Saturday, November 15, 2008

Rinse, Spit...and Run

You've got (hate) mail.

I received this in the mail yesterday from my dentist.

Is that the scariest thing you've ever seen in your life? I mean, where exactly am I meant to display this item in my home, seeing as how I don't have a cupboard or hallway dedicated to rabies prevention?

The last time I found something this creepy in my mailbox was when my former mother-in-law put me on the mailing list for a burial-at-sea service. (Okay, I'm 95% sure it was her.)

You'd have to know the history I have with my dentist - and her assistant - to grasp the full impact of this supposed holiday mailing.

This is no routine Christmas calendar.

This is a naked act of aggression.

Let me back up a bit...

I became a patient of Dr. W about four years ago, when we moved across town and I wanted a dentist closer to our new 'hood. I got a referral from our children's dentist (mistake #1) and made an appointment.

Confession: I'm not good about getting my teeth cleaned "on schedule." I am, however, super-vigilant about taking care of my teeth. In fact, I'm flossing as I write this.

Now, however, it was time.

So I arrived at this first appointment and within 90 seconds I had the distinct impression that I was their first patient in, say, four months. The assistant - Patsy - was curled up in her basket receptionist's chair with the same expectant look on her face that my cat used to wear when I'd get home late from work and she hadn't been fed yet. Patsy, however, was hungry not for tuna but for conversation.

Even before she handed me the clipboard full of paperwork, I'd heard all about her daughter's piercings, her trick knee and her weekend plans to sh
ampoo her carpets. My question about insurance was pushed aside while I helped her assess some paint chips for her breakfast room. (We went with "New Colonial Cacophony" from the Martha Stewart Collection, BTW.)

Now, I'm an easy-going person for the most part, plus I have what borders on a compulsion when it comes to listening to people's ramblings without interrupting. I'm just not good at cutting people off and getting out of life's social quagmires.

But something was starting to get on my nerves about Patsy: she never smiled. Never. No matter how nice or funny I was, she never - not even once - cracked a smile. And you know what else? She never blinked. I'm sorry, but I think it violates some kind of social contract to subject a person to a barrage of personal stories and anecdotes while staring at them like a department-store mannequin...unsmiling...unblinking.

Where the hell was Dr. W? I looked at the clock, expecting it to be spinning wildly backwards, as Patsy explained to me the thought process behind her choice of tires for her Corolla.

Finally, I'm in the dentist's chair.

Dr. W is perfectly nice in a tropical bird kind of way - squawky voice, beaky nose and the slightly unnerving habit of turning and dipping her head to look into my mouth with one eye...and then the other.

She begins to clean my teeth and for the first time, I understand why people hate dentists.

I have friends who, in order to get their teeth cleaned, require a Vicodin, a shot of bourbon, an eye mask and headphones delivering The Carpenters at high volume. I'm happy to say I've never had these sensitivities - I've never dreaded going to the dentist.

Until now.

By the time she was done with her little silver hook, I was soaked with sweat, my left eye was twitching uncontrollably and I had broken through the sky-blue vinyl of her chair with both heels.

I staggered back into the waiting room and as I was paying, Patsy said (without blinking or smiling), "So we'll see you in six months. Would you like to schedule your next cleaning now?"

Like hell, I thought as I ran a trembling hand through my hair.

"Um, I don't have my calendar with me, so I'll give you a call to set something up."

Patsy's unblinking eye registered my stall tactic. She knew I was a flight risk. She was up for the challenge of getting me back in that sky-blue chai
r for another cleaning...after a nice, long chat, of course. I'd be back - she would make sure of it.

It was on.

I lay low.

Months later, my cell phone rings. It's Patsy, calling to schedule my six-month cleaning.

"I'll have to call you back, Patsy. I don't have my calendar with me."

"Mmm-hmmm." I can feel her eye through the phone.

I make a note of the phone number and, over the next few months, dodge three more calls from Patsy.


Later in the year - another phone call. I don't recognize the number and pick up.


"You're way behind on your cleaning, Anna. You should come in."

