Read Part 2
The public aid stooge insisted on “helping” me maneuver my wheelchair out of his office and up the hall. Despite my repeated objections, he grabbed the handles on the back of my wheelchair and started to push. Asshole. The day of the appointment with my new dentist arrived. I rolled out of the cripplevan and toward a building; the plaque next to the doorway announced “Special Needs Dentistry.”
The cripplevan driver found the “Special Needs Dentistry” facility across the street from a major hospital. As I entered the small one-story building, I naively assumed that “Special Needs” referred to my gimpiness. A glance around the waiting room proved me wrong.
I noticed a boy of about ten who drooled on his bib and wore a bike helmet, sitting next to a haggard-looking woman—presumably his mother. A teenaged girl uncontrollably blinked and craned her neck while she squirmed on the chair next to an older woman. The woman tried to sound firm but gentle: “Now see here, we sit up straight and act like a big girl or we don’t get our special treat.”
My heart can’t pass as a prune, but I immediately knew I didn’t belong there. I almost turned to leave when I considered my dentist’s forecast of possible infection, the pain and inconvenience accompanying such infection, and the astounding stupidity and sluggishness of the public aid drones on whom I now depended. Those thoughts convinced me to wheel toward the weensy reception desk.
After several polite attempts, I managed to intercept the attention of the young receptionist hypnotized by a gossip-mongering movie magazine. She looked up, scowled and sighed. I advised her of my business and she mutely thrust a new patient form attached to a clipboard at me. She again scowled and sighed when I mentioned that my hands don’t cooperate with my brain and my penmanship is sub-lousy; she’d have to ask the questions listed on the form and write the answers for me.
My new dentist—actually an intern—spoke with an eastern European accent and conducted herself in a clinical manner.* She grilled me about my oral hygiene regimen and demanded that I articulate my reason for visiting her; she allowed that she’d read my chart, but stressed that “the patient should know why they’re here.” She deadpanned each step in the standard method of repairing my tooth while shoving X-ray plates that seemed made of shirt cardboard into my mouth. She noted: “Before we go any further, we must take pictures.” The X-ray machine resembled a white Stride Rite box with a black toilet paper tube jutting from it, attached to swing arm apparatus mounted on the wall. She aimed the tube at strategic areas outside my mouth and clicked.
She explained: At my next appointment—three months from then—she planned to clean my teeth and map a definite course of treatment. Eventually she’d cast a mold of my teeth; she assured me the process wouldn’t take long. I asked when she would cast the mold and she replied, “The appointment following the cleaning.” Then I made the mistake of wondering aloud if it wouldn’t be more efficient if she performed the casting immediately after the cleaning. After a few seconds of silence during which she glowered at me, she indignantly spat, “No. We do things a certain way for a reason.” She didn’t elaborate.
I would’ve ordinarily thought fuck this fully and skipped subsequent visits. But by then I’d resigned myself to wading through a cesspool of irrationality prior to receiving medical care. During the next several years I would discover that I’d grossly underestimated the depth of the cesspool.
* A person’s ethnic background doesn’t necessarily determine their level of competence in any given profession; dentist appointments aren’t social calls. But doctors or medical students from other countries, practicing or studying in the United States, are much less likely than American doctors to veil their perception of sick or injured people as expendable learning tools. Many American doctors regard their patients as cash cow textbooks, but camouflage their motives with clumsy displays of their “compassionate” bedside manner. Simple-minded people buy this self-serving crap.