Private Joke

thoughts from the dentist chair

actual view from my dentist's chair

My heels shot up and fell back to the chair as if I had been electrocuted.

Dentistry has made tremendous progress in terms of patient comfort, but the experience of lying in the dentist chair is still fraught.

Lying in the dentist chair tends to concentrate one's thoughts on the present. Usually I lie in the dentist chair with my legs crossed at the ankles. I noticed, as my feet went up again, that I had uncrossed them.

I filled my lungs and slowly exhaled, through my nose because my mouth had a vacuum tube in it. The pain had been only in the instant, gone as soon as my heels hit the chair again. What is pain?

I thought of the 1978 movie Marathon Man, starting Dustin Hoffman.
A graduate history student is unwittingly caught in the middle of an international conspiracy involving stolen diamonds, an exiled Nazi war criminal, and a rogue government agent. (IMDB)
There's a scene in the movie where the Nazi torturer (Szell, played by Sir Laurence Olivier) uses dental instruments to torture the unwitting student (Babe, played by Dustin Hoffman), who has no idea why he is there.

the most relevant bits are near the 1:45 and 3:13 minute marks
Christian Szell: Is it safe?... Is it safe?

Babe: You're talking to me?

Christian Szell: Is it safe?

Babe: Is what safe?

Christian Szell: Is it safe?

Babe: I don't know what you mean. I can't tell you something's safe or not, unless I know specifically what you're talking about.

Christian Szell: Is it safe?

Babe: Tell me what the "it" refers to.

Christian Szell: Is it safe?

Babe: Yes, it's safe, it's very safe, it's so safe you wouldn't believe it.

Christian Szell: Is it safe?

Babe: No. It's not safe, it's... very dangerous, be careful.

"mmmMMMmmm" I said.

My dentist pulled the whirring tool from my mouth, "Are you OK?"

"It's safe."

"I don't understand."

"I'll tell you after."


I uncrossed my ankles, inhaled another deep slow breath through my nose, and smiled around the dental instruments sticking out of my mouth.

She never asked me to explain. I think it's better.

If you prefer less introspective fare, my other blog is for the more practical and professionally-minded reader


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