DENTIST: a person whose job is to care for people’s teeth
I am fortunate to live in a walkable urban neighborhood. There are countless coffee shops and bakeries within easy walking distance of my house and errands to the drug store, library, post office and grocer can (though may not always be) done on foot. Our kids walk less than two blocks to school and many of their friends live within ten minutes of our front door. I consider myself a thoughtful car user and try to consolidate car errands and keep the vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in our single car low. But, for the past decade I’ve been needlessly logging miles back and forth to the suburbs twice a year to see an especially good-looking dentist.
To my credit, I’ve loved him since before I realized he was handsome. He was my childhood dentist. He’s seen me through big bangs, hammer pants, and the early elementary nickname that brings to mind pom-poms and/or stripper poles. When I was young, he was just a friendly dentist that my mother seemed especially fond of. As I aged, I began to understand.
During college, it seemed perfectly reasonable to schedule dental visits during school breaks when I would be back in my home town. All my peers did the same – though, perhaps, with less delight and primping before their appointments.
When I returned to the Northwest after my post-college travels and mountains-without-water (Colorado) experiment, I was happy to return to my dentist. I had a job in the neighboring town and was a responsible, young professional taking advantage of my employer-paid healthcare benefits. It was all perfectly reasonable.
However, when I moved to Seattle – nearly an hour away – I had to dig deeper for justification. Husband looked dubious when I told him loyalty was my primary motivation for driving to see my hot (oops, did I say that out loud?) dentist.
Justification was harder once I had kids. As any mom knows, two hours in a car with children is nothing to take lightly. The promise of a two minute dose of handsome small talk was no longer enough to elicit my prompt response to the post card reminders that I was due for a cleaning. I started to evaluate the hassle to handsome ratio and question if the drive was worth it. The postcards would languish on my counter while I weighed the effort of the drive to the suburbs against the effort of transferring my files to a local dentist of inferior beauty. I began receiving the overdue for a cleaning postcards – the ones where the reminder turns from friendly to firm. Good looks won, at first. But then, the scales began to tip.
The loss of Cheryl, my favorite hygienist, was the beginning of the end. She had been my hygienist as long as I can remember. She kept great notes in her chart – presumably about the health of my teeth but also about the stuff that really matters if you are going to spend half an hour having a conversation with someone’s hands in your mouth. She tracked my travels, relationships, and ambitions. Thanks to her request for an x-ray, she was the first person (other than Husband) I told I was pregnant. Cheryl always stayed current on my name preferences; she never slipped up and reverted to the cheerleader/stripper name. Because my mom still saw the same dentist (and hygienist), Cheryl had a pretty good finger on the pulse of my crazy family. She was great at asking interesting questions that made me want to talk – even around gloved fingers in my mouth. Her reclining chair was better than any psychologist’s couch. Cheryl’s retirement was a blow.
But, my last two visits are what finally tipped the handsome to hassle ratio in favor of a dentist in my zip code. My appointments started with thorough cleanings from nice-enough-but-no-substitute-for-Cheryl hygienists. Then, a LADY DENTIST came in the room. The first time, I was told that Dr. Good Looking doesn’t work on Fridays. My mistake. The second time – after I made sure to avoid scheduling on a Friday – the same scenario repeated itself. My teeth were cleaned by someone who wasn’t Cheryl and then inspected by the LADY DENTIST.
And that is why the overdue postcard is languishing on my kitchen counter and my to do list says “transfer dental files.”
So long hot dentist. I will miss you. I’ll think of you longingly during the brief walk to my new, local lady dentist. ‘Cause if I’m going to see a lady dentist, I’m not going to get in the car to do it.