A gal walks into a dentist’s office. It’s the day of her child’s first-ever filling. This is a child who’s uncontrollably afraid of shots–so afraid she can’t even say the word shot. The child has tried, but before she can get it out, her face goes white as a sheet and she looks like she’s going to pass out. So, this gal who walks into a dentist’s office? She’s a little nervous about the Novacaine shot that’s going to precede her daughter’s fillings. She comforts herself with the signs that remind her it’s a children’s dental center. Of course, children’s dentists are trained to create a magical experience, calling their instruments of torture things like Mr. Thirsty and Little Tickler, words that sound dirty and sexy to adults but like a bucket off mewling kittens to kids.
Still, the gal is anxious that someone’s going to slip and use the word shot. If they do, all hell will break loose. There will be whistle-register shrieking and gnashing (instead of fixing) of the teeth. She watches as the hygienist straps the laughing-gas mask on the child. The gal bites her lip as the hygienest begins detailing for the child what she’s up to, showing off the parts of the machinery and such. Here it comes, the gal thinks. She’s going to say That Word. A thin line of sweat comes trickling over the gal’s eyebrow and into her eye. She’s filled with the dread and with the regret of not having properly warned the staff. Oh, sure they’ve seen “afraid of shots” before, but they’ve never seen it quite like this. Eardrums will be ruptured. The windows will shatter.
Panicked as the hygienist continues explaining the steps to come, the gal grabs a large piece of scrap paper from her purse, rummages out a pen, and quickly scribbles a request. She casually walks over to the hygienist and clears her throat.
“I need you to just take a quick look at this,” the gal says. She shoves the scrap of paper under the hygienist’s nose. The hygienist looks confused, affronted. Is this really so much to ask? the gal wonders. She can already feel the brush-off, the certainty of being dismissed. More aggressively now, she sort of shakes the paper at the hygienist. And with her eyes, not her mouth, she says, Look, honey, register what I’m telling you and heed me before you do something you regret.
Then the gal realizes what she’s used for scrap paper, and that she needs to rotate it counter-clockwise to reveal her handwritten secret message:
“Ahhh,” says the hygienist to the gal, laughing a little. “We never do that here, not even with the older patients.”
And yes, that gal was me.