In Chicago, back in 1998 BR (Before Rodent), I needed a little hole filled in my lower front tooth. My dentist had retired, so I finger-walked through the local phonebook for another one. Parkside Dental Group on 57th Street sounded just fine. I got an appointment with Dr Yank, as I will call him.
Dr Yank was a happy, chatty guy, and needed only to make a plaster cast of the tooth. While he prepped the plaster and tooth, he asked, “What do you do for a living?”
I began to respond, but he continued, “I love to interpret dreams. How about you? Do you interpret dreams?”
I began to respond, but he continued, “Last night I had an incredible 3-D Cinerama dream . . .” and he described what seemed like an MGM musical peopled with cows—grazing cows, talking cows, singing cows, dancing cows, lots of cows—and his ex-wife. “Now, just what do you think those symbols meant?” asked Dr Y.
I declined to comment on the obvious, but he didn’t seem to notice. Then he said, “All set now. You just relax for a couple minutes while the plaster hardens, and I’ll be right back, OK?” He disappeared, probably to whiff some painkiller, I decided.
Years passed while I memorized the wallpaper.
I glanced at my watch and noted that Dr Yank had been gone for ten minutes. My jaw ached from the awkward cast.
I yelled: “WHEH ISH EH EH-ISH??!!”
Dr Y popped right into the room, happier than ever, grabbed the cast’s edge, pulled . . . and it didn’t budge.
Time was not our friend, and we both knew that my tooth and the cast might never be separated. Grabbing again and again with no result, Dr Y reached for what I’d call Really Big dental pliers, and clamped them to the cast.
For a heart-churning second or two, I thought he might plant his foot on my chest for better leverage, but he just—with every muscle, sinew and nerve—YANKED, and, despite my best efforts, my head rapidly followed his direction.
I felt a TREMENDOUS suction, heard a “POP”, and expected to see him holding my tooth nicely embedded in plaster, looking like the ashtray my son had made in kindergarten. But, no, Dr Yank was holding the cast, and I still had my tooth.
When I’d amply rinsed my mouth with water, and my shaky fingers had somewhat calmed, I said the first words Dr Yank had ever heard me say (articulately, at least): “I don’t think we want anybody to know about this, do we? You surely realize that you’ll never see me again—nor my money to pay for this little visit.”
Dr Yank seemed overcome with exhaustion, and, uncharacteristically, said nothing.
When I called Parkside Dental Group a month later about the bill I’d never pay, they told me that Dr Y was “no longer with us”, which I took to mean that he had found, or been forced to find, greener pastures, or that he had died.