Going dental

I was going to call this post “a day in the life” or some such, but that simply would not be true. A more apt description would be an irregular day in the life during my least productive summer on record.

Whenever I have something to do which is going to disrupt my preferred pattern, such as a dental appointment or visit to the doctor, I tend to lengthen my day to accommodate the glitch by waking up early.

By 05:00 I was at my desk and working. By 08:30 I have done a wide varieties of things, including ablutions and housework, 90 minutes’ work on a bigger translation project, and delivered a short English editing assignment (one hour). I have to be at the dentist at 09:40. Oh, this is a good day!

I muse at the frantic way one brushes one’s teeth just prior to visiting the dentist. We ought to be frantic like that every day. I also wonder how many people realise that the dentist can also see the interior of one’s nostrils in close-up gory detail. Extra care taken there.

I have ground my teeth in my sleep for years. I seem to be getting better at this, since bits of tooth have chipped off a number of molars. In mechanical terms, what is involved would be called of a major overhaul, including cylinder head replacement.

I love the technological advances in dentistry. I love the fact that the X-Ray machine looks a bit like the goodie that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character gets into in “Total Recall”, and produces a Mercator projection of my entire upper and lower jaw at about 200% of actual size. All this happens in less than ten minutes.

It is as I feared.  Root canal treatment of one, possibly three molars. The uprooter man will be in later today. It will cost you an arm and a leg. How does 16:00 sound? Fine, I say.

Then I rush off to my gardening job, which resembles manicuring more than anything else. What is a translator doing with a gardening job? This is a hangover from my recent immigrant status less than four years ago, when I worked in a laundry for 18 months, and needed something to supplement my income. I continue to do it because I like the owners of the villa, and it provides a good physical workout – for which I get paid, moreover.

An hour and a half later, I am drenched in perspiration. I rush home and shower until my body temperature is pretty much back to normal. Thus refreshed, and after a spot of lunch, I return to my desk.

I have barely finished checking my e-mails when I receive a phone call requesting an urgent editing job. I accept the work primarily since it will fill up most of the time until my four o’clock root removal ordeal. The urgent deadline will keep me focussed. I finish that job, and jump into the car.

It is at this moment, I realise that I did not dispose of the bag of grass clippings in one of the many public refuse bins along the route home. (In Portugal, citizens take their rubbish to these bins, which are located within reasonable walking distance of your home, no matter where you live.) The grass clippings have been turbo-composting in my hot car for almost four hours. So much for efficient co-ordination of one’s day.

I am determined to arrive early at the dentist’s, so decide to let the grass bake a little longer. There is a television blaring in the waiting room, and one man reading. The remote control is at the unmanned reception, I turn the volume down, and then decide to change to a documentary channel. The dentist has the same cable as I have at home. I know my channel numbers by heart. Easy.

I am not sure, five minutes into the programme, whether I have done the right thing, but decide further channel-hopping would be improper. I am now stuck with a very interesting documentary on “monster bugs”. Today, there is a detailed examination of how a giant centipede manages to kill and devour a giant cricket, with additional moving 3-D graphic diagrams, just in case you missed the first three takes in slow motion of the real-life event. Suddenly, the pair  of sharp “claws” on each segment of the centipede’s body bear a remarkable resemblance to a dentist’s drill. I am not normally nervous of the dentist, or particularly squeamish, but quite frankly, I am relieved when my name is called.

I have my mouth wide open for one hour and fifteen minutes during a process which is quite nicely described here. I did not read this information before my appointment, since I already had a pretty good idea of what the procedure involved. It is more frightening in retrospect.

What I can tell you about the bright blue rubber dam clamp (pictured in green in the above link) is that it does indeed smell of rubber. At one point, the dentist left the room, which coincided with the piped music starting with that old controversial song, “Welcome to the Hotel California”. (I know the actual title is simply “Hotel California”, but if I wrote that, who would know what I was talking about?).

Having been subjected to real-life, but soap-opera type, stories in Brazilian Portuguese by the dentist and his assistant for almost an hour, I indulged in a little experimentation to vary the theme, as it were. I can confirm that it is possible to hum the chorus of the aforementioned song tunefully with one’s mouth wide open, numb though the interior may be, with excessive saliva gathering in one’s throat. I can also confirm that it is possible by varying the volume of humming to vary the degree of vibration on the stretched rubber surface of the rubber dam clamp.

