On rainy days, the dentist says, everybody turns up at the dentist.
My crown took four hours because of people turning up at the dentist.
Like Roman and his wife. Roman has a rotten tooth that needs to be rebuilt, or pulled.
Rebuilt is $2,500, pulled is $340, says the dentist.
"If our circumstances were different—"
"Of course, I understand," the dentist says, adding, "How long have you two been married?"
"Forty five years," she says, before telling Roman in Polish that he's going to have his tooth pulled.
He is skeptical, in Polish. She is insistent, in English.
"You have to trust me to do what is best for you, Roman."
"I got sucker punched about a year ago," another guy tells the same dentist—my dentist, who should be getting back to me—over the other wall.
His jaw is clicking. It could also be that he clenches his teeth while he lifts weights. Or that he grinds his teeth because he's been real stressed-out lately. Or that he is taking Adderall for ADHD, and it makes his mouth dry so he chews gum all the time. Could that be it, Doc?
"Yes, stop the gum right away," the doctor says, and goes on to recommend a certain type of sugar-free mints to help with the dry-mouth.
"Yeah, because I get these sores in my mouth all the time. Is that cuzza the dry-mouth?"
"Yes," the dentist says. "Take the mints."
The doctor massages the man's jaw. The man says it feels better.
"Do you think I could do that to myself?"
"Of course," the dentist says. "You felt me do what I just did. Just do that. Your muscles are really tight in your jaw."
"Yeah, cuz I been real stressed out at work lately," the guy says.
Roman is waiting quietly to have his tooth pulled, and I'm waiting quietly to get my crown, and I'm pretty sure Roman is thinking the same thing I'm thinking about the guy with the jaw, and why he might have been sucker-punched.
And I hear the guy say—and I typed this into my cell phone—"Yeah, people have told me that the natural position of my mouth is open."
Two hours for a crown? my sister asked me afterwards.
No, I told her. Two hours for a crown, and two hours for a morning matinée.