gagged on his fist. He finally took the hint and removed his hand from my mouth. “That’s not what I said.” I caught myself rolling my eyes at him.
“Oh. Open please.” A deflated Dr. Dentist relied. Weirdo.

85 minutes gone now. Sure, Dr. Dentist claims he knows the pain of waiting from his days as an extra... but yet, here I am in his lobby, waiting. Waiting. Again. At least the good people at Gilmore Girls had the decency to set up a craft service table with chicken caesar wraps and cookies for him. All I’ve got is this lousy brochure for oral cancer and Mimi. Oh, and I can tell my mother that I hung out with Steven King all afternoon. 

90 minutes into my wait and Vanessa finally emerges from the exam room to call my name. Then, just in case I didn’t hear her, Mimi screams it. Steven King has gone back to smiling at the wall. He doesn’t even flinch when I’m called in before him. Is he even here for an appointment?
“I’m getting a really bad headache,” I say to Vanessa as she leads me to the guest bed/exam room, “do you have any aspirin?” It’s never a good sign when you’re asking for pain medicines before the dentist starts working on you. I can hear the anger in my voice. I need to relax. Somehow, that wait has turned sitting in the chair and getting drilled into a highly anticipated reward. Shit. Wait. Was that was Dr. Dentist’s evil plan all along?

The next time I come here, I have to remember to bring a magazine.

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