Thursday, January 16, 2014

I’d Like to Thank the Academy for Getting Me Through My Dental Cleaning

Today I had a dental cleaning—one of life’s many necessary evils. Indeed, it is one of the more evil of the necessary evils. The thing that makes them particularly heinous to me is the fact that the dental hygienist is in close proximity to various numbing agents, but it never seems to occur to her to use them. Maybe she figures that the discomfort she inflicts by digging under my gums with metal scraping instruments is the kind of thing a strapping adult male like me should easily tolerate. Or perhaps she figures that the overt pleasantness she exudes during the procedure should itself act like an anesthetic upon my throbbing mouth. Well, in either case she’d be wrong. She cleans while I suffer.

Over the years, though, I’ve developed a pretty solid method for at least tolerating my dental cleanings without crying like a babe fresh out of the womb. To take my mind off the violence going on inside my oral orifice, I concentrate extremely hard on one of two things—Scrabble or the Oscars. If it’s a Scrabble dental cleaning day, I think about what club and tournament players call “bingo stems.” That’s a series of six common letters that, when combined with another letter, can get you a seven letter word and a 50-point bonus. So, for example, the bingo stem “SATINE” when combined with an A gets you ENTASIA or TAENIAS. I’ll mentally go through the whole alphabet trying to remember every seven letter word you can get from “SATINE” and once done I’ll move on to “SATIRE,” and so on. Usually, by the time I get to the bingo stem “STONER” it’s time to rinse and spit, and my agony is over.

Today, however, knowing that the Academy Award nominees would be announced, I decided to make it one of my Oscar dental cleaning days. I start with the year I was born—1969—and go through year by year up to the present, trying to remember what won the Oscar for Best Picture. So when the scraping of my bottom back molars began I instantly thought, “1969 – Midnight Cowboy. Great movie. Gritty—just like my teeth are starting to get from the scraping.” For the next 15 minutes I continued my personal coping strategy…

1970 – Patton. Guess it was okay but kind of (Ouch! That was a nerve!) overrated.
1971 – The French Connection. At one point Gene Hackman drives past my high school in the famous chase scene. Cool!
1972 – The Godfather. I bet if my dental hygienist touched Don Corleone this way she’d end up sleeping with the fishes.
1973 – The Sting. Yup, felt the sting on my lateral incisor just now.
1974 – The Godfather Part II. Great movie, but I still can’t understand how anyone thinks it’s better than the first one.
1975 – One Flew Over the (Owwww! You caught my lip!) Cuckoo’s Nest. What I wouldn’t give for some of the sedatives McMurphy took right about now.
1976 – Rocky. The first one of the best pictures I saw in the theater. By round 15, Balboa’s mouth was only slightly bloodier than mine is at the moment.
1977 – Annie Hall. Woody at his finest. I bet he thinks about baseball during dental cleanings.
1978 – The Deer Hunter. I can’t believe I still haven’t gotten around to (Yikes! Watch it with that thing, it’s sharp!) seeing it.
1979 – Kramer vs. Kramer. The first year I remember watching the Oscars. Rooted for Dustin Hoffman to win Best Actor and was ecstatic when he did! I was not like other kids my age.
1980 – Ordinary People. I know everyone thinks Raging Bull got robbed, but I still prefer Ordinary People.
1981 – Chariots of Fire. One of my favorite (Ahhh! Another nerve!!) movies of all time.
1982 – Gandhi. Okay, this time I was like normal kids and rooted for E.T. I wonder what dental cleanings are like on his planet.
1983 – Terms of Endearment. Give me the shot! GIVE ME THE SHOT!
1984 – Amadeus. Another one of my favorites. What the hell ever happened to Tom Hulce?
1985 – Out of Africa. What a snooze-fest. I’d rather have another dental cleaning than see that dreck agaAAAAAAAHHHHH. Okay, maybe not.
1986 – Platoon. Very good movie—remember almost nothing about it.
1987 – The Last Emperor. Another one I need to see…when I have three hours to kill.
1988 – Rain Man. Another Dustin (Whoa! Here she goes with that sucky thingy!) Hoffman classic.
1989 – Driving Miss Daisy. Tough to know what was slower moving—Miss Daisy’s car or the movie.
1990 – Dances With Wolves. All I can think about are canine teeth! Canine teeth! Please get off my canine teeth!
1991 – Silence of the Lambs. Hannibal Lecter would be (Aaaargggghh!) enjoying himself about now.
1992 – Unforgiven. I thought I didn’t like westerns. I thought I didn’t like Clint Eastwood. So how come I liked this movie so much?
1993 – Schindler’s List. Great movie but I can never (Aaack! That’ll leave a mark!) think of it without picturing Jerry Seinfeld and his girlfriend making out in the theater.
1994 – Forrest Gump. Run, Forrest, run! As far away from the dentist’s office as you can!
1995 – Braveheart. Not feeling very brave right now.
1996 – The English Patient. I always get the sense that I’m the only person under the age of 70 who actually liked this movie.
1997 – Titanic. Never saw it. Never will. “And Iiiiiy-iiiiiiiy-iiiii am in lots of pain!”
1998 – Shakespeare in Love. Great movie. So was Saving Private Ryan. But I like Shakespeare in Love more. So there!
1999 – American Beauty. Same year as American Pie. Tough to get those two confused.
2000 – Gladiator. Can’t help but think, “Joey, do you like movies about Gladiators?”
2001 – A Beautiful Mind. Two years in a row for Russell Crowe! Who’d of thunk a movie about a mathematician could be (Gaaaaaahhh!!! Seriously??? I thought you already got that tooth!) so fascinating.
2002 – Chicago. It was entertaining, but Best Picture? Really, people? Really?
2003 – Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. This cleaning is starting to feel as long as the entire trilogy.
2004 – Million Dollar Baby. Clint Eastwood again. I thought I didn’t like him, but he keeps on proving me wrong.
2006 – The Departed. Far from Scorsese’s best, but at least he finally got the damn thing.
2007 – No Country for Old Men. Far from the Coen Brother’s best, but at least they finally got the damn thing.
2008 – Slumdog Millionaire. I remember that advanced screening I got to go to with Danny Boyle taking questions afterwards. That was a cool (Aaaahhhh! Be done already, you vile woman!) experience.
2009 – The Hurt Locker. No movie title could possibly describe my mouth better right now than this one.
2010 – The King’s Speech. Another one I haven’t seen. Maybe I’ll skip my next dental cleaning and watch this movie instead.
2011 – The Artist. A silent movie winning Best Picture in 2011!!!! Can it get any cooler than that???
2012 – Argo. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggooooo!

And suddenly I ran out of years, but the hygienist still had two teeth left to work on. Crap! I had nothing to distract me from the next 90 seconds of pain and misery. Well, maybe if I start memorizing Golden Globe winners I’ll be ready for my next cleaning.