Old Number Two and the Fresh Green Bozo (Part I)


I went to the dentist yesterday, fat, dumb and happy.  Thought I was gonna get me a big-time filling in the back tooth that had been root-canalled by the last bozo in the Upstate Medical Center dental clinic.  The bozo had taken two cracks at that tooth.  The first one set some new records in pain in that he couldn’t get the tooth numb and he couldn’t find the canals, but the second time around he hit it good and did the job.  I thought.  So I went to the dentist yesterday.  Got a Fresh Green Bozo.  The dentistry bozos get rotated in on July 1 for a year’s duty.  The Fresh Green Bozo was on his fourth day of work when he met this, the tooth from hell, and he hadn’t even figured out how to make his chair go up and down yet. 

The old bozo had said he felt sorry for the Fresh Green Bozo who was gonna have to fill this tooth, which, by the way, was as far back on the upper right as a tooth could go excepting the wisdom tooth, which I got rid of a long time back.  We’re working here today on the big back tooth, Old Number Two.

Old Number Two and the Fresh Green Bozo met to do battle on the fifth consecutive day of temperatures in the ninety’s.  Air-conditioning sucked up the hospital corridors and waiting areas.  It was 10:15 a.m. when the call came for me to enter the Dental Clinic.  I arose cheerfully, thinking I had a nice empty tooth with no nerve in it.  Although, problematically, I’d been having some strange and unseemly sensations in the supposedly empty tooth.

I went in and sat myself down in the chair.  Fresh Green Bozo (FGB) came in.  Nice‑looking guy.  Big.  Introduced himself by a name that I instantly forgot.  FGB started hum-tiddling over my chart; made some apologetic noises; let on that I was here to have a root canal finished.

“What do you mean ‘finished’”?

The predecessor bozo didn’t finish the job.

“Oh yeah?”

Oh yeah.

“Okay, then we’ll finish the job today.  No sweat.”

FGB gets his act together.  Puts the clip in, puts the sterile drape in, puts the anesthetic in.  Puts it in the outside of the gum.  I wasn’t born yesterday.  I know this tooth needs one shot on the outside and one on the inside in the roof of the mouth.  The roof-of-the-mouth one hurts like hell so when the FGB omits it, I don’t call him on it.

The FGB starts to drill.  He removes the entire temporary filling then he drills some more.  He drills a bunch then he gets out his files and slips the measuring stick on over his left index finger.  The way you do a root canal is you drill till you’re in the tooth then you start picking around with your files.  A file looks like a longish straight pin with a raspy end and a little colored depth indicator.  You stick the files into the canals and ram them back and forth to clean out the nerve.

That’s what you do on a nice well-behaved tooth but this is Old Number Two, which is lying in wait for the Fresh Green Bozo.  First, the FGB disagrees with the last bozo; he thinks he’s got different canals.  He names them differently but still comes up with only three.  Old Number Two could easily have four.  Second, the FGB says at least one of the canals hasn’t been filed out deep enough.  The old bozo only went in three-and-a-half yards, whereas the FGB has in mind four yards.

So the Fresh Green Bozo digs around and what we find—AAAAHAH!—is that the nerve is still alive and living in the canal.  The FGB does a fair amount of drilling and rooting and I do a fair amount of gasping and twitching.  Somewhere along the line, the FGB hits me with another injection or two of anesthesia; he sinks one straight into the open tooth; he gets the needle stuck.  Score one more for Old Number Two.

The real dentist comes in and tells the FGB to drill out a bunch more; get down past the crook in the canal.  The real dentist tells the FGB that he is not busting his chops, just trying to be helpful.  This is something that the last bozo should have done and didn’t.  The FGB drills and files then he decides to take a picture.  He puts the x-ray in, I gag, then we take the picture.  (To be continued)

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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