It just so happens that I have been to the dentist literally four times in the past two weeks totaling 8 hours and when you factor in commute time, we are looking at 12+ hours dedicated to my mouth. And no, it's not because I had ganglia gingivitis plaquecocous cavititis. But rather it is because I do not have dental or health insurance. And so when I get an email that says FREE DENTAL SCREENING!!!!, I get real excited.
This screening was offered by the NYU Dental School which is a very nice thing open to the public. And because the health care system in our country is corrupt and unfair, this is a very busy place. And because the people who are working on our teeth are still in school, this is a place where no one knows precisely what they are doing so everything takes a long time. On my first two-hour session, she checked me for oral cancer and I filled out paper work. That is when she gave me a free voucher to come back for an x-ray and cleaning. The second session was when she took my blood pressure and took x-rays of my mouth. We had to do my x-rays a few times because we didn’t do it right. Maybe I wasn’t chomping down hard enough or maybe she didn’t line the thing-ma-bob up right with my cheek. The third time, she cleaned my teeth with the scraper thing but didn’t have time to polish. But by now J. Roe and I were friends. And her professor Dr. Alptauer was a funny fat guy that liked to make jokes about me getting tooth residue all over my dark clothing. Then, the fourth time, yesterday, I went back to finish up the polish and get a sealant put on a potential cavity.
I’m going to miss that place.
But what is interesting is what happened to me on the second day. As I was leaving the dentist I met this woman in the elevator; a short woman, talkative, with her hair slicked back in a long pony. I didn’t really feel like talking to anyone because I was dehydrated but she addressed me and we were stuck in the elevator so I had no choice.
She said, “Oh I hate this place.”
I said, “Yea, very busy.”
She said, “I have to come here, you know, it’s cheapest.”
I said, “Yea, me too.”
She said, “You see in my country, much cheaper. You get whole mouth, $1000.”
I said, “Oh wow, where are you from?”
She said, “Lebabon.” And continued, “You see in my country whole mouth, $1000. Here, $600 per tooth.”
(At this point, I don’t know what she is talking about when she says “whole mouth and one tooth” because being dumb and white, I had never even thought that one might need teeth replaced. I mean not until you were 80.)
I said, “Oh my.”
She said, “But you, where you from? American?”
I said, “Yes.”
She said, “Oh you lucky. You get healthcare.”
Then the elevator came to the first floor where we were both getting out. She was eating an overripe banana. And I was like, what? I get healthcare? I didn’t really know how or what because being dumb and white, I don’t understand any of that stuff. I just know that I am a waitress and so I don’t get healthcare.
So I said, “What? How?”
And then she said, “I show you. Follow me.”
Now, I think that’s what she said because I started to follow her down this hallway and then I realized she was just walking out the door to go about her day. And she really wasn’t showing me anything. That was really silly of me. I thought she was an angel for a minute.
So turning around, I said, “Oh I have to pee. Nice to meet you.”
And then I went to the bathroom and this is when I started to have a nervous breakdown. OH THE GUILT! AND OH THE SHAME! I began to berate myself as I bent down in the handicap stall resting on toilet paper that had gotten torn off the reel. Tears rolling down my face… You freaking idiot fat slob, why don’t you just use your doggone education and get a real job that you hate like a normal boring person. You spoiled white piece of crap, you think that you can just flint around being free during the daytime to spend a lot of hours commuting to and from the dentist. You lazy asshole!!!! You would not believe the guilt and agony, it was worse than the year I wrote my great grandmother hate mail because I thought she loved my baby sister more than me.
But just when I thought this was the end, like when I was about to succumb to writing cover letters and going to interviews for jobs that I felt no emotion for, something hit me. I pulled myself to my feet gripping the porcelain toilet, and wiping the tears from cheeks, I exclaimed (in my head), “IF THAT LEBONESE WOMAN CAN’T GET HEALTH AND DENTAL INSURANCE THEN I AIN’T GETTING IT EITHER. MAY WE ALL SUFFER TOGETHER IN SOLIDARITY! AND BY GOLLY, AS GOD AS MY WITNESS, HE/SHE/IT SHOULD REALLY STEP IN SOON!"