Living the Questions
a listicle for the dental-doomed or damned
This would all work best if you could enlarge the photo and scrutinize the variety of signs that adorned the office of a Tarzana dental office that I recently visited with Sophie. It would serve as introduction. Don’t let the glitter heart fool you as it provided no respite from the relentless negativity that greeted the forlorn. Don’t think, either, that I am being hyperbolic as I recount the tale which, faithful Reader, you will have grown accustomed to hearing if you are a citizen of this country and even the tiniest bit aware of the grave inequities in our Medical-Industrial Complex colliding with Disability and Indigency. My own recountings might have reduced you into a near blessed catatonic state, perhaps only relieved, here and there, by a bit of levity. I, too, am comforted by the grace of absurdity, by the way such a sense reaches the darkest recesses of my mind and ultimately my heart, thus relieving it of the ordinary hatchet rift.
The same stream of life that runs through the world runs through my veins Rabindrinath Tagore
In lieu of spinning, I shall write here the questions my tiny little mother mind™ relentlessly posed as I sat with Sophie in a godforsaken office in the hinterlands of Los Angeles. As backdrop, Part One was a visit to a dentist on the West Side that I wrote about earlier in this virtual space that ended up being, if not as negative, at least as absurd. Know that my ability to self-scrutinize is intact, so I naturally shun your creative suggestions about my own attitude. I am exquisitely aware and have appropriately taken measures, including self-flagellation and a fixed stare at the ceiling for hours at a time from a reclining position on my bed.
I try not to burn bridges, as They say, but this is a funnel, Danteish, and there’s nowhere to go but round and round and down.
Have we asked for this?
Is there truth to the self-fulfilling prophecy?
Why have I never bought into the manifestation thing and is this the reason why I am here? This would apply to faith, too, I imagine.
I do not have a good feeling but perhaps I should fake it until we make it?
Will Sophie’s teeth rot in sync with the healthcare system for the disabled?
Why must I drive over an hour to Tarzana to a dentist office, one of the only that treats persons with disabilities?
Why are there so few dentists that treat disabled persons in a city of 8 million?
Why does Tarzana exist?
Why are the walls painted dark brown?
Why are the chairs black?
Why are the places for those differently abled so bleak?
Why are the places for those without money and on state-sponsored healthcare programs so bleak?
Why does money buy both superficial beauty and the illusion of care?
How will I keep doing this?
Why are the messages of hope affixed to foam-board from Michael’s craft store hung so high?
Why am I such a snob?
Why am I so fortunate to have Sophie, full of grace, always?
Why is the art so hideous?
Why is it hung so low, only two inches from the ceiling?
Why is it so hot in here?
Does anyone care?
Why is the name of this place a play on the word “sun”?
Why is the frosted glass door shielding the office broken enough that it warrants a sign that says “PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH THE WINDOW. IT’S BROKEN THANK YOU” and underneath, FOR YOUR SAFETY AND OURS, PLEASE DO NOT OPEN THE WINDOW OR TAP ON THE WINDOW PLEASE HAVE A SEAT WE WILL BE WITH YOU SOON,” both encased in plastic which leads the tiny little mother mind™ to think it’s been some time since the window broke and perhaps there’s no money and the place is going to be not clean and other catastrophic thoughts including a visualization of the window caving in when someone taps it? The mind wanders when sitting in a waiting room and shadowy shapes and muffled voices are only hinted at. Where everything is happening, unfolding as it always has but nothing is real.
Why are all the signs so negative? NO TALKING ON YOUR CELL PHONE, NO SMOKING (is this because Tarzana still allows smoking in medical places or exists in a time warp?), WE DO NOT VALIDATE PARKING (see more on this later), NO EATING OR DRINKING and perhaps the weirdest of all WE RESERVE THE RIGHT TO REFUSE SERVICE TO ANYONE. (see question 25)
Is this a restaurant? Are we waiting for a table, Sophie and I? Teeth and mouths are involved. Do dental patients forget shirts and shoes, sometimes? Or have they experienced violence from the patients? My mind, again, wanders toward thoughts of the violence perhaps incited by such a negative setting. The ugliness. The lack of care. The sad little sequined hearts sprinkled around, in odd places. By the waiting (we are still waiting). By the wrangling.
