I went to see my dentist Paolo today, courtesy of three cavities. His office is in a mall. The rain was pelting down as I parked but I decided to walk at a normal pace towards the building. Inside the door, I was soaked and very cold. Plus several dry people were staring at the water running down my bald head (that’s a story for another time). Customers carrying their bags passed to the left and right, and the teen clothing store near the dental office was a flurry of colours and music. I wanted to be in a safe space, far from “the madding crowd”.
I walked into Paolo’s office, took off my dripping cycling jacket, and sat down on a leather love seat. Cozy. I looked at the magazine rack and spotted a Sports Illustrated featuring the San Antonio Spurs and their run to the NBA championship. I hunkered down on the couch and started to read. Even better, the receptionist came up to me to say that my appointment would be delayed for 20 minutes or so. So I got to read the whole article, which focused on the Spurs’ inspired passing and team play. Yummy.
Once I got into the examination room, I started shaking – it was a lot colder than the waiting area. Bonnie, my hygienist, brought me a blanket and covered me collarbone to ankle. Oh, cozy some more. After Paolo injected the freezing agent, Bonnie and I talked as we waited for my mouth and tongue to go numb. She used to be a swimmer at school, and mentioned one race where she had to do the breast stroke for two laps of the pool, and thought her lungs were going to burst. She did it though. I saw a bit of sadness there. I talked about my storied football career – just one year, in Grade 9, when I was on the third string of the bantam team. I never got into a game. I also told Bonnie how I love cycling, and how I’m just getting back to it after stopping everything when Jody got sick. This was fun, two new friends chatting about life – until my mouth became inoperative.
I was safe, and felt that way throughout the two hours, with the possible exception of Paolo using his grinder on me. That didn’t hurt – just lots of pressure and a burnt smell. Melissa was the person responsible for inserting the white fillings, and she and Bonnie often had their gloved fingers in my mouth at the same time. That felt good, as did their friendly talk. Sometimes I looked up at the overhead TV. A woman named Katie was hosting a show. Her next segment was on mindfulness, a subject dear to my heart. My eyes opened wide when I saw that one of her guests was Sharon Salzberg. She’s one of the co-founders of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, where I’ve attended three meditation retreats. So I had another friend while in the dental chair. Nice.
Part way through Melissa’s work, with those ever present fingers touching me, I shut my eyes and meditated. So quiet. Mall, what mall?
After the whole show was wrapped up, I said goodbye to Bonnie at the reception desk. She’s on vacation next week … thinks she’ll go for a swim. Think I’ll go for a ride. Twin smiles.