Upon his return, the dentist tell me that we are “almost done”. Two minutes later, he tells me that he requires only ten minutes more. I had no way of telling the time, but I do know the average length of my average daydream, and that was a long ten minutes. After a third and final miniature X-Ray involving the placing of a little plastic, rectangular disc attached to an electrical cord through a gap created in this amazing rubber dam clamp, the dentist pronounces that the job is complete and begins to remove all clamps and rubber and so on.

I am keen to ask whether I can take my personally-gobbed-on rubber dam clamp home to examine it in detail before disposing of it, but decide not to. Besides which, from the performance I gave of rinsing my mouth out with water, I am fairly certain that I am incapable of coherent speech.

I am free to go and settle my account in reception. As I stand, I realise that I am zonked. Three anaesthetic injections, and a healthy metabolism have made sure of that. I see from the expression of another patient in the waiting room that I must be swaying and staggering rather more emphatically than I supposed, with my one hand held to my head. I mutter “anaesthetic” and point to the immobilised side of my face. I pour myself a cup of water from the water cooler in the corner of the room, and prop myself up on the reception counter, as if I am drinking a liqueur at a bar.

The Brazilian woman asks me which debit card I am using – Multibanco? For those of you who don’t know, Brazilians pronounce this “Mulchibanco”, while Portuguese Portuguese pronounce it pretty much as it is written. I speak the latter version. So of course I have to suppress a giggle when I involuntarily reply, “Yes, Mulchibanco”.

I have to confirm the amount on the portable device which I can barely see without my glasses normally, so in my zoned-out state this proves to be a huge challenge.  The next major challenge is coordinating my finger to key in my four-digit PIN code. I am not that out-of-it that I have forgotten my PIN, but identifying the numbers in my head with the numbers on the keypad was a fascinatingly long process. Needless to say, I was pleased as punch that I got it right first time.

Having overcome that hurdle, and having made an appointment for follow-up dental work next week, I successfully pulled on the glass door to gain exit. I think that the flowers in the flower box are pretty, and remind myself to be very careful crossing the road, the other side of which I can see my parked car.

Whilst waiting for a couple of cars to pass, I look up the road, and wonder whether it would be better to walk up the very steep hill to the pharmacy, about 500 metres away. It all looks so beautiful in the late afternoon sun, and is made more lively and colourful by the large English wedding party which has just emerged from the Church. Purple and white for the bridesmaids.

I am in no fit state to drive, but I certainly will not be in a fit state to walk back to my car after the visit to pharmacy. I decide to drive. Besides, I want to get I closer look at the bride. This is called “locals staring at the tourists”, an excellent pastime, in my view.

I am surprised, with a bit of a stagger that I manage to unlock the door with ease. I sit down in a sort of slump, and reach for a cigarette (see previous post). I am busy having fun looking at my face in the rear view mirror as I attempt to hold the cigarette between my lips.  Just then, my cellphone rings.

It is a German-speaking client. And the last word I uttered was “Mulchibanco”.  This is going to be fun. I drop my unlit cigarette on the passenger seat. Can I do a short translation by 07:00 my time tomorrow? I say yes. I think she has said “73 words”, but I am so terrible at hearing on the phone that she could have said “873” words. I am too zonked to confirm the number of words. But I have said yes. It turns out later that it is the smaller number. Further evidence that I have a guardian angel.

I manage to light and smoke my cigarette. I manage to drive my little car up the hill. I manage to catch a glimpse of the bride, and feel wonderfully liberated in my shorts and vest against this backdrop of wedding guests in complicated dresses and high-heel shoes. I manage to withdraw some money from the ATM. I have an animated conversation with the ATM, and withdraw twice as much as I usually do for “small things”. I manage a fair degree of articulation in the pharmacy. I cross the road, armed with painkillers for when this ridiculous anaesthetic wears off. I have an espresso at the café and stand on the balcony with the other patrons, who are staring unashamedly at the wedding party, and commenting on the price of car hire and the cut of the suit in a language the party does not understand. Life is good!

I normally work at night too. My schedule has been shattered. I take it in my stride, and go and waste more time by visiting friends, and drinking a double espresso at the café down the road from their house. On my way home, I dump the bag of grass clippings in the appropriate refuse bin.

I arrive home at last, whereupon I sleep for two solid hours. I wake up clenching my teeth. The anaesthetic has not worn off yet. I do my little translation. Tomorrow is another day. Time for bed, once again.


5 thoughts on “Going dental

Add yours

  1. I feel for you though I can’t honestly say I feel your pain. But even with all that feeling for you I have to admit that your account made me smile and laugh. I do hope things are beginning to feel better now.


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