My dentist, Dr. Doom, lost a round last week. My check-up went perfectly. The x-rays showed nothing. My gums aren't receding. My lone remaining wisdom tooth is behaving.
One tooth needs a crown, but then Dr. Doom always says that. I ignore him. I figure I'll get it crowned when it falls apart, which it probably won't.
My teeth have made it to age 43. That's half way to my planned life expectancy of 86. If I sprint to the finish line without drinking six cans of Mountain Dew per day, who knows? Maybe these teeth will be all I'll ever need.
There was some tartar build up over the past year, for which I was duly scolded. I guess if you let tartar go too long it can become malignant and go right to the prostate, so I made a six-month appointment for a cleaning on the spot.
Because I once took a fastball to the chin, a jolt which loosened all my teeth and busted up about half a dozen molars, I long ago became an integral part of Dr. Doom's retirement plan.
Due to the countless hours I have spent in his dental chair, I almost consider Dr. Doom a close friend -- until I realize that I know him a lot better than he knows me.
Why? Because when we visit, he usually has his fist in my mouth. That makes our conversations somewhat one-sided.
For him, it is an ideal relationship. He expounds on his view of the world, I grunt my agreement, and he gets a check at the end.
I can't imagine how many wonderful friends I would have if I could do all the talking while keeping one fist in the person's mouth and the other fist bristling with sharp power tools. Who would disagree with you?
Dr. Doom freely abuses the power he has over his patients, never hesitating to impose his world view upon them while they have no chance to respond.
Last week, I overheard him claim that the earth is more than 7,000 years old. The lady in his chair gagged and groaned, forced to endure the heresy lying down.
Another time Dr. Doom had the gall to question Bush administration policies while the Republican in his chair had his mouth stuffed with cotton. The GOPer gurgled a little, but could mount no coherent defense.
My turn came when Dr. Doom convinced his naive new dental assistant that I had married my first cousin in order to save money on Christmas gifts. With a pink rubber shoehorn in my mouth, I couldn't correct the record.
The final straw was when Dr. Doom started gabbing to his assistant about his job as a surgical assistant during college. "Gosh," he said, while I laid numb and gagging, "when that artery burst, blood gushed all over the operating room."
"Yeah, the guy lasted about five minutes."
OK, I have a weak stomach and a light head when it comes to medical things involving blood. Mention loss of blood and I keel over. Or vomit. Or both.
Now I am lying with a mouth jammed with cotton balls and a pink rubber shoehorn, drool running down my neck--and Dr. Doom starts in about an artery that went off like Old Faithful.
That did it. I pulled out the cotton and the shoehorn, pushed away the spittle-flecked klieg light, twisted into a sitting position and said that if Dr. Doom didn't change the subject right now I was going to either get up and leave or pass out, one of the two.
No problem, he said, laughing at my obvious anger. He knew my threat was empty. I couldn't leave. My teeth were in smithereens. He'd have to put them together again for me to even eat oatmeal.
Back went my head on the headrest, in went the pink rubber shoehorn and the cotton balls, and back came the spittle-flecked klieg light.
"So," Dr. Doom said, after I was once again silenced, restrained and at his mercy, "did I ever tell you about the time a guy's abscess tonsil popped in my office?"
"Smelled so bad we had to evacuate."