For the first time in many years the dentist found a cavity in one of my teeth. And so, for the first time in many years I had to go through the ol’ drilling and filling procedure. Although I have done a pretty good job of getting over many of my childhood phobias — dentist visits, Confession at church, public speaking, stage fright at the urinal if there’s someone else in the men’s room — I still was not looking forward to getting my tooth drilled.
Not surprisingly, it turned out to be a very painful and uncomfortable experience. But it wasn’t the drilling and filling that hurt. Right after the dentist gave me Novocain, he handed me a magazine to pass the time while the anesthetic took effect. The magazine was titled “This Old House,” and flipping through its pages was one of the most painful experiences in my entire adult life.
The magazine was filled with articles and photos of home renovation projects that made me feel completely inadequate as a homeowner. It was like a “Martha Stewart for men” manual, something that clearly communicates the message, “Ha ha, look what we can do without even breaking a sweat that you could never do in your entire lifetime. Ha ha.”
The magazine had many “before” and “after” photos of the various projects. For example, a fairly regular looking guy named Dave, an accountant by profession, bought a rundown cottage for a song, and in his spare time on the weekends transformed the cottage into a mini Taj Mahal (complete, I think, with an elephant sanctuary in the back yard). Not until the end of the article did I learn that Dave actually owns a large accounting firm, and what he did mostly in his spare time on the weekends was phone the best architects and contractors in his state and write humongous checks which totaled by the time the project was finished to more than $1.2 million.
Some of the shorter articles were brief how-to pieces, such as “How to install crown molding in your bathroom.” Well, I don’t want to install crown molding (whatever that is) in my bathroom. The only things I want in my bathroom are privacy, a functioning toilet, a generous supply of toilet paper, a powerful exhaust fan, and some good magazines to read. (Good magazines being defined as anything but “This Old House.”)
After about ten minutes, the dentist came back into the room. The first thing he said was, “Bill, you look very pale. Are you all right?”
“No, I’m not all right!” I replied. “I like my house a lot, you know. But according to this stupid magazine, I’d have to spend about $90,000 just to get it in shape to be one of the ‘before’ photos!”
The dentist smiled, thinking I was trying to make a joke. “I’m not kidding!” I said. Then I pointed my finger at him, and said as firmly and seriously as possible, considering the left side of my mouth was numb, “Listen Doc, if you let my wife see this magazine when she comes in for her routine cleaning next month, I swear I will hunt you down and install crown molding (whatever that is) right onto your forehead!”
After that, the drilling and filling procedure went smoothly and did not hurt a bit. (I think dentists work more carefully when they’ve just been threatened with bodily harm.) But as I left the office, I still vowed to be much more diligent with my flossing and brushing because I do not want to go through an ordeal that painful ever again.