The humble Farmer: For a storyteller, even the dentist is something to look forward to

Life is not fair. Many people have built barns that were carried away by violent storms just a few months later.

We recently experienced a similar injustice very close to our home. We knew it was coming. For weeks the DOT people were out on the road between Port Clyde and Thomaston, measuring, marking, scraping back the weeds and prepping the crumbled bicycle shoulders. And yesterday the road resurfacing crew went by our driveway with their big machines and put down a half-inch of hot top.

You can understand that they covered the dozens of black tire marks children have made on the road with their monster trucks over the past year. Each one is a proud personal signature that will have to be restored at a great cost in effort and tire tread.

Can you imagine how Michelangelo would have felt if someone had put whitewash over the Volta della Cappella Sistina?

The coronavirus is not fair. For over six months it has kept me from entering stores. Luckily, we can park at the grocery store and a helper brings out the pre-ordered items and stashes them in the trunk of the car. Lately I have found that if I stand just outside the door of the hardware store and fondle my credit card, a helpful soul will come out and take my order for paint or a gasket for my flush toilet.

Have you found that you are getting lax? Do you find that you now bring groceries and mail into the house without immediately washing your hands? Do you find that you religiously wear your mask everywhere, but automatically pull it down when you speak? Does it annoy you when your friends do it?

I weakened to the point where I finally dared make appointments at medical facilities where I was poked and prodded numerous times in private places.

There was no great pressure to have my biannual cleaning at the dentist, however, so I missed one this spring. But months ago my wife, Marsha, The Almost Perfect Woman, signed us up for a visit in September and the day, once so far in the future, finally came.

We were in chairs in contiguous rooms. Over 20 years ago the hygienist’s brilliant children were Marsha’s students, who had since done many wonderful things. There was obviously much catching up to do and for a good hour the steady hum of voices reached us from the next room. How the woman managed to clean my wife’s teeth when she never stopped talking is a testimony to some mysterious symbiotic skill.

Over 50 years ago my learned neighbor, Albert Smally, told me that he once saw two women standing, toe to toe, both talking at the same time without either one ever seeming to draw a breath. As remarkable as that might be, I might boast that Marsha’s ability to talk with two metal scrapers and a suction tube in her mouth tops it.

Time spent in the dentist’s chair is not wasted. For me it is an opportunity to listen and learn. Everyone has a story, and before I lean back in the chair I make it very clear that I want to hear it. Yes. Talk while you are working. Tell me about your hobbies or your children.

You know that medical offices are usually as cold as a Port Clyde bait shed in March, so I dress for it. Warm home-knitted mittens are de rigueur, as is my snowmobile suit, and, dressed like that, I can close my eyes in comfort and stretch out and listen for an hour.

Very often I ask people to tell me about the worst customer they ever had. I want to know what that person did that made them so bad. Don’t think I’m a negative person, because in the next breath I might ask to hear about the nicest customer they ever had. As long as I get an interesting story I can pass along to you, it’s all one.

When I asked the hygienist to tell me about the most horrible thing she’d ever seen, she sighed. She’d been cleaning teeth for 38 years. When she came out of dental hygienist school she was 19 and had never worked in a dentist’s office. Her first customer was a woman who had a new upper plate that she hadn’t dared to take out for six months. Removing it was the young hygienist’s first job.

I made a gurgling sound. She took the metal thing out of my mouth and I said, “If it’s OK with you, I don’t want to hear the rest of the story.”

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:

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