I haven’t felt much like blogging lately. A friend of mine passed away, and I’ve been thinking so much about his family. I’ve been dreaming about them all. In fact, one night I dreamt that our families were equipped only with plastic inflatable swimming and floating devices as we rafted down the Mekong river in the middle of the Vietnam war. I think the nightmare is an apt metaphor for cancer.
But I also feel an irrepressible urge to laugh. Not at the situation, of course, but at something. How about myself? I do have another ridiculous story to tell about another ridiculous situation. So this one is for my late friend, in memory of his wicked sense of humor.
A few months ago, in the hopes of snagging some good deals on some good things, I signed up to get “Groupon” via email. Groupon here is random as can be. One day you might get 50-percent off a desert safari; the next day may offer 15-percent off a Yemeni brunch. Things I’m not, at least yet, compelled to buy.
Buried deep in an email Groupon ad for red onions and Rolex watches, I saw a substantial discount for three, 20-minute, tooth-whitening sessions called “Zoom.” I screamed out, “I WANT THAT!”
I used my credit card to snag the deal, then called the business offering the procedures and made an appointment. OMG, MY TEETH ARE GONNA BE SO SPARKLY. I WILL LOOK AND FEEL FANTASTIC. GOODBYE COFFEE STAINS. HELLO HOLLYWOOD.
My appointment date finally arrived. I left work at noon, grabbed a cab and headed for some unknown destination and dentist.
I found the dentist’s office fairly easily thanks to a huge sign on the outside. I climbed the stairs quickly, eager to step into the glamorous waiting room, and be treated like a queen. I’M MINUTES FROM LOOKING LIKE JULIA ROBERTS.
The office was barren. Just a desk, and some old ripped chairs. Reading material non-existent. No coffee tables. Tattered walls. Chipped paint. Nobody took my name. There were no forms to sign. Nada.
Hmm. Should I stay or should I go? My investment was only about $170, I could walk away.
BUT I WANTED WHITER TEETH.
A very nice Filipina assistant escorted me to my dentist’s office. Turns out that his office and his treatment room were one in the same.
Anyway, I took my spot on the dental chair, and he slid over in his chair. He did some hemming and hawing, put some weird gigantic thing in my mouth that made it impossible to speak, and then asked a few questions.
“Did you read the side effects on Groupon?”
I shook my head. Side effects? NOT JUST WHITE GLEAMING TEETH???
“Your teeth will be porous, and your gums will have a lot of white dots.”
He fidgeted in my mouth some more, then the assistant came over — and took over. She used a Q-tip to apply something to my teeth, then attached an apparatus to the thing already in my mouth. She announced that I would sit like this for 20 minutes, and we’d do this three times.
Too late. She turned the laser on, and I was immobilized, terrified. I tried to think of puppies and sunsets while saliva dripped down my throat.
Meanwhile, my dentist and his assistants came in and out of the room. Spoke on the phone. Yelled at each other. Slammed the door. Slammed the phone.
Finally, after four hundred years, the Filipino said, “You have 10 minutes left.”
TEN MINUTES LEFT? FOLLOWED BY TWO MORE 20-MINUTE SESSIONS? THIS IS HELL. I’VE FOUND IT.
Yet, I endured. More screaming in the background. More zooming in my mouth. I found comfort by pondering why the dentist and his assistants might be arguing. The answer is that people bicker in this part of the world. What was inexplicable, though, was that they were doing it in the same room where an alien was attached to my mouth.
I lifted my wrist to look at my watch about every 29 seconds. Time was not marching on. My teeth hurt. I convinced myself that Zoom whitening was a swimming race. I must rise up.
The finish line eventually came. The arguing stopped. The alien apparatus was removed. The dentist held up a mirror so I could see my teeth.
IT WORKED! I WAS TWO SHADES LIGHTER!
They sent me on my way. No goodbyes, no check out. Just an unceremonious exit with a last-minute warning not to drink coffee or eat colorful foods for two days.
Cut to 48-hours later, at my office, I enjoyed a cup of Nescafe. Delicious. Invigorating. Delivered by our coffee boy from Sri Lanka. I adore him, and was so glad to finally drink my precious coffee again. Ahh. I went about my work writing stories on nanotubes and data mining. I added details to the Khalifa website about Dr. Hans Blix — the man who found NO weapons of mass destruction in Iraq — who is coming to speak to our students in March. I added a picture of Blix, noting TO MYSELF that his teeth were not zoom-a-licious white.
I went to the bathroom for a break. I smiled at the mirror to admire my new gleam.
That one cup of coffee had turned my teeth back in time. Yellowed again. It was like I’d never been to the INSANE ARGUING OFFICE OF ALIEN MOUTH HELL.
Suddenly, I felt a kinship with Blix. Not because of our mutually stained grins, but because we both went in search of something promised and came up empty handed.
Both of us, zoomed.