How's this for a non-bombshell: I hate going to the dentist.
No, I mean really. I have sleepless nights beforehand. And despite an oral-hygiene regimen (I brush and floss regularly and even go after the plaque every now and again with a tiny, steel-tipped implement of torture) that is a vast improvement on the days when I munched peanut brittle in bed and used the toothbrush exclusively to clean my voluminous collection of die-cast Civil War figurines, I always anticipate the worst news from the cheerful octogenarian of the Tribe who's been my mouth-care specialist since I was a lad.
When I say "the worst news" I don't just mean an expensive and painful (and painfully expensive) new procedure that will entail drilling, bleeding and cement.
I mean news that comes in a glowing red box borne by a phalanx of winged demons who reside deep in my psyche. News like "We will be knocking out all of your teeth with a sledgehammer today, and you will wander the streets mumbling like Gabby Hayes," or "We will be replacing your lower jaw with a hinged piece of balsa wood, so you might consider never being photographed again."
Do you get the picture? We're talking about neurosis here, the kind of phobic tumble into unreality that (unlike, say, voices that tell you to kill) generally seems quaint and funny to others.
Perhaps it's because I go to the same dental practice (and pretty much the same aforementioned cheery practitioner) I've seen since I was a tot, when inspection of my choppers was so darkly terrifying that I had to be pried from the family sedan with a crowbar. The walls of the children's practice were then (as they are now) plastered with happy cartoon stickers. The kiddies who'd had their cavities drilled were invariably led to the "treasure chest" of toys, where their swollen faces hovered over a sea of plastic doodads from which they were to select a consolation prize for the oral invasion they'd endured.
Back then, I'd have preferred to climb inside that chest and hide until it was time to go home. If claustrophobia hadn't been one of my other neuroses.
Anyhoo, I went to the ol' Riverside-Coldwater Medical Building yesterday under a particularly ominous cloud of trepidation, as I'd been experiencing some pain in a tooth and I hadn't had X-rays in a year.
Oh, perhaps now's the time to explain that I have such a powerful gag reflex that I can't even look at a tongue depressor. So dental X-rays are, for me, about as appealing a prospect as waterboarding would be to a housecat.
In fact, I had to interrupt the dental hygienist repeatedly as she made the rounds of my molars, what with the ol' reflex kicking in.
You would think, from all of this nightmarish anxiety — prompted by an experience most people consider routine (and some even find pleasant) — that I were going to see this doctor:
...instead of this one.
Okay, so it was a LOT of worry over nothing. No X-rays required. No work required. And here's the real upside, and reminder of why I still go to see Doctor N after all these years: What a mensch! Gentle, patient, good-humored, he always manages to disarm my closely guarded, ancestral horror with a few deft and haimisch words, the last of which are usually, "Please say hello to your family for me." He is a very cool Jew.
But of course, our neuroses are always doing push-ups in the corner, aren't they? They have at least six months to get me geared up for my next visit.