Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My Trip To The Dentist

On Sunday night I broke my front tooth on a rock hard baguette. I had root canal done on it almost a decade ago so it was very brittle. In fact, my tooth was held together by a titanium pin. My dentist, Dr. Ron Ashley, mended it so well that you wouldn’t know there was anything wrong with it. Well, titanium or not, it was no match for a baguette. What’s worse, the other half of my tooth fell down the drain.

Needless to say, when I ran to the bathroom and saw my broken smile in the mirror I became almost hysterical! I was frantic and panicked! I had moved out of the area and it had been years since I went to see Dr. Ashley. I didn’t even know if I still had his number. And the timing couldn’t have been worse. I’m about to begin a new job on Wednesday. Auggggggggggggh!

I googled “Ron Ashley DDS San Francisco CA”. It was still the same address and phone number. I dialed it but to my horror, the voice on the outgoing message was the voice and name of a young-sounding Chinese woman. I hung up. I checked the number again. I re-dialed. It was still the voice and outgoing message of Dr. Wong.

At the end of her outgoing message, she said, “If you’re trying to reach Dr. Ashley, he has retired. If you have a dental emergency, please call…” and she rattled off a number beginning with (650), a South San Francisco prefix. Auugggggggggggh! Dr. Ashley lives in Marin, area code (415).

It’s traumatic enough changing hairdressers, changing dentists is a life crisis! I dialed the emergency phone number and Dr. Wong answered. By this time it was past 10 PM.

Sobbing, I said, “Dr. Wong, please forgive me for calling you at this late hour. I was a patient of Dr. Ashley’s. I called his number but got you instead. I broke my tooth and I’m starting a new job. Please, please help me!”

“Don’t worry,” she said, calmly and cheerfully. “I can fix it. I treat Dr. Ashley’s former patients. He retired. Do you have the broken tooth?”

I told her that I did, but when I went to rinse it, it fell down the drain. I heard her suppress a chuckle. “Don’t worry, I can fix it. Can you come first thing tomorrow?”

“YES! THANK YOU! Are you still in the same building?”

“No, I moved to Commercial Street, in one of the small alleys above California and Montgomery. Dr. Ashley’s lease was too expensive.”

“YAY! I’ll be there. Thank you so much, Dr. Wong! Thank you, thank you!” Who wants to go around with a missing front tooth, right?

BART, the bay area’s rapid transit system, would be overcrowded in the morning, and I didn’t want to risk seeing or being seen by anyone I knew so I decided I would take the ferry from Vallejo to San Francisco. It's a leisurely one hour “cruise” with tour-like views of San Francisco and San Pablo bay.

Even though I set out at the crack of dawn, it promised to be a sparkling Monday morning. I pulled on a pair of old jeans, a turtleneck and a pea coat, grabbed my hair in a ponytail, donned a baseball cap low over my forehead, hid behind oversized knock-off Chanel sunglasses, and to ensure even greater unapproachability, wrapped my face in a pashmina shawl burka-style.

I took the 7 AM ferry and the regular morning commuters were either drinking coffee and reading the morning paper, or napping, sneaking in one additional hour of sleep before work. I decided to lower my burka and snapped a few shots.

The defunct Mare Island Shipyard across from the Vallejo Ferry Terminal and...

...the repair docks for the old nuclear subs of the Cold War Era.

Look at that gorgeous sky! Makes for a heartfelt toothless smile!

A soaring seagull as seaward sentinel...

Land ho!

When I walked into the dental office and saw that it was the same Dr. Wong who had laser-whitened my teeth 10 years ago, and saw Yana, the Russian woman who had been such an amazingly skillful dental assistant back then, I was absolutely ecstatic. We revisited old times and chatted happily during the long procedure. Whenever I could get a word in -- thanks to that suction thingy -- I’d chirp that I was the happiest dental patient in the world. I left Dr. Wong’s clinic skipping and jumping, minus the accoutrements of camouflage. Vanity, woman is thy name.

Freed from my burka and cosmetic cares, I whipped out my camera and played tourist.

The Transamerica Pyramid Building, a famous feature in the San Francisco skyline. Underneath the building, in a shady open space, tumblin' toads...

and leapin' lads mirror my giddy joy!

Look what I found! Could this be Elliot Spitzer's head?

The City is known for its flower stalls and unique shops...

A sustainable farm produce stand...

And my favorite food of all. Say what? Say cheese!

But as Dr. Wong cautions, "No more biting into baguettes!" What a great day it turned out to be. Who knew a trip to the dentist could be such a fun-tabulous event?!?!?

As my bestfriend and soul sistah Medi Tate likes to sing:

I am so blessed,
I am so blessed,
I am so thankful for all I have!
I am so blessed,
I am so blessed,
I am so thankful for all I have!


blujay said...

What an inspiring story Maya! Just goes to show that behind all toothless smiles is a silver lining, just count your blessings! You truly give me so much hope and inspiration! I love you! :)

Words For Hire said...

Maya, you are such a gifted storyteller (and photographer - who knew!)! I was riveted from the first word to the last and found myself singing and smiling with you at the end. Doing it power style! ;-)


Valerie Gonyea said...

Dear Maya,

Greetings from Marin County! I really enjoyed your trip to the dentist. Since moving here I have often been amazed by the lengths people will go to help out complete strangers - your story is a perfect example.

I, take the Larkspur Ferry to work every day and I go pretty early so sometimes the views of the Bay bridge are just spectacular around sunrise. I was thinking the other day (it was BEFORE the time change which made the morning dark again) that I should bring a camera to work with me every day just to be able to take shots like these...my phone does not take very good pictures. You've inspired me to actually DO that. Thanks!

Valerie Gonyea

terrymcdermott said...

This was a great post!

Akira said...


That was such a fun story! Although I am not sure if I would have been able to handle it in your spirit..