Because I am an artiste, I have no dental insurance. I'm working on it! But in the meantime, I cannot fund the fancy, la-ti-da dentist my parents suggested. Both Brock and my co-worker Bill suggested I go to the University of the Pacific Dental School, where students play with your teeth on the cheap.
"It's actually pretty good." Both independently assured me. "Weird patients, but fantastic care."
Yelpers had similar thoughts. I really did my research, because while I am poor, I am also vain. I can't be walking around missing a tooth.
I've never said no to a sale, so I made an appointment for this morning, in the hopes that becoming a patient of the UoP Dental School would provide me with movie star teeth at homeless prices.
So I drove down to Webster and Sacramento this morning, parked and ran into the UoP, late for my 10am appointment. Entering in the main entrance, I couldn't figure out where to go. Everything looked empty, like a college admin office on a weekend. A woman emerged from a door so I asked her.
"You take the lift down, dear." She said. "To C Level."
Oh of course. It's underground. Silly me. So I took the lift down and emerged into a huge, bustling room like the opening credits from ER. Every walk of life and their entire families lounged around, filling out paperwork. I joined them.
A gentleman next to me asked another fellow nearby, "Hey. hey you. What are those?"
He was motioning to the guy's shoes.
"They are? What year?"
What ensued was a complex discussion on various models of shoes, the likes of which only Big Chris would understand.
Once I turned in my paperwork, I was instructed to go to the cashier to pay my $29 new patient exam fee. The cashier is located in the exam room, so when I opened the doors, I was met with the reality of my situation.
Before me was a huge, brightly-lit space filled with dozens of open cubicles, and in each of them were reclining dentists chairs. No one mentioned this on Yelp. You'd have thought Brock would have said, "By the way, all of your dental work is done in public, with hundreds of other people."
Nope. This is what no one tells you. I was surrounded by all of God's creatures in various stages of oral surgery, and I couldn't stop staring.
I was like driving down the freeway and coming across 50 different car wrecks, all of which are brightly lit and on display. Oh, look over there! And there! Oh, and super weird over there!
I shook myself out of my stupor and paid, heading back to the waiting room.
Every once in a while, a young man or women would come out, find someone in the waiting room and THEN HUG THEM HELLO. There was lots of hugging and "How have you been since last week, Mister Bojangles?!?"
Young dental students are just so happy to finally have real people to work on, they apparently all kind of pride themselves on treating patients like their loved ones.
An elderly black woman came up to a young dental student and said, "You know, I just want you to know that I think you are so nice. You made me so comfortable. I just can't thank you enough, honey. Now, what was your name again?"
And the dental student said, "Buddy! Just remember, Buddy is your buddy!"
And then they hugged.
WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?!?!
I sat mesmerized by all of this going on around me when an adorable young man came into the waiting room and said, "Elizabeth Sporwood?"
That'd be me.
We shook hands and he led me back into the big dental room I'd been in earlier. I took a dental chair in the middle of a million other dental chairs and had a little chat with Dr. Adorable, who graduated from dental school about 15 minutes ago.
Basically, my first apointment, they just look in my mouth and make sure nothing is falling apart. Then I have to come back and then they really examine me and figure out what the hell I need done. Because this one tooth feels a little weird. It doesn't hurt. It just feels weird.
"I chew ice." I horizontally confessed. "I know it's horrible, but..."
"I chew ice too." said Dr. Adorable.
"Oh, you do!?" I kinda tilted my head up and tried to smile at him while making sure my dress wasn't flying up my legs.
Faced with both some kind of medical appointment and Dr. Adorable, I dove into a nervous comedy routine. I do this. You should see me on a date or right before major surgery. I practically perform the entire "Why don't they make the whole plane out of the black box?" routine.
Dr. Adorable, because he is adorable, politely laughed and then, because he is obviously my soulmate, started telling me about the crazy characters that come in to get their grills worked on. In addition to being incredibly interesting, it also made me feel better that my mouth can't possibly be anywhere near the grossest they've seen.
Finally, I agreed to get my fancy x-rays emailed to the UoP dental school by my fancy FORMER dentist, and it turns out, according to Dr. Adorable, that Dr. Fancy is also a teacher two nights a week. Basically, I paid $900 to have a cavity filled by a guy that does the same thing to hobos for like, 50 cents. The only difference being, at Dr. Fancy's, the waiting room is practically candle-lit, there's pristine copies of Vogue and The New Republic available and I watched The Italian Job in magic sunglasses while getting my teeth fixed. IN PRIVATE.
Anyway, Dr. Adorable still had to get Dr. Experienced to come by, say "open your mouth!", look at me like he was examining a horse and say, "Okay."
I signed something, gave Dr. Adorable another little comedy gem for good luck and was off, now officially a patient at the University of the Pacific Dental School.
And as I left, some woman in scrubs standing by the elevator taking me back up to sea level beamed, "Thanks so much! We'll see you soon!"
"You sure will!" I screamed back.
Because I am a woman of the people...