Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth), or: Fear Itself

I’m currently enjoying the last of my three mostly-relaixing days off work in a row with a cup of coffee and Faith No More’s superlative 1992 album Angel Dust. I’m thinking about watching a movie when I’m done writing this (maybe The Thing or Full Metal Jacket), and I’ll probably take a nap at some point. I might watch an episode or two of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

I don't know if we'll have enough time.

“Hey Joel, how did you manage to snag three mostly-relaxing days off work in a row? Isn’t your job currently crushing your soul and slowly draining you of life?”

Kind of rude of you interrupt, but I do appreciate your interest. I’ll handle the second part of your question first: as a matter off fact, my job is currently crushing my soul, and has also been sapping my very will to live lately. That’s not say that I don’t enjoy my job; as jobs go, I could do (and have done) much worse for myself. I actually quite like my job most of the time, inasmuch as I am capable of liking a job. (I firmly believe that the purpose of human beings on this planet/holographic simulation is not to toil away at jobs, but I’m caught firmly in that game, and it’s a hard game to quit). Frankly, most of the soul-crushing and life-draining I’m currently experiencing is a direct result of working in the foodservice industry during a global pandemic.

It goes without saying that what follows is solely my opinion, and does not reflect the opinion of my employer but I’ll go ahead and say it just to be absolutely clear: everything published on this blog is solely my opinion, and does not ever reflect the opinion of my employer or anyone else, unless otherwise noted. We obviously need your business so we can stay in business, but many of us are overworked to the point of near exhaustion. A little bit of understanding (and maybe a little empathy) from the general restaurant-going public would be pretty great, and I would love to be able to take a couple of days off work that don’t involve oral surgery or covid vaccines for myself and or my better half.

But I digress. To answer your first question, I was able so score three days off in a row by scheduling oral surgery (I already used up the covid vaccine excuse) to finally get all four of my wisdom teeth removed at the sprightly young age of 44. I went into the experience knowing that even though I would likely end up miserable and unable to eat or sleep or think about anything but pain, I would at least have a good excuse to rest my feet and back, and to not think about work for three days. My overworked and underpaid prep cook/manager Mike also picked up an extra day to cover one of my days off. That guy is a fucking champion and a bloody legend. All hail Mike, the Fucking Legendary Champion.

Anyway, let’s hold the rest of your questions until the end of this piece, please.

This song is not about being overworked and exhausted, but rather is about vampires. Your second question made me think of it, though, and it’s a fucking rad song, so why not shut your damn fool mouth and dig it, especially since you apparently decided it was okay to interrupt me with a question? You should proably go ahead and listen to the rest of the Surf Nicaragua EP while you’re at it. It’s not my favorite Sacred Reich release, but it’s a damn fine piece of work.

Here’s a little backstory on my experience with dentists, since you insist on knowing so dang much about my three days off in a row.

My mom never took me to the dentist as a kid, because I was one of 4 kids, and neither she nor my dad had dental insurance, and we just couldn’t afford it. No one in my immediate family went to the dentist when I was a kid, aside from emergency situations, and being #blessed with pretty good teeth, I never went at all. One result of that reality is that I made my first ever visit to a dentist at the age of 21, when I started having some relatively intolerable tooth pain. I chose a dentist from the Yellow Pages pretty much randomly, which was the style at the time, and Dr. Asshole (not his real name – I probably wouldn’t have picked him if that had been his name) informed me that the pain was, in fact, tooth decay, and that the decaying tooth was, in fact, one of two baby teeth that never came out of my mouth as a child, and which was now starting to just rot out of my big dumb head. He gave me a local anesthetic and began to chisel it out, stopping once, ever-so-briefly, after I indicated that I was was in pain. He said “does that hurt?” and I said something like “yehhh” and said “that’s weird, you shouldn’t be able to feel anything” and continued to chisel away until he was finished. He gave me a prescription for darvocet, and I went home to rest. After taking my second dose and going to bed, I got the fear, and became convinced that something(s) was/were in my closet. The only thing that made sense to calm me down was to get out of the room and watch Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol, which is the best of the Police Acadmey franchise, I don’t care what you say. COP helped soothe my jangled nerves and I eventually fell asleep in my easy chair.

Fun tangent: I got the opportunity to meet Bobcat Goldthwait many years later/several years ago (god I’m getting old) and I told him a very abridged version of that story, and he listened patiently, and when I was all finished, he responded “Really? Police Academy 4 calmed you down? That’s pretty weird, man.” Then he signed the very same VHS copy of Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol that saved my life that night all those years ago. Bobcat Goldthwait is a hilarious, weird, very friendly man, and a true American Treasure.

Upon my expiration from this plane of existence, I would like to be cremated with and/or have my remains shot into outer space accompanied by this item, please and thank you.

About a year later, one of my wisdom teeth started to bother me. After a few days of grinning through the pain, I found a different dentist, this time on the recommendation of a friend. Dr. Much-Nicer-Than-the-Last-Guy (also probably not his real name, although I couldn’t begin to wager a guess as to what his real name was) diagnosed the problem and gave me a prescription for antibiotics and a referral to an oral surgeon. The antibiotics made the pain stop, so I threw the referral in the garbage where it belonged and went on with my life. A couple of years after that I was living in Austin, Texas in the early stages of the car crash that was my first marriage when that wisdom tooth started to bother me again, only much worse this time. After lying awake in absolute misery for a few hours, I woke up my ol’ lady and informed her that I needed to go to the emergency room. I caught a vibe from the ER doctor – let’s call him Dr. Dickhead – like he thought I was trying to score narcotics or some such. If only he’d known about my darvocet experience.

