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At the Dentist

The last thing I wanted to do was piss off my dentist. As usual whenever I get in trouble my lament is: “But I didn’t do anything!” Nonetheless here I am six months later with this ill-fitting crown on my tooth and the office is not returning my calls to see if anything can be done. It’s odd because all the other crowns were fine but this one has been a problem since the beginning. I think it all comes down to communication: Me clear, everyone else blurry. Here’s what happened.

I got to the dentist office on time and waited, the dentist was late. It was a stormy day and there were road delays even in late May. The dental assistant came up to me and said, “The Doctor is late but I can prep you up now.”

“Oh, how long will that take?” I asked.

“Just a minute,” she said.

“Well, if it’s just going to take a minute I’d prefer to wait out here,” I said. It’s stressful being in the operating room and if I’m going to be sitting around I’d rather be in the waiting room. She shrugged and walked away.

When the dentist got there fifteen minutes later I was called back to be prepped and it didn’t take a minute, it took about twenty minutes. At one point I heard the assistant talking to the dentist down the hall, “He didn’t want to come back here and…” The dentist came in and he didn’t seem very pleased. He was already running late and maybe he saw me as an uncooperative client. He worked away for an hour and a half prepping the tooth for the new crown and for the first time had the assistant glue on the temporary, which seemed odd. The temp wasn’t right and I had to come back a week later but the adjustment didn’t help. I was assured that once the gold crown was on then all would probably be well. 

After the new crown went on a few weeks later I still couldn’t chew on that side. When I came back for a teeth-cleaning he trimmed off some of the tooth above the crown to equalize the bite and I was nearly back to normal--I could chew on both sides. It was better but I soon realized still not quite right as I was getting hot and cold sensations and the crown was a little tender. 

This had been such a bad experience I put it off all summer until I finally called last week to try to come in and see if anything could be done.

What happened? Was he upset with me and running late so he hurried through the original job and didn’t get it right? Was there nothing personal, just how things go sometimes? I really did not want to piss off my dentist! If the assistant had said, “Oh, it’ll take about fifteen minutes,” I would’ve jumped out of my chair and scampered into the back, but she had said “Just one minute.”

So what did I learn here? Always just do whatever they ask when you’re on someone’s professional turf. Since I’ve also finally accepted that “just one second” means one to five minutes I guess “one minute” means fifteen to twenty minutes? Or who knows what, really? When did we start saying shit that wasn’t true and everyone accepts it? Is this the origin of the fake news fervor? Am I really sitting here with a not-quite-right $1400 gold crown because I didn’t know “one minute” meant twenty? 

Regrets & Stuff

There are some minor regrets which make no difference in the big picture but I’m still bugged by the memory. I’m thinking now of lost items from my past which I didn’t even think about safeguarding or storing carefully when I was caught up in life fifty years ago. I didn’t think about them until years later when I realized they were gone, in this case letters I received from famous people. (As well as a “Mad Magazine” I got Roy Rogers to autograph at the Cleveland Airport.)

I knew my rights when I was a high school kid and when I was being harassed by school authorities I went right to the Supreme Court! I wrote a letter to Justice Hugo Black explaining that they were objecting to my long hair and received a signed letter back. I don’t remember the exact wording of that brief note, something about working it out with the school.

Later the baseball coach wouldn’t let me try out for the team because of the hair and I got one of my mom’s buddies, Hugh Martz, the director of the Fort Wayne Metropolitan Human Relations Commission, to contact the school. After that they let me try out but I ignominiously broke a bat during hitting practice which seemed to count against me by reflecting on my talent or lack thereof and I didn’t make the cut. Oddly, fifty years later, I still have half that splintered bat. (My parents also called Hugh Martz when I drunkenly barfed in the police station after they found a joint in my pocket: “I pleaded middle class and got off” has been my line ever since.)

Another time I mailed Dear Abby a question, I think about turmoil in the family, fighting parents, that sort of thing, and she sent me back a reply the contents of which I don’t remember.

I left home at eighteen and never thought about those letters again until my younger sister cleared out my mother’s house where we had all grown up. I asked her a couple times over the years if she remembered what happened to my stuff or if she remembered throwing those letters out and she got viscerally angry at my question, which mystified me. I finally stopped asking her as it wasn’t worth seeing her display of emotion.

So I’ve got the broken bat but not the letters. I’ve also got about twelve boxes of memorabilia from the last forty years which I took out of two or three filing cabinets three years ago when I moved out of my place in the country and sold those sweet five Mendo acres an hour’s hike to the sea along Whale Creek.