"I would love to, Patsy, but I'm driving and I just don't have a free hand to make an appointment right now. I'll have to call you back."


I hang up and the realization washes over me that she went to the trouble of calling me on a different number.

Takin' it up a notch
, I think.


Then, a few months after that, one of my molars starts hurting and, since I've never had tooth trouble, it kind of freaks me out. I want to get to the dentist asap so there I am - back in Dr. W's waiting room.

But, wait! That's not Patsy crouched behind the receptionist's desk! Patsy was a morbidly obese brunette while this woman is an average-sized redhead. Oh, happy day! My days of running are over!

I approach the desk and identify myself and my appointment time. The woman pulls a file from her stack, opens it and stares up at me.

"You're long overdue for your cleaning, Anna."

"Well, yes, but I'm just here for this molar..." I point into my mouth to illustrate.

"Haven't you gotten my messages...?" The receptionist stares at me. Unblinking. Unsmiling.

"Wha- I don't understand..."

"You don't recognize me."

"Of course I do!" [nervous laughter]

"I got my stomach stapled. I've lost 170 pounds."

"Well...awesome...P-Patsy...?" I look around the room for back-up but it is, of course, empty. "You look great!"

"I look really different, huh?"

"Well, sure, I mean with the new perm and all, you look--"

"You can go in now," she says. "And you're in luck - she has time to do your cleaning while you're here. She had a cancellation." I do a double-take to peer at the closest thing I've ever seen to a smile on Patsy's unrecognizable face.

Oh, I bet she did
, I think as I stomp in and throw myself into the sky-blue chair.

That's so not fair
, I think. I thrash around on the chair like a salmon on the deck of a fishing boat as Dr. W attacks my gums with her tiny silver hook. I refuse to feel like the heavy (dammit!) I mean bad guy for not recognizing Patsy now that she's dropped all that weight. I mean, come on - I can't be held responsible when someone goes from Tiny Tim to Carrot Top without giving me a heads-up.

When I bolt back out to the waiting room, New Patsy is waiting for me.

"Six months from now, then?"

"Well, I don't-"

"I know - you don't have your calendar with you."

"Right," I say and wonder how she keeps her eyes from drying up and falling out of her head.

"You know." She pauses dramatically. "I'll get you back in here."

"We." I pause in retaliation. "Will see about that."

I pretty much prevail.

So that was almost a year ago and I'm proud to say
I have not set foot back in Dr. W's office since, which I think goes to show that no matter how many threatening holiday calendars arrive in the mail, Anna Lefler will not be pushed around by a dental receptionist, even one who happens to be a master of disguise.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go back to my post at the front window. Do me a favor and if on your way out you see a Corolla with relatively new tires circling the block shoot me a hand signal or something, okay?

Le Group Hug

I was thrilled yesterday to discover that
Marinka of Motherhood in NYC had recommended that her readers check out my previous post here (the one about being cursed). Wow! Marinka is one of the funniest and most clever bloggers around and I read her regularly (I'm also a tiny bit afraid of her), so you can imagine how tickled I was to receive this shout-out. (I've actually become impossible to live with - just ask my husband.) Her blog is definitely worth adding to your daily tour - you won't be disappointed. Thanks, Marinka!

Big thanks also to
La Belette Rouge for the Superior Scribbler Award! This blog is another favorite - literate, authentic and always entertaining. Incoming air kisses! Mwah! Mwah!

Hefty thank-you shout-outs as well to:

Muse Swings for the Blog in Bloom Award
Mandy at Adventures of a Millennium Mom for the I Love Your Blog Award
Annie at A Nice Place in the Sun for the Quiz Whiz Award
The Wife of Riley for the Pay It Forward Prize
Maggie at Life with Boys for the Butterfly Award

My goodness! These beautiful awards can be seen over in the right-hand column... Just click on them to take you to their wonderful, funny blogs... Thanks so much!


Anonymous said...

Haha! This post is awesome! I love it!
Yes-that is truly scary looking!
And 'new patsy'! You are too funny!

KiKi said...

