I love “small world” moments. You know the kind I mean. Those moments when something totally unexpected stares you in the face when you weren’t looking for it.
Somewhere out there in the big old world you meet a complete stranger that is connected to someone that is connected to someone you know. Immediately, the conversation relaxes a bit. Familiarity is breeding with each new discovery that you find you have in common. By time you part ways, you say goodbye like you’ve known each other your whole life when, in fact, you just met for the first time only moments ago.
I am back in the dentist’s chair again today. Decades of neglecting professional dental care is catching up with me. I had one abscess extracted with a hammer and a set of lineman’s pliers right after Thanksgiving. For the last month, a second tooth has been causing me to chew funny because of the pain.
I’m embarrassed to admit, I have been a little proud the last 45 years. My teeth have never given me any trouble. I have saved myself a ton of money by not going to the dentist. I have always quietly claimed that I inherited my mama’s good teeth. If it doesn’t hurt, don’t go. That has been my philosophy.
Now, I’m beginning to pay for my pride.
Kids. Let me just say, quit squealing about going to the dentist. Listen to your parents. Take care of your teeth. Else, one day, you’ll find you can’t eat ribs because you can’t bite down without tears dripping out of your eyelids. You’ll discover that chips are hard to eat with a gapping hole between your molars. You don’t want to be like grandpa and end up having to keep your teeth in a glass of water on the night stand.
My extraction was done at the tooth factory dental outlet store. It was the only place I could find that would take me as a walk-in. I’m not going that route again. So, with the help of a good friend, I tracked down a professional dentist who came highly recommended and made an appointment.
“We can work you in at 4:20 on Tuesday. Understand, though, this is just for an exam. We won’t be able to do any work on your teeth until we can determine what needs to be done. Maybe we can get you something that will help with the pain.”
I show up at the appointed time. Took me a minute to find them. The GPS directions took me north when they are really a mile south. The staff chatted with a friendly air of welcome. We worked our way through the insurance dance. I had registered online ahead of time. I was early.
Just after 4:00 the lady came out and called me back to an exam room. Sleek. Modern. Almost Sci-Fi looking compared to what I remember from my last trip to the dentist in Griffin in 1978.
She did a quick x-ray.
“Hold this between your teeth. Bite down.”
“You mean bite down on the tooth that’s killing me?”
“Don’t be a wuss.”
She didn’t really say that, but I am a wuss when it comes to tooth pain.
She complimented me a doing a good job and told me that Dr. Mike would be in soon. “Soon”, I know, is up for interpretation whenever you’re waiting on the Doc.
Get this image. A long and rather comfy chair in the reclined position. A quiet room with a view to the bird feeders outside under attack from the squirrels who are, btw, quite fat from over-eating. An old man who cannot sit upright through a movie or a sermon without nodding off. It had been a while since I last had such a good nap.
I didn’t mind the wait. After about 45 minutes, I decided to do a little snooping on the Doc. I pulled up his website and read the bio on his background. Turns out he’s from a neck of the Georgia woods where I know a few folks. Almost to Florida, near the Decatur/Grady County line between Climax and Whigham. I already like the guy and I haven’t even met him yet.
Twilight is sinking in among the pines outside my window when Dr. Mike comes in. He’s a young man. I tend to expect a doctor to have a little grey around the temples, just to make me think he knows what he’s doing. But I knew he would be young since I read that he graduated from Georgia Medical School in 2014.
I don’t say anything to him about his age because I had my fill of that when I was in my thirties from old wind-bags who thought everybody ought to be full-grown right out of the womb.
“I’ve been reading up on you Doc.”
“Checking me out?”
“I see you are from down around Grady County.”
His eyes light up a little bit. Already he can tell that I think I know something. And funny, but I can tell that he’s from that area. Something about the way he carries himself. Something maybe in his speech. He is South Georgia through and through.
“Yes sir. I grew up between Climax and Whigham.”
“You ever heard of Lake Tree Growers? Doug and Pam Lake?”
“My mama and daddy’s house is about a mile down the road from their tree farm.”
“How about Lee Gainous, over at Gainous Shade Trees? Now, he’s just north of Cairo. You might not know him.”
“Hush your mouth. He’s married to one of my cousins.”
He sat in the chair next to my recliner and we talked on for 15 minutes or so about people and places we had in common. It was an easy and familiar feeling conversation though we had just met.
He went on. “We just built a house up in Harris County. You got any Long Leaf Pine at your farm? I’d really like to plant some Long Leaf Pine.”
“I sure do.”
“Six to seven foot.”
“Hmm. That depends on how much this crown is going to cost me.”
We bantered back and forth about trees and dental work for a while. In the middle of that, he told me my molar was in pretty bad shape, but he thought he could save it. If I wanted to get a root canal done, he could fit me with a crown to go back in its place. I said to sign me up.
I was standing at the checkout counter. The nice lady was explaining to me how this all was going to work and how much the bill would be. My dental insurance only covers routine stuff, not the complicated stuff.
“I’ll be self-pay on this,” I was telling her.
Dr. Mike came back around the corner and whispered over my shoulder. “Don’t let that number worry you. We’re going to work something out on some of your trees.” He grinned a South Georgia grin.
“Small world Doc,” I said.
“It sure is,” he answered. “I’ll see you in a couple of weeks.”