Soon after the move I put one of the boxes on a table and started going through it. Almost every relic fascinated me from old passports and driver’s licenses to programs from local theatre productions, including a bindle of fake cocaine serving as the program for “Nobody Nose,” a “Pure Schmint” play. I started making categories of the stuff and marked a few of the folders “Don’t Save,” but we all know that an impartial sorter, friend, or family member would probably get rid of most if not all of it, right? (I tossed hardly anything.)

Yesterday I went online and looked at scrapbooks thinking I could conceivably cull through the couple thousand pieces of remembrances and souvenirs and catalog a nice selection of a few hundred maybe? Then in my dotage, which may be already rockin’ along, I could look at the memories as I’m drooling in my wheelchair?

Does everyone save all that stuff? Maybe we could compile a collection of scrap books as some kind of local history project?

Also the letters: I have hundreds and don’t seem to have the energy or inclination to sort or read them. I would be more interested in reading your letters! What if we traded? I’ll give you a packet of fifty from the eighties, you give me yours, and we could report back on what we found?

Now I’m getting in deep: the past, the evidence—what next?

[ED NOTE: Your memorabilia would certainly be of interest to one of the HumCo historical societies.]

Coffee & Yoga Pants

I headed up the highway with a full double coffee and was drinking it black because I was on the way to see my physician’s assistant for a physical and had fasted for twelve hours for the fat and sugar blood draw. (My PA is very cool, he says “Just back into my finger” when checking my prostate.) 

Not used to just black coffee I sipped it as I drove up 101 hugging the mighty Eel River. About thirty miles from Eureka, as I ruminated about life and future plans, I reached to take another gulp and the lid popped off. With a surprising splash a wave of hot coffee rose up then down onto my pants and me. What to do? 

I pulled over to the next exit but that wasn’t any solution--I had brought extra socks, underwear, and shirt but no extra pants. 

I got back on the highway and headed to the nearest town, Fortuna, where I found a laundromat in the Safeway shopping center where I took off my wet pants and boxers and wore my extra long-sleeved shirt like a skirt, bare-bottomed at the back. 

I tossed the wet clothes in the dryer and hovered around it while a couple of other miscreants in the laundromat at 8:00am ignored me. The first dryer took my quarters and didn’t work but the second did its job.

Mission accomplished, I headed back on the highway heading north to the needle and the finger. 

I really didn’t intend to sexually harass the intake worker at the clinic but now she refused to see me and they sent in this big beefy guy to take my vitals instead.

The faux-pas happened a couple weeks ago when I went in for an appointment and saw her wearing yoga pants. When I came back for the next appointment and she was taking my blood pressure, etc, I mentioned that I enjoyed seeing her in those yoga pants. (Don’t worry it gets way worse.) 

One symptom of this mysterious illness is lack of desire but seeing her dressed like that kind of woke me up. 

“Yeah, I like to keep ‘em guessing,” she said.

“Really,” I said. “I’ve been having reduced libido with this cold or whatever it is and those yoga pants might just boost me out of it. You are sexxxxxxxxy!” 

There, I pretty much told her I wanted to fantasize about her. (Which I did of course so really she’s a healer before her time, right?)

The next time I went in I had my apology all ready but I got the big Humboldt dude, so I had to pass it on through him. I mentioned the episode when the PA came in and he said he heard something but what was the story? 

I gave him the basics and said, “Can’t I plead temporary insanity? Blame it on my illness?” After all, she had checked my vitals at least ten or so times over the last couple years and I had always behaved acceptably. 

Then my blood pressure was up and he had to recheck it. Had the big Humboldt boy mixed up the numbers on purpose? Or was I affected by being rejected by Hannah? 


  1. Barbara Lamar December 24, 2021

    Hi Paul, I was just thinking of the trip down to Olinalá, Guerrero many years ago, which reminded me of you. You knew me as Bonnie, the name I was using then. Glad to see you are still up there in Garberville, getting gold crowns and appreciating beautiful women.

    • Paul Modic December 26, 2021

      Yes, What a trip that was: out into the mountains of Guerrero in search of gourd pottery! When Kathy passed through there again a couple times she said the girls at the hotel in Olinala still had my tattered dictionaries I had given them.
      We’ll probably never go back to Olinola and Temalacatzingo.
      Nice to hear from you

  2. Douglas Coulter December 24, 2021

    “It took me years to get those souvenirs and I don’t know how they slipped away from me” John Prine

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