Before I came to the U.S., I had extensive work done on my gums. You heard right. Gums. By and large, they had taken over my teeth and as all colonizing efforts go, the process had involved a fair amount of pain and bloodshed. I decided that I had to fight for dental freedom before I left my country, since I had heard horror stories about the American health care system and medical insurance. Accordingly, I went into a dental hospital with the intent of getting my gums to retrench and as all de-colonizing efforts go, this also involved a fair amount of pain and bloodshed.
In the U.S., graduate school dental insurance meant that dental hygienists saw fit to wade into my battle to stay free of nefarious gum expansion. Every three or four months, we’d convene a summit to examine any inroads made by the defeated but cunning foe and go after them with electric stainless-steel sabers. When the graduate insurance gave way to regular insurance, the summits were convened less frequently and I fought the battle alone for months at a time, often watching entire segments of sitcoms while putting a toothbrush to work in the evenings.
Moving to New York meant finding new allies in the unceasing effort to stay sovereign and free of gum encroachment; starting a new job meant poring through insurance manuals and picking a plan, including a separate one for dental coverage (and a specific dentist). Since I didn’t know anyone who lived in the vicinity who might recommend a dentist, I went by proximity to my home address and picked a Dr. Gothelf from the list of approved providers. But it wasn’t until last week (and some decided rumbles from new troops of gums that had gathered over the last 10 months) that I finally called and arranged for a new summit.
Today was the date. I went over to the dentist’s office, gave my insurance card to the front desk staffer, filled out a medical history form, and then sat in the reception area and twiddled my thumbs for 40 minutes. On being called, I thought we’d finally get down to brass tacks but it was just to take X-rays of my teeth. I came back out, and twiddled my thumbs for another 40 minutes, paging through Time Out! New York and trying to tune out a live press conference on NY1 about the Brooklyn Nets? Jets? Clowns? (or something along those lines).
Once I went in, it was fairly anti-climactic. The doctor was pleasant enough, and then waded into the gum wars with the brusque matter-of-factness of an old diplomat who has seen it all and knows how to make quarreling parties keep calm and carry on. It took him about 10 minutes. Unlike my old hygienist, he gave no samples of armaments to continue the battle for the next six months, just philosophical advice on how not to give in and what sorts of armaments are ideal to use in this situation.
I stopped by a grocery store on the way home and bought a bag of potato chips.