Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Is It Safe?

Spoken by Dr. Christian Szell in the book and movie Marathon Man, the three most chilling words of dialogue are, “Is It Safe?”. He would ask that question of Thomas “Babe” Levy in his quest to determine if it was safe to recover stolen diamonds he had hidden. To secure the answer he desired, Szell would probe Levy’s teeth with all the sadistic, excruciating skills he practiced as a Nazi dentist at Auschwitz.

With my wisdom tooth extraction Monday, I’m reminded of my own hair-raising dental experience some 20 years ago. My dentist at the time was located in Yonkers, on North Broadway not far from the Executive Boulevard exit of the Saw Mill River Parkway. When my early morning appointment to replace a filling ended, I drove back to White Plains to park in the commuter garage and board the 10:05 train to Grand Central Terminal. In Manhattan I started walking up Park Avenue to my office, but before I even exited the east walkway of the Helmsley Building I felt a twinge where the Novocain had started to wear off. Not a good sign, so I did a quick about-face and caught the first train back to White Plains, which, fortuitously, left within five minutes. 

By the time I arrived in White Plains 35 minutes later all the Novocain had worn off, leaving me in piercing pain. I hot-rodded it down the parkway, alternating between singing at the top of my lungs and screaming. I extended my left leg as far as I could, lifting my buttocks out of the seat. I howled my distress. It took about 12 minutes to get from White Plains to North Broadway in Yonkers. Like a madman I ran into the dentist’s office, demanding IMMEDIATE attention. The other patients must have thought I was crazed, and indeed I was. But the dentist quickly shot me up again and did some more work on my tooth. 

It was now too late to go to work, so I drove back to White Plains and decided to do some shopping in a Pergament Home Center. As I bent down to reach an item on the bottom shelf, I felt another twinge. I knew right away what that meant, but I wasn’t fast enough. I was howling again down the Saw Mill River Parkway. Once more I appeared in front of a different set of startled patients as crazed. 

The net result was the start of a root canal procedure. Since that time I am always alert to the slightest twinge whenever I visit the dentist. I haven’t had another such excruciating experience, other than the dry socket for the wisdom tooth extraction I described in my last post. You might be wondering if I stayed with that dentist. I did, until his untimely death from cancer. He was a good dentist, as well as a friend.