“It’s your wisdom tooth. It’s infected. You need to see a dentist,” Dr. Dickhead said prickishly.
“I know what it is,” I responded through clenched teeth, my clothes dripping with sweat, “but I don’t currently have a dentist and it’s 3:00 AM, and I’m in a lot of pain.”
“I can give you some antibiotics, but you need to see a dentist,” he said, dick-headedly.
“I don’t currently have a dentist, but I would love to have some antibiotics, thank you.”

I took the day off work and consumed as much ibuprofen as I could safely consume, along with the antibiotics Dr. Dickhead so graciously prescribed me. The antibiotics cleard up the infection, like antibiotics do, but this time I found a proper dentist (Dr. Very-Nice) and became a returning patient. When she told me I should think about getting my wisdom teeth removed I pretended to do so, but they weren’t bothering me, so I decided not to bother them.

In the interest of saving us a small amount of our precious and fleeting time, let’s fast forward to now-ish, which places us at 17 years and 2 dentists beyond Dr. Very-Nice.

A few months ago, my current dentist, Dr. Weirdo (who is in no way an asshole, a dickhead, or even a prick) recommended I get my wisdom teeth removed, just to avoid issues down the line. They hadn’t bothered me at all in at least 10 years, but I trust that weirdo, so I got a referral and set a date for my surgery. I was nervous, because I’m a fairly rational human being, and after consulting Mrs. Circlepit, with her lifetime of dental woes, I decided to opt for general anesthesia. Essentially, the idea of sitting in a chair for an hour hearing the sounds of oral surgery was mostly unappealing to me, and remebering the fact that my first local anesthesia experience from 23 years ago was much more uncomfortable than either I or Dr. Asshole expected, I decided I’d rather spend the extra money and get knocked out.

It woulda been cool to be knocked out by this.

Extraction Day arrived this past Monday, and I put on a strong face, but on the inside, I was shittin bricks.

As I sat in the chair waiting for the doctor to arrive, I thought back to all the people I’ve known who have had wisdom teeth pulled and/or cut out, and how nearly all of them (especially the ones over 30-ish) experienced a recovery that sat somewhere on a scale of rough-to-bad. I though about the old medical dictionary my mom had from the late 60’s or early 70’s (which I enjoyed reading as a kid), remembering the horrifying stories of olde-tyme surgery and early anesthesia (knowing it wouldn’t be like that, but thinking of it nonetheless). Then the doctor came in, told me he was gonna insert an IV, and that I would probably feel the medicine going in for a couple of minutes. Next thing I know, I’m being awakened by the nurse.

“Is it over already?” I slurred, trying to steal a few more seconds behind the comfort of my closed eyes.
“It’s already over,” she replied. “We need to you wake up so you can go home.”
“He’s finished? No shit? I don’t even remember it,” I mumbled.
“He’s finished. Can you wake up for me?”

And I did, eventually. I guess. I have no memory of being put into the car, and I have the faintest image of sitting in the passenger seat at the CVS drive-thru while we tried to pick up my post op prescriptions, but they apparently weren’t ready yet, so we came home and then there’s a dull awareness of taking my shoes off and sitting on the couch, whereupon evidence retrieved yesterday shows that I attempted to watch a previously recorded A&E Biography episode on retired pro wrestler Shawn Michaels, but fell asleep before it even started. Mrs. Circlepit picked up my Rx a little later, by the way, to the tune of $6.66, which is undeniably pretty fuckin awesome.

Let him who hath understanding reckon the total, after insurance coverage, of your prescriptions.

I ate like a horse on a liquid/soft food diet that first day, putting away some V8, fruit smoothie, applesauce, yogurt (twice), cream of tomato soup, and two Burger King milkshakes. I’ve inexplicably felt zero discomfort since I was in the chair pre-surgery, when the childlike worries of possibly not waking up from the surgery flashed through my brain, and I only had to do about 90 minutes-worth of work yesterday, mostly getting next week’s schedule finished before I was inundated with even more time-off requests, which also allows me the luxury of doing jack-shit today, which is a pretty nice feeling, even though a tiny part of me feels like a lazy sack of turds, thanks the difficulty with being still that I inherited from my dear ol’ Ma. I realize there are a lot of commas in that last sentence, but I don’t really care. Besides, I’ve written sentences that used way more commas before.

I guess the point of this, if there is one, is that sometimes (often?) the things we worry about most don’t come to fruition. That and, if you’re in the vicinity of Bloomington, Indiana and need oral surgery, I suppose I’d recommend Dr. Devitt (that is his real name) at Bloomington Oral Surgery. Seems like he did a helluva fine job. If I wasn’t able to feel the stiches, I wouldn’t even know he’d ever been inside my mouth.

Thanks for reading. And seriously, eat a meal at home every now and then so I can, too.

Open this fucking pit up!

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