Here is the Blogworld quote of the week: "I can't be held responsible when someone goes from Tiny Tim to Carrot Top without giving me a heads-up." I haven't been back to my dentist, Dr. BriteSmile, since I had to listen to him argue with his agent over the potential photo opp of Britney Spears getting her teeth whitened in his office while I sat in the chair of death. What the fuck is up with LA/Bev Hills/Santa Moronica dentists? No, seriously! :-P

xo - Ki

Deb said...

I feel your pain. My uncle was my dentist. My mother the assistant. It was hell. Sheer hell. Every holiday and get-together, my uncle would inevitably approach me with his mouth WIDE opened, which was supposed to be my cue to open MY mouth so he could look in... ON FREAKIN' THANKSGIVING. No, he wasn't a mute, he was just a condescending SOB. Did I tell you it was hell?

Marinka said...

The solution is simple: you have to more. Far away.

Thanks for the shout out. I can't believe you're afraid of me. That enrages me. ENRAGES ME, I tell you.


Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

That was fun. Gotta love Patsy, you gave her a lot of character. But, dude, why is your dentist cleaning your teeth? That's what the hygenist is for.

Anna Lefler said...

YES! You're right! The dentist isn't even supposed to DO it, is she?!



Sabrae said...

I would be mortified if I didn't remember what she looked like either! :) I think the recepionist sent you that calander on purpose so you can't make excuses anymore!! Crafty girl isn't she!!!

Temple said...

Patsy sounds like my ex-boyfriend/stalker...without the perm...

Melodie said...

WOW! You'd think Patsy was paid on commission for how many cleanings she brings in! I've never had anyone stalk me like that who was't trying to sell me something.

I did once make several phone calls to a psychiatric patient of one of the doctors I worked for because I was really worried about him when he missed his appointment and never called us back. He was someone I knew personally and he had been very depressed, so I wanted to just make sure he was okay. I never did hear back from him, so I have no idea if he was okay or not.

Vince said...

hee hee. good story. scary calendar.
I got you moustaches:

nikkicrumpet said...

I have but one wish...that you would post more often than you get your teeth cleaned. I could use a good laugh like this every single day....NO PRESSURE...but I can be as relentless as certain receptionists....... And I am not afraid to resort to calendar torture if it becomes necessary. Thanks for the laughs!!!

Shannon said...

Ugh, I hate going to the dentist. I'm supposed to go on Wednesday for a cleaning...

Notice I said "supposed" to go...

La Belette Rouge said...

Patsy scares me. Actually, the stomach stapled Patsy scares me more than the obese Patsy. I fear that she may be a shape shifter who can appear in many forms.

Congrats on all the well deserved love. And, thank you for the very kind words about this weasel's blog.

Beth Kephart said...

Girl, if anyone deserves all these shout outs, it is you. You are a double bloom, a sunrise, a moon star.

My First Kitchen said...

An old lady sitting next to me in Panera just gave me a look. Why? Public out-loud laughter. I told you!!! I need to learn my lesson and read your posts at home. Seriously, AUDIBLE laughter. You have to put a stop to this.

Blicky Kitty said...

I hate going to the dentist too because I hate having the twenty-something hygenist lecture me. Yeah, yeah I grind my teeth. Zip it toots, I get the same lectures from the hair salon because I only go there twice a year too. Yeah I know I'm starting to look like one of those Greenwich village lesbians who thinks hair color is only to please male hegemonic beauty ideals. I'm going for toothless and edgy. Oh and call me if you ever start living with a psychotic 3 year old or an incontinent cat and see how high your teeth/hair falls on the list.

Blicky Kitty said...

Ooo oo! You could Photoshop in the Rocky Horror picture show mouth and mail it back to them! Take that, you wanting-me-to-have-healthy-hygiene freaks!

eve cleveland said...

Patsy 2.0 should start a blog so we can all keep up to date with her nutty shenanigans and your dental shortcominings! Maybe it is just me, but I doubt it- gatekeepers in the medical industry are some of the most judgemental peeps around.

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Cassoulet Cafe said...

