While in the waiting room before my daughter’s dental check-up this morning, she played with another girl about her age while I sat in a strange and squeaky chair that appeared to be made entirely of rubber, and defended my knees from a little boy who apparently believed my right knee was a punching bag. After the boy was called for what I hoped was a root canal, I picked up my backpack and began searching through it for something to read. As for any healthcare visit, I take somewhere between six and ten books. I suppose I like to hedge my bet, not knowing what mood I’ll be in or how much time I’ll have to read. I usually take at least one from each of the major fiction genres (mass market, literature, classic, short fiction, young adult, and anything by a Fox News contributor) as well as a decent selection of nonfiction (memoir, essay collections, etc.). I guess you could classify my mood at such times as “indecisive.”
None of the books I brought this morning were of any interest so I picked up the magazine from the side table next to me. It was a lifestyle magazine for one of the upscale neighborhoods in town, and as typical, the first few pages were dedicated to pictures of recent high society events and the face and/or breast renovations of its attendees. But more than these cleaves of flesh, it was a two-page advertisement for a “dental spa” that caught my eye.
First of all, from the picture in the ad, each of the professionals that make up this practice appear to be perfect human specimens. This is a picture I would expect to find in a futuristic press release notifying the people of earth who among us had been selected to propagate our species in the upcoming colonization of Mars, since, you know, our stewardship of earth turned out to be a complete failure.
The ad also describes their services. The “general and family dentistry” and other typical services, of course, but they also provide:
- Hot Paraffin Hand Baths
- Light-Reducing Eyewear, and
- a Professional Relaxation Specialist on staff, and No-Fear Dentistry
And although this sounded very pleasant, the ad also noted features, such as Mercury-Free Dentistry and Preventative Saliva Screenings that got me a little worried. Granted, I had never heard of a “dental spa” before, so it was natural that some of their services would be unknown to me. But I now had to wonder what my normal dentist was doing to me. Was I being exposed to mercury? And what the hell is wrong with my saliva that they might need to screen it for? I just assumed it was natural for it to taste like rat poop in the morning.
So I finished reading the ad and flipped through a few more pages, feeling worse and worse, me and my crooked teeth and wounded knee, as compared to the perfect smiles and tanned bodies on those glossy pages. Well, at least then I knew which of my books to pull out – the collection of depressing short stories.