Friday, May 8, 2009

Wisdom comes at a price

It started like any other night, but I should have known something was different. It must have been 3:00AM or so, I was tossing and turning, sweaty and feverish. Then, I felt it, like a dagger being planted in my left cheek. No doubt, I was coming of age, about to achieve wisdom; or so I thought. Little did I know that wisdom did not come easy, it had to be earned through ever increasing levels of pain and suffering. I did not sleep much for the rest of that night. The next morning, I called my dentist.

- Hello, may I speak to Dr Waldowski please.
- One moment please.
- Doctor?
- Yes?
- I feel an intolerable pain on the left side of my mouth, it comes and goes, but each time it seems more painful and the period shorter and shorter.
- Well, I see two possibilities. Either you are about to have a baby through your cheek, or your wisdom teeth are trying to make an appearance.
- You can eliminate the baby possibility, unless you believe in immaculate masculine conception. So I think it may be the second option.
- Honestly, I believe it to be the most likely scenario. I just wanted you to be cognisant of all the possibilities. Now that you know, I hope you feel better.
- Yes and no, knowledge is certainly power but not much of a painkiller. Would it be possible to have an appointment with you today?
- Certainly, I have some time right after lunch, but I must warn you, today is Kielbasa day at the club.
- Between smell and pain, I will pick smell any day. I'll be there at 1:00.

I spent the morning aimlessly walking around the house, moaning, while holding an icepack to my cheek. Finally the time came to go to my appointment. I drove myself to Dr Waldowski's office. I was not really sure how I got there, I only really remembered leaving point A and arriving at point B. I hoped I hadn't done anything stupid between the two. When I walked into the dental office, Mrs Waldowski greeted me with her usual smile.

I've been going to Dr Wakdowski for as long as I can remember. When I was young, every time I walked into that office, it was a bittersweet moment. I knew that if I accepted the pain without complaint, my mother would take me to Kresge to buy me a little something. This time, it was also bittersweet. After the pain would come wisdom.

- Mr O'Reilly, how are you today?
- Well Mrs Waldowski, I could be better. My wisdom teeth are acting up and I can't say I am enjoying the performance.
- Oh, I know what you mean Mr O'Reilly. We had a patient years ago who was in so much pain because of his wisdom teeth... I can't recall his name, he died shortly after that visit. Anyhow, his teeth were so difficult to pull out that I had to hold him down in the chair while Dr Waldowski pulled with the biggest pliers he had.

Mrs Waldowski was well known for her "feel good" stories. Some said that she does this to make the patients nervous, as a challenge to her husband. It worked.

- He died?
- Yes.
- From having his wisdom teeth pulled out?
- No, from a brain hemorrhage.
- His wisdom teeth caused a brain hemorrhage?
- No, the car accident did.

Mrs Waldowski was well known for her inability to read more into a question than what was stated. Some said it's because she was colour blind.

- Please take a seat, the doctor will be hear shortly.

I sat down, trying to forget the pain. It was diffiicult since it seemed that everything in that waiting room was planned to remind me of it. The vague smell of clove, the magazines that looked like they barely escaped a full on attack by a desperate toddler, the uncomfortable chairs, CNN for the hearing impaired on the television. Finally, the doctor arrived and called me in.

- Good afternoon Walter.
- Good afternoon Dr Waldowski. How was the Kielbasa?
- Nice and garlicky! Please sit down and we will have a look at your teeth.

After looking around for a few seconds, Dr Waldowki sat back, seemingly perplexed.

- Hum, it is a bit worse than I expected. It seems that the wisdom teeth are pushing on 28 and 38.

Dr Waldowski was well known for his lack of diplomacy. Some said it's because he once was in the army.

- How can that be, I'm only 24?

He either didn't hear me or decided to ignore my comment. He continued explaining the situation in a way that made me realize he was talking to himself and not to me. So I tuned out, distractedly watching CNN on the ceiling mounted television. they were forecasting rain in Atlanta that day. But then, a word brought me back to reality.

-.... cut the gum to get at the teeth.
- You will need to cut the gum?
- Yes, the way your teeth are growing, they may never come out but will keep pushing on the teeth in front, causing discomfort.
- Is it painful?
- Just a bit.

The excruciating pain I had been feeling was only considered, from his point of view, a discomfort. I couldn't imagine what 'a bit painful' might be like.

- Any other options?
- Just one. But it involves a hammer and a bottle of scotch...
- OK, where's the scotch?
- All I have is the hammer, sorry. So I guess we will go ahead with my first approach.

There is no point in going over the details of the procedure. Suffice to say that it was very uncomfortable and that the only thing that kept me from crying was thinking that, afterwards, I would attain "wisdom of the left side".

- There you go Walter, all done. I will prescribe you some painkillers. The effect of the anesthesia will last for a few hours but I suggest you take two painkillers in about an hour so that they overlap the anesthesia.
- FfffffThang gyou doctow Walfffoffski.

I went to the pharmacy and drove home. As I walked into my house, my knees buckled; the pain was unreal. The anesthesia had lasted for half an hour at most. Dr Waldowski is well known for his inability to estimate time. Some say it's because he was a philatelist.
I took the painkillers and waited, and waited, and waited. After 45 minutes or so, the pain started to subside. I could finally find the courage to go back and close the front door.
Now came the longest wait. I sat in the middle of the living room in the dandelion position (I was never able to achieve the lotus position so I invented my own - Chair in the reclined position, remote control in the left hand, arms on the armrests, left foot over right, on the footrest) waiting for wisdom to arrive. Then, out of thin air came a ringing sound, "finally", I thought to myself. "here it comes". I was wrong, it was my mother calling to find out how I was doing. After a short conversation, I went back to my meditation.

It must have been the painkillers; I passed out for a good 2 hours. When I woke up, I felt the same, no wiser. I was disappointed; I thought wisdom would be some sort of "come to Jesus" moment or like when Buddha achieved enlightenment. But it was not the case, at least not for me. I didn't feel or look wiser, and I still couldn't figure out why the chicken crossed the road. Nothing more happened in the following days, weeks, months and years and I forgot about the whole story.

Many years later I realised that wisdom doe not come with the extraction of wisdom teeth. Wisdom comes with experience and experience comes with time. So maybe that dental hell did make me a bit wiser after all?

1 comment:

  1. OMG!! LMHO!! Great story...dandelion position??? :D I don't have any wise comment, even though I had all 4 wisdom teeth extracted and should have lived long enough now to have some jewel to leave behind here...but I don't!! (maybe that's wisdom in itself...knowing when not to try to impart some?)