Friday, November 27, 2009

Dentistry Fun South American Style

There's nothing quite like have an abscessed tooth in a foreign country on Thanksgiving.

I had guests, both American and Argentine, coming for dinner, so I put off seeing a dentist that day and as the pain and pressure increased I gobbled Tylenol Extra Strength and gulped, not sipped, Champagne in an effort to stave off the throbbing.

In spite of the tooth, it was a fine feast. My tango teacher and her boyfriend were there to help me prepare food ... she had thought to throw in cans of cranberry sauce and pumpkin into her suitcase. The turkey was replaced by roast chicken but there was the infamous Minnesota green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, gravy, all served on my patio in the subtropical night air.

When I woke up on Friday, not only was I in more pain, but I had a hangover as well. There was someone with a jackhammer across the street and the sound reminded me of the dentist drill I would soon be facing.

Heating up some espresso, I turned on the laptop to search for an English speaking dentist. I lucked out--I was pumped--I found one and they were going to fit me in!

Look at me, taking care of myself in a foreign city. Yes, who needs Spanish when you're as resourceful as me. The taxi dropped me off at the address from the Internet, and the doorman let me in reluctantly. I pointed at my tooth, showed him the floor number and the name of the dentist, which I had cleverly written on a piece of paper for such occasions. He kept pointing at his watch.

I took the elevator to the 12th floor which looked suspiciously like a floor of apartments. No one answered at number 12G. Hmmm, the doorman must have meant they were gone for lunch. No problem. I'll just go shopping for an hour. It was unfortunate I'd taken that sedative in preparation for the visit, but no matter, it should still be in effect by the time I'm in the chair.

One hour and two unneeded purchases later I returned to "Office" 12G. I rang the bell and was greeted by a lambast of Spanish and a door that remained closed. I slipped my piece of paper under the door where it was slipped back to me. But the guy next door, the one leaving with his bicycle, said this was a dentist office!

I broke down and pulled out my Buenos Aires cell phone, which I greatly fear. Not only do I dislike cell phones in general, but this one gives me incomprehensible messages in Spanish everytime I try to use it.

And then a miracle happened. Not only did I manage to redial the correct number, but a voice answered, and the voice spoke English. The dental office had changed locations.

Upon arriving at the right office I was greeted by a very handsome young man with perfect white teeth and impeccible English. He gave me another sedative, drilled me, drained the abscess, gave me a script for antibiotics and painkillers and sent me off with a kiss on the cheek. Only in Argentina will you get a kiss on the cheek from your dentist.

I took the subway home where a middle-aged man stared at me. And stared at me. He either had a staring-sort-of-tic, or else he couldn't take his eyes off the dichotomy of my facial affect--the left side being frozen and the right being rather relaxed from copious sedatives (I make no apologies for those sedatives. Dentists terrify me). Or perhaps he found me attractive in my no make-up, eyes glazed and frozen jaw state.

I topped off a stellar day by using my ATM card and forgetting in my fog to remove it, which the machine promptly ate. Now, that ATM card makes a difference in whether I eat in Argentina. The guard, in Spanish, insisted I return Monday to deal with it, which I wasn't going to buy. No, no guard was going to keep me from my card .... I knew I'd never see it Monday. I pointed to my tooth and burst into tears, a language universally understood by everyone, including stubborn bank guards. I got my card.

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