In modern America, we take for granted a lot of things that are really weird, if you stop to think about them.
I was reflecting on this the other day when I was lying flat on my back and some perfect stranger wearing a white suit, rubber gloves, and a surgical mask had her hands in my mouth. She was scraping away at my teeth with a collection of sharp implements that could have come from the torture museum we saw at San Gimighiano, and she alternately hectored me about my flossing, gabbed about her family and vacation plans, and curtly instructed to move my head up and down and open my mouth still wider. At one point, as I sat with the flexible clear plastic suck tube perched on my lower teeth while the hygienist peered inside my mouth with mirror and drill, I realized I must have looked like a car whose engine is being worked on by a mechanic, with one of those hang lights dangling from the underside of the open hood and various tools perched near the carburetor.
Going to the dentist is pretty embarrassing and risky too, when you think about it. We lean back, defenseless and blinded by the glare of the fluorescent light inches away from our eyeballs, and put ourselves at the mercy of the woman with the dental hygienist certificate. Does any other aspect of modern society require us to routinely assume such a submissive and undignified posture and meekly accept the constant lectures, pokes, and proddings? What do we really know about these chatty and judgmental ladies, and why do we think they won’t snap after putting their hands into the tenth slimy and smelly mouth of the day and plung one of the sharp scrapers into our exposed jugular vein as we lie helpless and exposed?