Root Canal Or Phil Collins?

August 10, 2001

"I am your dentist and I enjoy the career that I picked, I am your dentist and I get off on the pain I inflict!"
–Alan Menken and Howard Ashman

It’s been said that a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work. Actually that phrase has been used frequently and appeared on bumper stickers with variations indicating that a bad day doing almost any kind of leisure activity is better than a good day working. I thought about this the other day while at the dentist’s. A bad day fishing may be better than a bad day at work, but a really, really, really bad day at work is better than any time at the dentist.

I think about a lot of things in the dentist’s chair. It’s a trick I learned from watching documentaries about how spies deal with torture, although I can assure you that if anyone ever wanted to torture me, all they’d have to do is lean me back in one of those chairs, pull out an eighteen-inch needle full of novacaine, and tell me to open wide. Playing that awful muzak in the background would cause anyone to crack like a porcelain vase in a vice. Muzak, not to be confused with music, is defined thusly by the Oxford English Dictionary: "A form of audio torture derived by taking songs that aren’t that great to begin with and making them even worse. The use of Muzak was banned by the United Nations in 1989 after Tamil rebels forced prisoners to listen to Phil Collins’s ‘Groovy Kind of Love’ played on an organ and an oboe."

Organs were something else I thought about while in the chair–the bodily kind, not the musical ones. Did you know that teeth are organs? That made me think it was pretty weird for dentists to poke around in them. It would be sort of like having the doctor poke around in my liver and say things like, "Been going a bit heavy on the whisky lately, haven’t we?"

Fortunately I just had a standard cleaning so my dentist finished before I could put myself into complete hysteria. When she was done, she said, "So, how have you been?" I said, "Good, considering I’ve eaten nothing but rock candy and lemonade for the past six months." Here’s the amazing part: she laughed. I actually made my dentist laugh. Despite all the cruel things dentists have done to me in the past, and despite all the cruel things I’ve said about dentists, it’s nice to know that some of them are regular people doing a job.

And I’ve got to admit that modern dental practices are a huge improvement over the not so distant past when dealing with a cavity meant ripping out all of a person’s teeth–without anaesthetic–and putting in false ones made of ivory, porcelain, or wood. Despite the bad reputation dentists have, most of them are not demented sadists who chose their profession as a way to satisfy their psychopathic urges. Most of them are just in it for the money.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

Life As A CEO

The new CEO of a large high tech corporation was meeting the with the CEO who was stepping down. The ex-CEO handed his successor three envelopes, with this advice…

"Open these if you run up against a problem you don’t think you can solve," he said.

Things went along pretty smoothly, but six months later, sales took a nose-dive and he was really catching a lot of heat. At his wit’s end, he remembered the envelopes. He went to his drawer and took out the first envelope and read, "Blame your predecessor."

Calling a press conference immediately, he tactfully but decisively laid the blame at the feet of the previous CEO. Satisfied with his comments, Wall Street and the press responded positively, sales began an uptick and the crisis was soon behind him.

However, about 18 months later, the company was again experiencing a noticeable dip in sales, combined with significant production delays…

With some trepidation, the CEO quickly opened the second envelope. This time the message read simply: "Reorganize."

This he did, and the company quickly rebounded. After several profitable quarters, alas, the company once again fell on difficult times…

Now, calm and confident, the experienced CEO went to his office, closed the door and opened the third envelope. This message said, "Prepare three envelopes."

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