It was lunchtime on a recent afternoon (Okay, last year. It’s been a while since I posted.) and I was about to take a bite of a Garlic Chicken and Pasta Lean Cuisine when I ran into a snag, or to be more specific, my left jaw did. I couldn’t bite down all the way and it hurt. Since this was the third such incident within a two month span, I decided it was time to take action. I called a local dentist who specializes in jaw irregularities. Having acquired his name from my “regular” dental office, I figured I would be in good hands. I figured wrong.
New age Muzak wafted through the waiting area when I arrived for my appointment the next day. Gee, never heard that at a dental office before. I signed in, sat and looked around. The reading material was fairly typical: those big blue Bible Story books for kids; some health magazines; monthly Guideposts. A rather odd mix, I thought, new age music and Christian literature, but whatever works. When the mild mannered receptionist asked me to follow her into a small office, my feeling that something was just a tad strange grew a little bit bigger. Ms. Mild Mannered explained she wanted me to fill out some forms while she made copies of my drivers license and insurance cards. Okay, but why take me into a private office? I start digging my ID out of my wallet and catch myself just before I accidentally hand her my Visa card. Whoops! “Oh,” says MMM (Ms. Mild Mannered), “you may want to keep that out. Heh heh.”
When I’m finished filling out the forms and pay the $300 fee—I was informed when I made the appointment that payment was required upfront, and desperate to unlock my jaw, I agreed—MMM ushers me down the hall to yet another small office, even tinier than the last. I take a seat in front of an enormous desk which fills up most of the room. About a minute later, in walks Dr. Drool who makes up in width what he lacks in height.
“Welcome to our family,” Dr. Drool cries, spreading his arms out wide. My jaw has relaxed by now but the rest of me begins to tense up when Dr. Drool proceeds to take a seat right next to me.
“So, what brings you to see me today?”
I tell Dr. Drool about the lock jaw and he explains the condition, TMJ, that is, when he’s not cracking himself up with dumb jokes. In fact, at one point, Dr. Drool becomes so tickled with himself that he leans over to me and actually rubs his shoulder against mine. Excuse me? Who is this guy? Dr. Drool chortles on and seems completely unaware that his behavior is, shall we say, f—ing inappropriate!
A voice inside my head starts to cry: “I want out of here!” Unfortunately, my butt seems to be as frozen to the chair as the smile is to my face. I’m too shocked to move. Dr. Drool has moved behind his desk and is showing me some bizarre looking computer graphics of the jaw and its workings.
“Well, you’ve heard enough of me (I’ll say, buddy), so now I’m going to show you a little film. Watch this” Dr. Drool commands and flicks on a small TV. Suddenly I have double-vision. There’s Dr. Drool—TV celebrity—talking with a local news reporter about TMJ and his miracle cures. Hello? I’m sitting right across from you, pal, why do you need to play me a promo?
Dr. Drool is really having a good time, watching himself on TV and all. The voice inside my head is getting louder: Get away from this nutcase! But then the video portion of what is becoming quite a freak show ends and Dr.-Drool-in-the-flesh begins to speak. First, however, he comes over to sit next to me again.
“That’s a cute haircut,” he grins.
“Now. Let me ask you. How do you deal with stress?”
(Uh, I have a lot of sex but don’t think for a minute that I’m going to have it with you, mister.)
What I really say: “I run. I’m training for a half marathon.”
Eyes me up and down. “Yes, you’re in good shape.”
Okay. I’m getting out of here. Really this time.
I’m about to move out when Dr. Drool whips some forms under my nose.
“This is my fee. Are you married?”
“Well, get ready to have another man in your life for a while–wink wink.”
Moving quickly, Drool proceeds to show me how much it’s going to
cost—upfront, of course—over the next 12 months (!) of treatment. It ain’t pretty.
I tell him I’d like to talk with my husband about this first.
“Oh, you can call him right here and we’ll discuss it together.”
He’s kidding right?
Doc picks up the phone.
No. He’s not.
I say I really want to talk this over—in private—with my husband.
He’s not happy. “Well, okay. But I explained in my introductory letter to you that you should bring your significant other.”
Letter? Hello, I just made the appointment yesterday. It is now the next morning and unless he sent it special delivery, I don’t think the mail works that fast.
Dr. Drool clucks his tongue. He’s getting the idea that I’m not coming back so he trots out the big guns. Actually, it’s only a single gun whose name is Pat, a no-nonsense looking woman with grey hair and a slight brown mustache.
“Pat will take your check.” Dr. Drool takes in a massive breath and gives me a hard look. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.” Drool pauses, swallows, then says: “Your condition will NOT improve without this treatment.” With a dark cloud of doom floating above his head, Dr. Drool turns and waddles away.
Pat says, “I can take Master Card or Visa.”
They really want my Visa card! I reiterate that I want to talk this over with my husband. The cloud of doom floats back into the room. All right, says Pat, “but you won’t get better UNLESS you come back and see the doctor.”
I’ll take my chances with lock jaw, lady. I (finally) make my exit with my Visa card still firmly tucked inside my wallet. Next time I will consult only the trusted Philadelphia emergency dentist!
A few days later, I receive a letter from Dr. Drool stating that he has forwarded my file to my regular dental office. Little problem. I signed a form permitting this however Dr. Drool has sent my records to the WRONG dentist. I read further. Drool informs me in bold typeface (I’m surprised he didn’t use all caps as well) that “your condition will not improve without this treatment.” For good measure, he repeats his warning two more times before concluding with—
Have a blessed day.
Oh, I will all right. I’m counting my blessings that I won’t be rubbing elbows or shoulders or anything else this shyster may be planning, ever again. And when it comes to the TMJ, I’ll just take smaller bites.