Entry 1: Journal of a changed hygienist

March 21, 2012

4:30 a.m.

4:30 a.m.

It’s pitch black outside. The birds aren’t even chirping yet. I think they’re mocking me in their sleep.  I know your game, birds. Are you familiar with early bird gets the worm?  Remember that one, huh?  No?  See who the victor is?  I am. You birds wanna piece o’ me?  I got up before you did.  I’m employed-ha!  Take that, birds… Man, I need some coffee.

5:30 a.m.

“Did you get your lunch?” Erik is such a sweetheart.
“I did.”
“Do you have your phone with you?”  
“I do.”
“Got your umbrella?”
“I got it.”
“You better get going, honey.”
“I will.  I’ll call ya later.”
I had to peek into Syd’s room. Couldn’t see her but I heard her snoring.  “See ya, bug.”

6:30 a.m.

Man. I’m nervous. Seems like I haven’t performed a prophylaxis in years.  Mercifully, it’s only been three months.  I hope the staff and the doctors are cool. I hope the instruments are sharp. I really hope their ultrasonic is operational.

7:00 a.m.

“Eva, your first patient just called and said she’s running about 10 minutes late.”

7:12 a.m. to 7:14 a.m.

Okay, first patient. Please show up now. I have 20 minutes to scale your teeth, so arriving now would be awesome. This is not the great start I was hoping for so arriving for your appointment right now would be wonderful so please show up because the dentist expects me to see you and this is my first day back after being unemployed and I need to make a great impression and I want to keep this job so please, please walk through the door now… now… now would be good.

“Hey, Eva.  Your patient just called and said she’s not coming.”

#$%@#! 

12:05 p.m.

“What’s your name again?”  
“Eva.”
“Eva.  Eeeee-vaaahh.  Like Eva Peron!”
“Yeah, sort of.  I think her name was pronounced Ava.”

“But she spelled her name E-V-A.”
“She did.”
“How do you spell your name?”
“E-V-A.”
“Do people call you Ava?  Like ay-vah?”
“All the time.”
“Do you tell people it’s Eeeevaah?”
“I sure do.  So how are your teeth doing, sir?”
“How are my teeth doing?  My teeth are in my mouth, ya know?”
“Well, that’s a good start.  Do you feel any pain or-“
“What’s your middle name?  I bet your middle name is Marie.”
“Wow.  It is Marie.  Are you psychic?”
“Psychic?  Nah, I’m not a psychic.  I just knew Marie was your middle name, see.”
“Wow, that’s impressive.  So you’re not experiencing any acute pain or sensitivity on-“
“Do you know who Eva Marie Saint was?”

Please, stop talking and let me do my thing. I really want to scale your teeth now.

“I sure do. She was an actress. Okay, I’m going to lean you on back so I can take a look.”

“That’s right!  She was in that picture with, uhhh, Cary Grant… what’s the name of that stupid picture-North By Northwest!  That was a great picture.  Hitchcock picture.  Did you see that picture?”

“I did.  Great film.  Go ahead and open for me.”

“Hey, did ya see that picture, what was that-Psycho!  Oh, Psycho. Did ya see that Psycho picture?”

OH GOD, PLEASE STOP TALKING!  FOR THE LOVE OF PETE, PLEASE STOP!

“I did.  Great picture.  Okay, open really big.  I’m going to use lots of water to clean your teeth.  Stay open really big.”

“Water?  Whaddya mean you’re gonna use water?”

4:00 p.m.

“Are you new here?”

If this patient scowls at me any more I’m going to have to recommend a jowl lift.

“I am.  I’ll be treating patients every Wednesday.  I’m Eva.”  Mrs. Scowly didn’t hold back one bit.

“I don’t know if you’ve read my chart yet but my teeth are VERY sensitive.  I don’t like that pressure wash thing you have, that thing that shoots out water.  I don’t like that.”

I was going to correct her but thought better of it.  She can call it anything she wants.

“That’s not a problem. I’ll use my hand instruments.  Anytime I feel build-up I’ll let you know I’ll place a bit more pressure on your teeth to remove it.”

Wow. No eye contact.  That didn’t seem to make a difference at all… and I was so charming.

“Fine.”  She still wouldn’t look at me.

Oh, you like coming to the dentist, don’t you?  You love it.  Yes, you do, Mrs. Scowly-Jowly.

“And I don’t like that mint polish you use.  What else do you have?”

Now, now I’m going to rock her hygiene world for good.

“I have Pina Colada.  I remember patients liking this flavor.  Let’s give it a try.”

“Fine."

She still didn’t make any eye contact with me when she spoke.  Her voice was so stern and curt.  I’m so bloody sensitive.  Focus woman.

4:45 p.m.

“Your gums look good.  I like the fact you’re using an electric toothbrush.  You have a great smile.  Really.  You should smile more.”  Mrs. Scowly-Jowly got a tissue from her purse.  She started crying.

“I’m sorry for being so difficult.  I hate coming to the dentist.  I had a very bad experience as a child and I never got over it.  You were very nice.  Very thorough! Thank you for being so nice."

She hugged me.  Her hug felt like a grandma hug.  It was lovely.

“You’re very welcome.”  I heard my patient setting up her six-month recall appointment at the reception desk.  She requested I see her.

I’m sorry for making fun of you.
I’m sorry for calling you Mrs. Scowly-Jowly.
Thank you for wanting to see me again.
Thank you for trusting me.

7:15 p.m.

“I think I may have changed somebody’s life today.”

But this patient changed mine more.

“Do you like being a hygienist again?”  I love when Erik smiles that way.

“Yeah, I do.”

“Thanks for waking up so early, love.”

“You’re welcome, husband."

“And for working again.”

“You’re welcome, honey… time to buy my Victoria’s Secret underpants again! Whoo hoo!”

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