Open Wide


     I’ve been retired a little over six months.  Actually, like “second breakfast” from Lord of the Rings (a practice I wholeheartedly endorse), this is really my second retirement (which, to be honest, has nothing to do with breakfast.  I just wanted to mention breakfast.  Because bacon and eggs.).  I retired from active duty in the Navy sixteen years ago. 


     Shockingly, once I left the service, I realized that I couldn’t sit on my ass for the rest of my life.  Hey, my military retirement isn’t bad; it just wasn’t enough to keep me clothed and fed.  “Clothed” to the relief of others.  And “fed,” which, once again, is a practice I wholeheartedly endorse.

     So, I ventured back into the workforce.  I started as a substitute teacher.  Then, after I scraped spitballs from my back, I became a Teacher’s Assistant.  That was a pretty nice gig, but unfortunately, after two years I suffered a small reduction in available hours (translation: complete reduction).  So, I became a high school custodian (aka “Environmental Services Associate”) and remained so for the six years before my second breakfast retirement.

     So now, I spend most of my time writing hideous little pieces like this (thank you, faithful three readers), writing a hideous set of memoirs (which are sure to sell in the teens.  To blind people), complaining about [insert old man beef here], volunteering as a Meals On Wheels driver, and taking care of my spiritual, medical, and dental well-being.

     I mean, after all, if it hasn’t happened already, I’m sure I’m approaching the expiration of my body’s warranty.  Come to think of it, to whom would I complain about that warranty?  I think I’ve been had.  I knew I shouldn’t have answered that phone call to extend my body’s warranty.

     Let’s put it this way, if life was a game of golf (it’s not), I’d be teeing off on the 17th Hole.  And the 18th Hole is a Par 3.  If you don’t play golf (Scottish for “Shit”), then you probably wouldn’t get that metaphor.  Trust me, though, it’s pretty clever.

     Yes, in an effort to forestall the ravages of Father Time (who’s a real mother), it’s in my best interest to take better care of my body.  So far, so good.  While I may not be able to donate it to Science, I certainly don’t want to donate it to Science Fiction.

     Sadly, though, gone are the days when I thought a well-balanced meal was a double-beef Whopper with cheese and extra mayo, a daily bowl of Raisin Bran was only for my dad, and getting up at dawn was for the Amish.

“Seriously, why TF do we do that?”

     Now, from the precarious vantage point of late middle age (frankly, I’d only be middle-aged if I was going to live until I was 124.  Like Stevie Wonder, though, I can’t see it), one beer makes me sleepy, hot dogs give me gas, and I actually read nutrition labels…with bifocals.

     Plus, doggone it, that Wilfred Brimley really makes sense.

     NOTE:  Much to my writer’s chagrin, Wilfred passed away last summer.  Well, the joke stays.  Comedy must go on!

     Therefore, to achieve my goal of hanging in there as long as Larry King (without that whole mummified look), I keep regular appointments with my doctor and dentist.

     NOTE:  Larry King has also recently passed.  Damn!  That’s what I get for delaying this post.  I should have said Alex Trebe….oh, son of a ….!

     I could go on and on about visits to my doctor (whose face I haven’t seen due to his mask.  For all I all know, he could be an Environmental Services Associate in a lab coat), but I thought I’d start off with something a little less invasive (guys, you know what I mean.  Ladies?  Shut up.  We get it.).

“Just try to relax. This won’t hurt me a bit.”

     Still, visiting the “Rinse and Spit” club is a chore.  I most assuredly do not enjoy latex-clad fingers in my mouth (if you do, I won’t judge).  But, as four out of five dentists will tell you, “It’s your responsibility to take care of yourself as long as possible so you can become a burden to your grandchildren.”

     That said, a visit to the dentist, while beneficial to both my dental health and his ability to take vacations to the Caribbean, is not without its discomforts.

     Take cleaning.  Doesn’t it strike you as odd that metal is used to clean our teeth?  Now, I wouldn’t advocate using gummi bears to shine my enamel, but using a screwdriver to scrape my molars doesn’t seem right, either.

     Once my teeth have been violated, it’s time for a good polishing.  Dipping a Dremel-like device into a cleaner-I swear it’s Comet-the dental tech proceeds to spit-shine (an unfortunate phrase, I know) my pearly whites until they’re, well…pearly white.

     I don’t know about you, but the combination of the little drill’s high-pitched whir with the cleanser’s grit does not a “fun” experience make.  Unless you dig that sort of thing (once again, I will not judge).

     After that, I’m treated to a courtesy flossing by a tech with knuckle hair and gorilla fingers (who, thankfully, is not my doctor.  Amirite, fellas?).  This delightful sojourn into “eww” is only enhanced by a stern scolding while trying to pass clothesline between my ravaged teeth.     

     I swear, the next time I’ll wear a sign around my neck that says, “Yeah, I know.  Floss.”

     The funny thing about this is the insane insistence on maintaining a running conversation.  Just talking to me is okay, I suppose.  Just don’t ask any questions which require an actual response.  At the very least, it makes me look stupid when I grunt an answer.  At worst, I start choking on my own spit when asked my opinion on North Korea or whether Baby Yoda is cuter than Baby Groot.

     Things have gotten better since I first visiting the dentist, though.  Largely gone are the days when we rinsed our mouths in those little sinks found only in dentists’ offices.  Instead, we now have nifty vacuum dealies, which, when placed in our mouths, remove unwanted dental by-products…and prevent us from drowning in the chair. 

     Although, I can’t shake this fear of having my tongue sucked right out of my head. 

     Anything more complicated than cleaning has its own “features”, too.  It’s then when the industrial-strength tools (“New from Ronco, the people who gave you the ‘Do-It-Yourself Colonoscopy’!”-seriously, there really is such a thing) are trotted out.

     We yearn for the tranquility of cleaning as the dentist administers painkiller with a dull No. 2 pencil before it’s time to drill a tooth, fill a cavity with molten metal, or peel away our gums in pursuit of the evildoer “plaque-the germ which causes gingivitis.”

     And, I think you’ll all acknowledge the terror inspired by three little words:  “Impacted Wisdom Teeth.”

     Luckily, I’ve not been blessed with the joy of erupted wisdom teeth.  Due to a genetic quirk in my make-up, those little buggers have remained so far up in my mouth they’ll never make an appearance.  They’re a lot like the Cleveland Browns at the Super Bowl that way.

     On the downside, I’ve had some cavities.  I’ve more metal in my mouth than a refugee from “I, Robot” thanks, in large part, to a childhood filled with the likes of “Sugar Pops”, “Sugar Smacks”, and “Super Sugar Crisp.”

     Granted, cavities and tooth decay have obvious drawbacks.  But, there’s something to be said for all my shiny fillings.  Not only can they tune in my favorite radio stations, they’ve pretty much exhausted the number of places where a cavity can actually take hold.

     Of course, a rigorous program of conscientious dental hygiene probably would’ve done the trick just as well.

     As much as I like to complain (and I do), you can’t beat the care I’ve received.  Not only do I not have to place my teeth in a jar at night, I’m free from the ill effects of gum disease, tooth pain, and discoloration.  To say nothing of halitosis.  I hope.

     So, the next time you dread going to the dentist, remember the alternatives.  By ignoring your teeth, not only will you end up looking like the Royal Family, you may also condemn yourself to eating foods no harder than tapioca and sporting gums which recede to your eyeballs.

“We are not amused. Please note that I’m keeping my mouth closed.”

     Oh, and while you’re at it, remember to floss, willya?



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