Why, when the first human emerges after twenty minutes, interrupting the tiny little mother mind™ spinning, spinning, spinning does she give me forms to fill out when I was instructed to bring in all the information that the forms demand and that I handed her from the wheelbarrow I’d pulled in behind the wheelchair I was pushing?
Where did she disappear to and how much longer will we wait?
Why does the second human that emerges, 20 minutes after that, to retrieve the forms that I’m filling out, proceed to lecture me about Sophie’s MediCal, private health insurance, Dental Do and Dental Damn and check this and cross out that? A fellow sojourner, grasping the hand of a middle-aged woman with Down Syndrome and stepping out of a mountain of papers that figuratively surround her, raises her eyebrows in a show of solidarity. When she is escorted through the black door, I feel desolate.
Why are we still waiting, one hour later?
Why is the third human, quite nice, actually, asking me so many questions about Sophie’s medical history despite the fact that she has it, physically even, in her hands, in addition to the wheelbarrow previously described that the first human brought to the back, behind the frosted window (broken) and door?
I’ll take this information to the back, she says and disappears. Where?
Why am I waiting, again, my eyes dulled by the frosted broken window and the shadowed forms behind it?
Is Sophie hungry? I was told that this “consultation” would take 15 minutes to a half hour or so, but it’s now been over an hour, and we haven’t seen a dentist yet.
At the stroke before the half hour, approximately one and a half hours after our appointment time, the third human reappears and walks toward me and Sophie. Why does she say, first thing, Please don’t shoot the messenger? I ask this question only because it’s beyond my tiny little mother mind™ to comprehend how this person doesn’t see the wreck standing before her, the obvious inertia and inability to carry a weapon, much less to wield one, given the hatchet so purely embedded in the heart that its edges and the body’s are one.
Why did she tell me that because of your daughter’s seizure disorder, the dentist is unable to see her but recommends a hospital setting and here are your options and one of them is in Loma Linda?
Why did no one tell me this when I made the appointment over a month ago?
Loma Linda? is a question unto itself.
Why was I struck speechless?
To break it down further, why did They not disclose that they are unable to work with a person with a seizure disorder on the first telephone call, when the appointment was made and when her diagnosis would have been clearly given over the phone?
How did I back the wheelchair out of the room, through the door and back down the elevator and into the parking garage?
Why did Sophie and I never actually see a dentist?
Why did I not have cash to pay the parking attendant after he pointed to the teeny tiny lettering that said CASH ONLY and that I hadn’t seen when I came in because I came in a different entrance and parked in a handicapped space? (See question 23)
Why did the parking attendant tell me that I needed to go to a bank to get the $6.25 I needed to pay and wasn’t moved by my stricken face nor the young woman in the wheelchair accompanying me?
Why did he gesture lazily out there for the general direction of the bank?
Why did I protest that I couldn’t possibly walk to the bank with her in the wheelchair because I didn’t know the area?
Why did he tell me that I should drive and come back?
Why did I load Sophie up into the Kia Soul nearly two hours after we’d arrived in Tarzana yet, and I repeat the question, never saw a dentist?
Will Sophie ever get her teeth cleaned again? It’s been over two years now that her old dentist moved out of the state.
Should I go on Youtube and learn how to deep clean her teeth myself?
Should I feel bad that I peeled out of there, out of the garage at the dentist’s office in Tarzana and headed for the 101 and home, not stopping at a bank, not stopping back at the parking garage to pay the attendant, not stopping my racing mind and its disappointed expectations, not stopping, really, for anything other than a nod to Sophie and a silent plea that she hang on and with me?