Month: March 2009

Of teeth and terror and drywall dust

Wow. I guess L. Ron Hubbard had it right. Success really is inventing your own religion. Welcome to all you newcomers, and Steve bless the lot of you. Welcome to the non-douchey side. Come on in. Sit a spell. We serve brownies, and we don’t lick ’em first or nothin’.

So today was my third visit to the dentist in the last six weeks, which sounds excessive, I suppose — unless you keep in mind that heretofore it’d been ten years between visits.

    The first trip was a general evaluation and enough foul-tasting, bite-sized X-rays to stuff a turkey. The second involved a somewhat nasty, damp, and unpleasant process called “debridement,” wherein the hygienist basically said, “JESUS H. CHRIST!!!” and then she used a spleen-meltingly awful sonic tool to blast off the worst of the gunk as part one of a three-phase cleaning extravaganza.* Today was trip three, whereupon I underwent the first of two “planing” sessions.

      That’s right. My mouth has acquired so much funk that it’s taking fully three sessions to clean it out. Mind you, I’m not complaining. It’s at least partly my own damn fault I’d gone so long without a check-up;** so I came prepared so suck it up and tough it out — which was good, because the aforementioned hygienist was prepared to get medieval.

      How medieval? I’ll tell you how medieval. She basically told me she wouldn’t perform the service unless I’d subject myself to a series of five numbing shots that would effectively turn my face to Play Doh. And oh yeah, “There’s gonna be a lot of blood. Seriously.”

      So I reclined, winced, took my shots, and while we waited for them to fully kick in, we talked about survival horror video games — a shared interest we discovered during the debridement (or rather, before and after it; not a lot of talking goes on when you have a spleen-melting sonic tool in your mouth).

        Hygienist: Have you played the new Resident Evil yet?
        Me: Not yet. We don’t have a console and it isn’t out yet for PC.
        Hygienist: Aw, man. I already beat it. But you played through the new Silent Hill, right?
        Me: Yeah, a bew weeps ago.
        Hygienist: I’m sort of stuck at the other town, you know? In the cemetery?
        Me: Oh, sure. Bat part’s prebby conbusing.
        Hygienist: I’m trying not to resort to GameFaq, but I’ll probably cave.
        Me: I reppomend it. Bup bee warned – bee emdings are all prebby dubb.
        Hygienist: The endings are pretty what? Dumb?
        Me: Weah. Bubb.
        Hygienist: I think that stuff’s just about taken hold.
        Me: Bat buld beem doo bee buh capse.

      There was, in fact, a lot of blood; and when it was over I had roughly the muscle control of the undead. But what would you expect from a hygienist with an inordinate fondness for survival-horror video games? Finally, she was done; and finally, I could go home.

        I could not, however, manage to correctly close my mouth. Nor could I feel anything from my chin to my cheekbone. I wasn’t in any pain, precisely, but that kind of sensation absence is highly distracting. I kept touching my lips and playing with them, which drew laughter from the one kid sitting in the lobby. He pointed at his mom and giggled, and said, “Look at that lady! Her face is all messed up!”

          To which I replied with a lopsided glare, “Yore bext.”
          And I’d like to think that he was.

          (Steve, forgive me.)

          The electricians were appropriately sympathetic when I returned home. If they pointed and laughed they did it behind my back like civilized men; and then they gave me an amazing surprise. They said, “That’s pretty much it.” It turns out, while I was getting my mouth manhandled, they were installing the last of the electric work in the bedroom and bathroom.

            I could’ve hugged, them, one by drywall-dust-covered one. But I restrained myself. It’s not like I’m never going to see them again. They’re right next door, tearing up our neighbor’s apartment and hanging out in the stairwell/foyer, toting equipment and nattering into their walkie talkies. These guys are going to be a persistent feature of my life for the next few months, at least.

              It’s nice to have them out of my work space, though.

              This is not to say that I can’t hear them anymore (all afternoon, I could. And I did.); and this doesn’t mean that I can wave goodbye to the construction and demo teams. For one thing, a wall of our closet is still exposed — requiring sheet rock and paint in the near future; and for another, there are still a number of plastered-over holes that require sanding and painting.

