Friday, October 12, 2007

The corridor was the waiting room

My tooth is fixed, saved, hole-less and filled, rootless but intact. Really, I am stunned by how utterly painless the whole lengthy procedure truly was. To think, when I first went in, I was under the impression that I would have to have my left jawbone removed - infection.

This I told a class of students the other day. This is what I thought when I first went to the dentist several weeks ago. I assumed they would put in some robo-cop steel plate instead of the jawbone that I now have. I tried to explain this to the students. Naturally, they knew not if I was serious or joking.

Again, Qi Min went with me. This time we had to wait because she had an additional class at lunch time. Additional classes are frequent for students and teachers here. I met her at the side entrance to the school at 1 pm. When we got to the hospital, the dentist was busy with another patient.

The corridor was the waiting room. The chairs, blue plastic, were all connected by one metal framework like those that I associate with a tag agency; the tag agency’s being black or maybe brown. On the two chairs closest to the door, there were characters emblazoned. I asked what the characters said.

“For old people,” Qi Min said.
We set in the chairs beside those without characters. While we sat, I told Qi Min about my morning at the other school. She asked me in what district the school is located. The sad thing is that I do not know. I told her the metro stop but then when I tried to pronounce the stop I am not sure if I was right or not. Qi Min looked at me a bit quizzically.

Remembering a real estate flyer I was given near the school, I handed that to her. She looked at the address written in characters and said the district out loud which I, of course, have now forgotten.

She then told me that the agent must think that I am rich because the apartments are expensive. I asked her how much. She told me some of them are 649 million rmb.
“Oh, gosh,” I said
“Yes, the real estate prices are soaring,” she told me.
“That’s what I have heard.”
In June, her brother-in-law bought a townhouse in the suburbs for 147 million.
“Guess how much it is worth now?” when she talks, she halts in a dramatic Captain Kirk sort of way. This is somewhat endearing actually. This, also, is because she speaks English fluently and weighs each word she says before she says it which is not a bad idea really.
“180 million,” I said. I did not want to overbid in case the increase is not as steep as I imagined.
“230 million.”
“Wow,” I replied. I was honestly taken aback and did not know what else to add.
“Yes, I wanted to buy one at 147 million but I did not want to pay 230 million.”
Earlier, when we were walking Qi Min’s shortcut to the dentist, she told me that she and her husband live in the house in which her husband grew up. It is a really big house that is now apartments where several other families live. Her husband’s mother lives with them. Their apartment is a three bedroom with a living room, two bathrooms, a kitchen and a garage that has been converted into a small flat. The flat they let for a little over 1000 rmb a month. The money I could save if I moved in. Presently, a young woman is letting the place.

The families who live in the rest of the house have to share bathrooms and the kitchen. She asked me if I have to share a bathroom or kitchen at my flat. I told her that I have my own bathroom and kitchen. I then launched into my song and dance about how at this point, unlike many foreigners that come here; I have to live in a nice place. In America, we do not have to share bathrooms and kitchens. Maybe we are a bit spoiled in the west. Privacy is very important to us.

When we were talking about the townhouse in the suburbs, I asked her if she could sublet the place where she lives now because she told me the government owns it.

“No,” she told me, “we could sell it.”
Okay, this is definitely Chinese. How can they sell it if the government owns it? I am not sure. I will have to do more investigating. She then told me that her place would be worth about 800.
“Thousand?” I asked.
“Million,” she replied.
Yes, something does not add up here I know. If she could sell her place for 800 million rmb, that is a little more than $100,000,000. I am not the most financially aware person but that seems like a hell of a lot to me, like enough money to afford an Onasis style yacht with no problem and still live comfortably. I know she is not the type to lie. I think there is maybe one additional zero there somewhere. Again, I will have to investigate this further.

At this point, the dentist ushered us into the cubicle that is her office. At times, Qi Min told me that the dentist told her to tell me that some of the procedure would be uncomfortable for me. Really, the procedure was not. This is surprising to hear I know.

Sure, I had a mouth full of cotton but there were no jabs to the gum by sharp dental instruments or anything of the sort. Of course, somewhere down the road, this tooth may turn brown - who knows? - but then no one will see it because it is in the back left-side bottom of my mouth, not a lot of photo ops in that area of my body.

The only somewhat unnerving thing about the whole procedure is that I saw everything that went on. That is the only slightly unnerving element to my visit to a local Chinese dentist. Let me add to that that the dentist is a really good local dentist. I am sure that makes a difference.

Nevertheless, when I saw the small copper wires that were being jabbed into the hole in my tooth, I was a tiny bit squeamish but brave. I did not wriggle or anything. After 5 or 6 of these were jabbed into the tooth, the dentist soldered them. Maybe this is how it is done in the USA as well. However, I am not aware of this dental tactic involving solder. Maybe I am a robot and I do not know it. If I am, please, someone tell me. I’m a lovely little tired rock and roll droid.

While this went on, Qi Min told me that her house was built in the 1930s and that the pipes are old and the roof needs to be replaced. I told her that old houses are very popular among foreigners. She proudly told me that the bathroom has American Standard and Kohler fixtures.
“Those are nice,” I told her. “American.” This I said after I spit out some solder.
“Yes, American fixtures,” she nodded in agreement.

During the duration of the three appointments, Qi Min stood behind me each time. So, as I lay in the dentist’s chair, I could roll my eyes up into my head and see her and talk. This is definitely the first time that I carried on a conversation with a friend while having dental work, that was not orthodontic, done.

When I was in junior high school, my mother always stood there while the orthodontist tightened my braces. She would stand to the side of me. That was some teeth-work that hurt. I did, however, want braces because I had serious ugly buck, horse teeth so I took the tightening of the braces in stride. This was a walk in the park in comparison to those dental visits of pain and torture. Of course, after my mother spent thousands of dollars on my teeth, I know now, she is up there smiling happy that I did not have to have this tooth pulled. Now, if I can just stay away from caramel apples and Laffy Taffy.


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