Another hilarious post from Anna, because Life DOES just keep getting weirder!
You've inspired me to post my dentist horror story sometime soon. :)

aries28 said...

WOW the energy you have, is AWESOME! You are very genuine. I love your blog. I used to, many eons ago, be in the Dental field, 9 yrs, and you are right about people's pure fear of going to the evil Dentist. I hope you told Dr. W. that her calendar was way off line. Very cool. I am now a follower of yours. Check me out too. Peace, Cathy

Rhea said...

I always look forward to reading your posts! Your view of life is hilarious. I'm the same way about the dentist...not wild about the 6 month visits. I don't have teeth issues, just money issues. They suck the money out of my pocket!!

LarryG said...

I think there I got some sort of "Bloggers that love Dentists" award somewhere in my unemptied recycle bin. I will try to dig that up for you! You most certainly deserve it.

Bar-b said...

well, I suppose the calendar is better coming from your dentist than say your gynecologist or proctologist. It is all in how you spin it baby. My motto.

you're a funny gal ;)

Heather said...

I am terrified of the dentist. Terrified, I tell you. I've actually asked to be put to sleep during cleanings before. The last time I went, they spoke words like "scraping and planing." No, not planning. a carpenter does with wood, but they were referring to my teeth.

I haven't gone back since.

That was five years ago.

I'm not proud...just scared to death.

MammaDucky said...

Oh cripes. I haven't been the the dentist in a while, like way longer than 6 months. I'm going on Thursday. I'm scared. You're post didn't help. *Note to self* bring flask to dentist's office.

Anonymous said...

Start now looking for a new dentist before the 6 month mark rolls ahead.... don't you know there are gentle dental offices? Just fired my pain in the gums dental hygienist and found a new one. See my post here.... love your post by the way... I'm a total dental phobe.

Gentle dental ladies. It's available to us dental phobes.

The Blue Ridge Gal

Hairline Fracture said...

You are so funny...and Patsy is scary. That calendar is frightening, too. Definitely find another dentist.

Nanny Goats In Panties said...

"In fact, I'm flossing as I write this." I don't know why you churn out this gold for free, but thank you!!!!

Jen said...

LOL! Oh my goodness that was some post. I had the same thing with my old dentist, I think it might have been Pasty's cousin. Yikes.

Heather, Queen of Shake Shake said...

The hatred of dentist must be encoded on our DNA.

Sue said...

My hands started shaking and my knees became weak just reading about the teeth cleaning....My lady dentist actually refused a plain old cleaning and said I needed a "deep cleaning"...I think when you hit 50 this is standard procedure...You think sweat beads came to your brow with a regular cleaning and silver pick thingie...Try a deep cleaning where you leave the office bleeding like a slaughtered pig and a thousand dollars poorer...and then they tell you...."you should have this done 4 times a year".....Okay that was three years ago, That will never happen again.....

Ma'dame French said...

This post was hilarious;) I hate dentists and I too am avoiding the receptionist but I never could write it as well as you do;) French

Mandy @ Adventures of a Millennium Mom said...

All the mouth in that calendar picture needs is a pair of fangs! It is scary!!
This post was hilarious!!

horatio salt said...

verrrrrry funny post! (btw, i think she lost all that weight because she devoured a patient who was a mite tardy re-booking, and eventually had a gargantuan 170-pound bowel movement.

Eudea-Mamia said...

Why is breaking up with a professional so difficult to do!?

Twilight Zone episode you got going on there. Now I'm going to have to start looking for "Patsys" under my bed.


T said...

The photo at the beginning of the post morphed in my mind as I read... by the end it had big wicked vampire teeth... and bright red Patsy hair :)

You need a new dentist... I developed a sudden fear of dentistry a few years back and then suddenly realized I was afraid of "the dentist" but I was terrified of "THE dentist"... found a new one and now I go regularly... every 8 months (darn those calendars, they're never around when that call comes!)

Andy said...

That is very, very scary. Not as scary as that calendar, which causes little children to pee in fear, but still, very scary. Dentists should stalk you like some bad Jennifer Love Hewitt thriller.