              And of course, in a few weeks we’ll have the plumbers tearing out our bathroom and kitchen walls and floors. So it’s not like there’s any real peace and quiet in my future.

              But it’s better than nothing. And I’m trying to be optimistic about the fact that progress has, in fact, been made. The new fixtures are pretty nice. Most of the dust has been cleared out, and my allergies are doing better already. I can feel my whole face again, and I’ve even consumed a grilled-cheese sandwich without drooling it all over my lap.

              So things are looking up, I guess.
              Vaya con Stevos, everybody.

              * Just kidding. She’s actually quite cool.
              ** For about eight of the last ten years, I haven’t had any dental insurance. I had it the last year I worked in Tennessee, and I’ve had it for about a year here in Seattle … so there were clearly windows wherein I could’ve gone to a dentist, but didn’t.

              May Steve Be With You

              It’s probably no surprise that I’ve been getting emails about the First Church of the Intergalactic Fruitbat Steve, given how much joking, joshing, and general tomfoolery has taken place both online and in public on this spiritual subject. So a little bit of context is due.

              Picture it: The Paranormal Bender Tour, Day One. March 10, let the record reflect. After a late start to our travels, Mark, Mario, Caitlin and I found ourselves approaching California. There upon the border, we spied a fruit checkpoint. Yes, a fruit checkpoint. Looks like a toll booth. Makes everybody stop before crossing that blessed state line, and be subjected to an interrogation on the subject of fruit.

              I had never heard of such a thing.

              At first I thought this was some kind of weird pop quiz, like before you’re allowed to come into California you must demonstrate that you know the difference between an orange and a clementine, with bonus points for correctly identifying a nectarine, or something like that. Since I am from Florida where we also grow a great deal of fruity-type substances, I was pretty confident of my ability to pass such a quiz, and therefore suspected that I’d be an excellent spokesperson in the event of tollbooth citrus Jeopardy.

              In fact, the point of this checkpoint is to make sure that we, as ostensibly law-abiding citizens, were not bringing unauthorized fruit into the state of California. I had no idea there was any such thing as “unauthorized” fruit, much less that California would be so vigorously on guard against it.*

              But you learn something new every day, I suppose, and when we finally drew up to the booth, Mark rolled down the window. Inside the booth was a woman with a ponytail and a fondness for pink sparkly lipgloss. She had a wad of gum in her mouth. She leaned very slightly towards the Impala**.

                Fruit checkpoint lady: [:: snaps her gum ::] You got any fruit?
                Mark: Um… no?
                Mario: [:: quietly, from the backseat ::] We got a fruitbat.
                Fruit checkpoint lady: Okay. Have a nice day.
                Mark: Thanks!

              We cackled to ourselves for the next few miles, imagining what it would be like if we actually had a fruitbat stashed on board. And somehow, out in the craggy hills of northern California, what began as a whispered giggle took on a life of its own. It blossomed. It snowballed.

              Caitlin named the imaginary fruitbat “Steve.” Someone came up with a baseline theology: “Thou shalt not be a douchebag.” And lo, Steve did enter our hearts and we were blessed with divine understanding!

              Before long, we had a full set of “battitudes” — including (but not limited to) such inspired declarations as, “Blessed are the fabulous, for they shall have doors opened for them everywhere.” “Blessed are the groovy, for they shall get down forever.” “Blessed are the goths, for they come pre-accessorized for this faith.”

              Steve’s communion wafers are Doritos, for they are shaped like his mighty wings. And also, for they were what I’d picked up from the last gas station.

              Steve accepts no tithes nor donations. Steve ain’t in it for the cash.

              Steve urges us to love the douchebag, but hate the douchebaggery.

              He requires no house of worship; anyplace where a polite, considerate person is mindful of others … there you will find him.

