NOTE: This was supposed to publish tomorrow, but I goofed up. So I have two posts today. Oh well.
I didn't start my Lenten discipline of journaling on Ash Wednesday this year, but I had a very good reason for neglecting it. I had a dental appointment at 8:30 in the morning on Wednesday. At my last checkup, my dentist had discovered decay under one of my old crowns, so the task at hand was to remove that crown, clean up the tooth stub beneath it, prepare it for a new crown, and put on a temporary crown to hold me till the new one is made.
To fully understand this story, you need to understand that I have a history of problems in the dentist's chair. First, I've been told that the nerves in my jaw don't run along the expected paths. It's difficult to place the anesthetic in exactly the right spot. I've even had the dentist hit the nerve with the needle. Trust me. That is not a pleasant experience. Second, it takes a very long time to get me completely numb. Third, the anesthetic often starts to wear off in the middle of drilling. I've had appointments for crown preps that required three separate injections because the previous shot wore off. Because of all these issues, a few years ago my dentist started to give me nitrous oxide in addition to the usual shots, and since he began to do that, I've had a much better experience.
Added to my problems with the anesthetic is the fact that my dentist is one of the world's most anal perfectionists. I have experienced some truly marathon dental appointments.
So Wednesday, I had an 8:30 appointment that was supposed to last 90 minutes. I showed up with my nosepiece so they could use the nitrous, and the dental assistant told me, "Oh, Doctor doesn't use nitrous anymore." The dentist came in and explained that when his patients use the gas, his own feet grow numb. He saw that I was upset, so he said he'd do it if I insisted. When I responded that I didn't want to cause him problems, he said, "Yes, I guess I'm selfish. I have a family and I have to look out for myself."
At this point I was thinking, a) I really don't need the guilt trip and b) You know I've relied on the nitrous for the last several years. You couldn't have told me about this three weeks ago when we discussed having the work done?
So we compromised. They used the nitrous on me during the numbing up period and turned it off when the dentist was working on me. However, he decided to keep me on pure oxygen because he thought it would help keep me calm.
The numbing up took an hour, and I was thinking there's no way I would get out of there by ten. But I was still hoping to leave by 11:15 so I could get home, pick up Michael, and make it to church for the 12:00 Ash Wednesday service.
When I was thoroughly numb, the dentist got to work. Once he had the old crown off, he discovered a slight line of decay under the rim of the adjacent crown. So after consultation, we decided he should fix that while it was so accessible. And I was thinking, This is going to cost me more money and more time, but what can I do? If we don't fix it, I'm going to need another crown replacement in a year or two.
So he continued working, crooning away about what a good job he's doing and how I'm going to have such a wonderfully fitting crown when he's done. At some point, I felt a twinge in my tooth, nothing serious but I knew it was a harbinger of worse to come, so we stopped and they gave me more anesthetic. After a few minutes to let it take effect, we went back to work.
My mouth was being held open by a plastic appliance that is like a curving wall blocking my tongue and the teeth on the other side of my mouth, and the dentist was drilling and the hygienist was suctioning, and suddenly I could not breathe. There was nothing coming into my nose, and I wondered with a tinge of panic how I got stuffed up so fast. I jerked and grabbed the nosepiece to pull it off my face. As soon as I did, I had air again.
The dentist asked if I felt pain, and I said no and explained what happened. They checked and discovered that the bag on the oxygen tank had collapsed, and I literally was not getting any air. The dentist laughed about fun and games at the dentist's office. Ha ha. We got the problem fixed and kept going. The assistant mentioned to the dentist that I wanted to get out of there in time to make the noon mass. And that was where things got really weird.
My dentist decided to witness to me. He asked me where I was going after I died, so I answered, "I think I'm going to heaven." Big mistake. I shouldn't have said "think." He asked how I think I'm going to get there and when I tried to ignore him, told me that's it not a joke, it's a serious question, and he wants an answer. I'm sitting there thinking, You've got me trapped in this chair, I'm paying you $1,800 to drill my head, and you want to quiz me about salvation?
So I told him that I trust in the saving work of Jesus. He answered that he had been worried because I said "think," and I responded (perhaps a little tartly) that I said "think" because I didn't want to sound arrogant. He actually told me that was "an excellent answer." Then he went on to quote John 3:16 to me and to declare that, "A lot of those people in that service with you today won't know that Jesus has already done it all. They'll think they can get to heaven by their own good works."
By this point, I was truly steaming. I can accept that he was sincerely worried about the fate of my soul, and I can even appreciate the thought if not the way he handled it. But to assume that just because I go to a liturgical church, it's a legalistic religion and the congregation is ignorant of God's truth is just . . . arrogant and horribly judgmental. He knows absolutely nothing about my church, and he couldn't be more wrong about what the clergy teach or the people there believe. This type of attitude toward other denominations is one of the prime reasons I am no longer an evangelical Christian.
I chose not to rebuke him because I was in no mood to get into an argument, but I was really annoyed. I would consider going to someone else, except that he is a conscientious dentist who does good work (even if he is slow).
Oh, and the appointment lasted three hours. I did not make the noon service and had to go in the evening. But by then, I felt like I'd already done my penance for the day.