It’s not just because I am Jewish, but I am used to being blamed for most everything.
I can’t even pass by a sobbing woman without feeling responsible. I mean, after all, Jewish mothers invented guilt. Like Mary, who constantly begged her Jesus to go to medical school if he wanted to be such a big-shot healer. Otherwise, squawked the other Jewish mothers around the water hole: Show me a Jewish boy who doesn’t go to medical school, and I’ll show you a dentist.
Which brings me to the University of Pennsylvania Dental School — again. And I probably should be laughing. Like at many of my inane life situations where they end up directing more than their middle fingers at me.
After 4 visits I have yet to even get my teeth cleaned. Not to mention the other stuff I already anointed in my September 12, 2012 essay entitled: ‘The ultimate cure for pain and suffering is death. But short of that we go to the dentist…”
On my third visit the other week, this Americanized student from Missouri, — but reared in India until age 5 — got around to telling me about a big test tomorrow she should be studying for today. Then there was her new boyfriend, a Saudi, also in the dental school. About which I advised her to forget the relationship, but keep the sex.
Meanwhile, she never got around to doing what she absolutely promised to do in our several e-mail exchanges. Then promised – again – to get directly on the next time.
Which was last week. I had cleared my-days-are-numbered calendar for two hours, and arrived 45 minutes early. After the numerous other 1 PM odd assortment of patients were taken, on time, by their students of various nationalities, I remained the lone agitated pacer, mumbling to myself – for 45 tempestuous minutes.
I know, I know…. Patience is a virtue. But the only Patience I ever knew was that beauty in Bangkok who overstretched the seams in my jeans. And whadda pair of virtues on dat gorgeous hunk of pulchritude. I didn’t mind her coming late, later, or all…night…long!!!
Hmm…Today I’d need a whole feedbag of Viagra.
Anyway, I started making noises to and fro. And they weren’t the pleasant sounds of Patience and moi. Eventually Krupa, my student future-dental-doc rocked in and tried to do the “I am sorry, but…”
And I, perhaps a tad too stridently, cranked out one of my dear ol’ bourbon sippin’ Pappy’s exasperated retorts that he blew at me even when he wasn’t puffing on his omniscient corn cob pipe:
“There are too many sorry people in the world, kid. Instead of just being one more, change whatever made you a sorry SOB in the first place!”
Her tight, round face furrowed. She iterated that for some reason I had come up red instead of blue on the computer. And she weren’t talking ‘bout no alien mental states of republicans and democrats.
That meant I wasn’t there. Right where I was standing. For 90 minutes. And that’s after I had checked in and been handed my computerized mandated-for-all-patients orders of to-do or be excommunicated directives. They hail from the front desk folks who look as if they would rather be anywhere other than looking at moi.
Hmm…. You know sometimes even I have my doubts about whether I am neither here nor there. Coming or going. Staying or leaving. It must be something sociopathic. Seasoned with over-circumcised Freudian anxiety. Perhaps related to all those goodbyes I warbled to my exes: “I’m no good…I’m no good…I’m no good…Baby, I’m no good…”
Particularly with corporate and bureaucratic platitudes, clichès, banalities… and all the other B-S. It sends me lurching for my elephant gun.
I put it to her straight: I don’t care if the Mayan calendar ends all future trading on Wall Street. Just get something done, FINALLY, before another Bush is back in the White House. And let’s drop the patronizing formality. I ain’t here to sue. Or abuse. I’m just here for the services: Clean, gleam and put a new sheen on the old biting machine.
She excused herself to walk thru a door into another office for a minute. She didn’t say what for. To eat lunch? Or study for another test? Or consult her future-Saudi-toothache? Whatever. All I knew is that for 25 more minutes my mental tornado could have blown Hurricane Sandy into a whimpering seabreeze.
When she returned she was accompanied by her school manager – a smiling, overly polite Nurse Ratchet. She wanted to know if I had responded to the automated phone call I had undoubtedly received a few days before. Or just simply hung up. It was apparently a touchy-feely appointment reminder.
I said I didn’t remember. But noted that if it was anything as unhelpful and maddening as the Voice Mail for the Penn Dental School it’s no wonder Moses ran screaming into the desert for 40 years.
She squeezed one of those patented patient smiles between pancaked cheeks. “That’s what probably caused this problem,” she said as if it didn’t come as any surprise.
Immediately two perverse issues went goose-stepping thru my cerebral lightning storm powerful enough to make shoes out of every gator in Louisiana.
One: Why is it, I asked her, that it is already sounding like it’s my bloody fault?! Why am I being blamed for a bureaucratic, corporate incompetence? A mistake in the system.
And two: Since you readily identified the problem, I am obviously not the first of many, many, others that this has happened to. It ain’t the first time! So, why haven’t you bureaucrats promptly fixed the problem, instead of smugly fixing the blame!
Sounds just like double-talking Washington, D.C. and all the other governmental, corporate and legal pettifoggery, don’t it?! Vagary. Miscommunication. Faulty, confusing, and downright inept messaging. Bureaucrats who don’t care that the rest of us get lost, frustrated and outraged at being sucked into the black hole of their cyberspace. The non-speak and misspeak by oxymorons who get overpaid, plus benefits, NOT to do their job right or wrong. Then they slither back into the fog.
And they wonder why we go Postal?!
At that, Nurse Ratchet, whose name is Regina, asked me to continue the conversation in her office.
“What?” I asked. “Am I being called into the principal’s office?”
Regina was concerned. Remember, Mr. Strunk, they are only students. This scares them. They are young.
Aww…such a waste of youth.
Why is it, I wondered out loudly, that 18-year-olds with barely a high school education are demanded and expected to handle life and death, no-escape, dire military situations after only 8 weeks of training?
But if you merely gaze disapprovingly at 24-year-old dental students with nearly 8 years of elite higher education they go crying boo-hoo to their program managers.
Hmm… Me thinks there is more than emotional arrest here. Obviously there are times when right-brained intelligence is highly overrated. And not only those times you are suppose to figure out, thru simple deductive reasoning, whether to wipe your finger or your ass with the Army’s single-sheet of k-rationed toilet paper.
Indeed, we should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no coordinated personality. If intelligence is the ability to adjust to change then some of our future-cocky-docs would seem to be a tad overly maladjusted. That’s what they need to put in some serious overtime drilling on. In dental schools. As well as long before.
In other words, turn them into humans, in addition to overpaid dentists.
And all this time I thought an intelligent person is one who is never afraid or ashamed to find errors in his understanding of things.
I know I don’t…
But of course.
At that, Regina postured another one of those sour-puss, squeezed smiles and suggested that maybe I may not be best suited for the Penn program.
“Then neither are more than just a few basket cases of your students,” I said, just as poignantly.” The problem is not in my bathroom mirror.”
Hmm… Now, why am I paying for this disservice?
At first I thought it just seemed like an interesting story adventure. But obviously another great adventure has turned into another damn job.
Finally, Regina exhaled. She promised to get me another student.
By the end of the week.
“It’ll be good for both our dental health,” I noted, with an amused smirk.
And true to her word, my third – or is it fourth? Or fifth? – future-dental-doc with a deep accent rang the bell on my cell.
“When can you come in, Mr. Strunk? The sooner the better.”
I provided three immediate days of option. He said he could not do any of them. So, as well acquainted as I am with this dominance game of pissing on farts, I said to Mohammed: “Let’s change roles. You pick a day. And I will l have my camel ready.”
At that a day and time was put on the books.
Oy-vey-iz-mir. If life ain’t one toothache, it’s his meshugehnah mother.
And dats yDrewIS on DIS penal colony…