Fifi Flowers said...

HILARIOUS... try going to a periodontist and having a DEEP gum cleaning! You've NEVER lived until you do that! The injections they put into the roof of your mouth should really give you something to talk about! LOL
ENJOY your day!
Thanks for the laughs!

wenderful said...

I just popped over from SITS. And I'm gad I did. I loved your dentist post! I am not a fan of the dentist and your story just cements all the reasons.
I'll stop in again to the blogger with the mustache. :)

Grand Pooba said...

Wow! Settle DOWN Patsy!

Props for not going back. I use the "I don't have my calendar with me" excuse ALL the time! It never fails.

So funny btw

Tug said...

The office lady at my dentist is a bit creepy too.
Maybe there's something to that? :]

Anonymous said...

Tagged you!

Vivian said...

I shouldn't have read this...I have to go to the dentist, and all I'm going to be thinking about is Patsy and your dentist.

Braja said...

I'm still laughing at your dentist post. Damn, that woman is a dental stalker....

Reddirt Woman said...

Great post, Anna. I do have to say that I'm the one that trained my dentist, though. I walk in, you put the gas on me. I don't do pain. I even smacked him on the arm one day after he hit a sore spot...TWICE. He didn't do it again and has had a good time telling his assistants that I'll smack him again if he hurts me.

Man I hate going to the dentist. Except for Steven. We have an understanding.


Sabrae said...

You are welcoem for the comment! Check out the recent post that I just did! It is a contest!! :)

sassy stephanie said...

Thanks for sharing in my SITS day with me!

Funny funny post!

Imogen Lamport said...

Wow stalker dentist.

Do they not think that you have the abilities to clean your own teeth?

Elizabeth said...

That is definitely a scary calendar; I bet Patty made it up just for you!

HappyHourSue said...

OMG- I have her twin sister!!! Charleen. Totally hates our whole family because we never show up for our appointments. Me, because I'm scared. I truly take a valium for a cleaning.

Awesome post.

ZenMom said...

Ohmygawd, you kill me.

You know, I was going to wrack my brain for a suitably clever response to your brilliant dental diatribe. But, instead, I think I just want to say thank you!

You have such a gift for storytelling and humor and I just love that you share it with us all.

Real Live Lesbian said...

You crack my ass up every time I come here. Can I move in with you?

sherri said...

great post. love your blog. found you via comments section over at tiptoeing through the tulips...this is my first time here, but not my last. that toothy calendar is awesome in bizaareness.

Temple said...

Thanks! I just google "mosaic maker" and this website comes up that, uh, makes them. I mean, if I can do it anyone can (I break the copier maching just by walking too closely by the copier room...the office peeps try to keep me on the left side of the building due to my inate anti-tecnical abilities). Rings? least you got a real word. I get things like, oh..."smorgat" or "biltiner"

Kimberly said...

You know, gingivitis is a bitch. You should get to those appointments.


flossing as I write this, my ass.

Comedy Goddess said...

My dentist is an almost lethal combination of Vicodin and a shot of bourbon. He sleep-dentists his way through my visits.

Congrats on the Marinka nod. That is high praise!

angie said...

Had me laughing the whole way through!

Lynette said...

Kind of like that dentist in Little Shop of Horrors, except instead of that crazy dentist, you have a stalker type receptionist...

Mandy @ Adventures of a Millennium Mom said...

You've been tagged over at my place!:)

Michele said...

Another fabulously funny post. Congrats on the recognition. You deserve it!

Rick said...

That whole diatribe regarding your dental care and there was no mention of stickers!?! Now I know they offered you stickers.

Lianne said...

Our dentist gives my kids Tootsie Rolls when we leave. Job security, I guess.

Good stuff. Very funny.

Clay Bowler said...

Having worked in the dental industry for nearly 15 years, I can tell you there are some very creepy and weird people who become dentists.

Wendy said...

Fantastic, but I'm curious... do you live in some dinky backwoods town that has only one dentist? Why not change?

I love going to the dentist by the way. There's nothing like super clean teeth. I would go weekly if my insurance covered it.