Getting My Wisdom Removed:
A Sort of Halloween Horror Story
They’re called wisdom teeth because they emerge when we reach adulthood (late teens to early 20s) and are now officially “wise.” Yeah, right. How many wise 18-year-olds do you know? How many wise any-year-olds do you know?
Here’s my theory: Things go wrong. And wisdom teeth, which nearly always go wrong, are called “wisdom teeth” because they remind us that some of the decisions we make will become “impacted” (toxic relationships, cell phone contracts) and will need to be yanked out by the roots.
And it’s gonna hurt.
My first wisdom tooth showed up when I was 18. The dentist had shoulder length hair and played acid rock while extracting errant teeth. But, damn, he was good. “That was easy!” I remarked. Dr. Feelgood smiled, handed me a packet of painkillers, and said, “You probably won’t need these, but take ‘em anyway. They’re groovy.”
Wisdom tooth #2 showed up eight years later. (What had it been doing all this time?) I was in grad school and had free dental coverage. “Cool!” No, not cool. Because the free coverage amounted to being practiced on by a student dentist from Transylvania. “Oh, thees ees a bad one!” Dr. Eyegore said. And then, in order to break the tooth into manageable pieces, he pulled out a fiendish little jackhammer. Almost immediately, he slipped and put a hole in my cheek the size of Lake Michigan. “Oooops!” he said with a grotesque giggle. 2 ½ hours and fourteen Novocain injections later, he removed the last archeological fragment.
The pharmacist refused to give me morphine. For three days I begged my girlfriend to kill me.
#3 and #4 showed up when I was a married. They recommended pulling both teeth out at the same time. “No, no, no!” I begged. “Well, it will cost a little more, but we can give you Twilight Sleep (morphine),” the dentist said. “Yes, yes, yes!” I screamed. I offered both of my children as payment.
They put a diving mask on my face and said, “Count down from 100.” I began counting: “100, 99, 98, 97, 96…” Then I saw the dentist leaning in. “Nah, naht yeht, I not unner yeht,” I mumbled. “We’re done,” the doctor replied. An hour and a half had passed.
He’d removed the last of my wisdom teeth. Along with my brain. My wife followed me as I wandered through the pharmacy like a lost toddler. “He had his wisdom removed,” she explained to gawkers. And just as well.
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