              And we spoke of the things which Steve would endorse, and revile:

              Steve greatly loveth all things sweet and squishy, and he sheds his mercy upon those who correctly use their blinkers; likewise, he smiles upon drivers who know how to merge, and who can correctly form a fucking zipper for God’s sake;*** and his heart is warmed by salespeople who leave you alone while you’re trying on clothes. He is gladdened to see bartenders who don’t skimp the sauce. He is pleased by those who share their Doritos.

              But Steve abhors a faux-hawk. He is much offended by posers who roll up one pants leg even though they haven’t ridden a bicycle since third grade; and he loathes a man in a neckerchief. Steve does not ever want to hear you shout, “WOOOOO!” in a crowded elevator just because you’re drunk and it’s Vegas and you’re with your girlfriends. High-heeled flip-flops are an abomination — doubly so if you’re three sheets to the wind and counting.

              It took on a life of its own.

              Before long, we were speculating sadly about how Steve needs to shine his goodness and light down upon that asshole taxi-driver who rode our bumper in San Francisco and honked wildly all the while; we considered how badly Steve’s influence was needed among the bitchy, liquored-up grandmas at the slot machines in the Bellagio; and we marveled at how his kindness could have improved the service at that Starbucks.

              So, What Would Steve Do? Well, Steve would probably walk forward on his wee little elbows and nom a bit of fruit. But he wouldn’t be a dick about it, that’s for damn sure.

              Now all we need are some chick tracts and an outreach program, and baby, we are golden.

              * Though we concluded that “Clandestine Banana” would make an awesome band name.
              ** Which is to say, the Kia Rondo we named “Impala.”
              *** We spent a lot of time driving in southern California, okay?

              Excerpts from Conversations with Electricians

              Electrician: These ceilings are pretty tall. What are they, maybe ten feet?

              Me: Something like that.

              Electrician: Thus the step-ladder in the kitchen, eh?

              Me: Natch.

              Electrician: [:: looks at the foyer ceiling ::] What about the smoke detector? Can you reach it, even with that ladder? What are you, five foot nothing?

              Me: Five foot five, thank you. And the answer to your question is, “Sort of.”

              Electrician: Sort of?

              Me: Sort of. In fact, just the other day the battery began to die, and I had to knock it down and swap it out. I managed just fine, I’ll have you to know.

              Electrician: Wait, what? Knock it down?

              Me: Yeah, I had to … okay, see — my husband is tall enough to reach the smoke detector using just the step-ladder, but he was out of town for his brother’s wedding, and the damn thing was beeping every five minutes. So I knocked it down myself.

              Electrician: Knocked it down, like, with a baseball or something?

              Me: With a metal spatula.

              Electrician: You whacked at it with a metal spatula?

              Me: Obviously that was not my tactical starting point. First, I simply tried to reach it with the step-ladder. Didn’t work.

              Electrician: So you went and got a spatula.

              Me: No. I went and got a pair of high heels.

              Electrician: [makes this face: O_o]

              Me: Yeah. See, even standing on the step-ladder I wasn’t tall enough to reach it, right? So I went into the closet, dug out my highest high heels, slipped them on, then climbed the ladder and tried again.

              Electrician: I’m just getting this vision, of you in high heels on a step-ladder with a spatula. It’s … weird.

              Me: In my pajamas.

              Electrician: What?

              Me: It was nearly midnight. I was in my pajamas. And high heels.

              Electrician: With a spatula.

              Me: Yes, a long metal one. So I was standing on the step-ladder in polka-dot pajamas and high heels, with a stainless steel spatula in one hand and a glass of wine in the other–

              Electrician: Wait now. What? You’re making this up.

              Me: I told you, it was midnight. I was having a nightcap.

              Electrician: Jesus …

              Me: So I whacked at the smoke detector like it’s a pinata, and finally, on the fifth or sixth try, I dislodged it.

              Electrician: You frighten me.

              Me: Sometimes, I frighten myself.

              Electrician: It’s a wonder you didn’t break your neck.

              Me: Thanks for the vote of confidence.

              Electrician: But I note that the detector is properly affixed now.

              Me: My husband did come home, eventually.

              Electrician: Brave soul, that.