Friday, February 22, 2008

The Dentist And The Filling Of...


I felt a slight tinge of pain in a tooth the other day, and then my Mum dropped her false teeth unknowingly where her dog could find them. The combination of these two events reminded me of a liberal dentist I once worked for many years ago.

Like lots of my construction work back in the mid-nineties, I was introduced to Allan by word of mouth. A hippy friend had a friend who worked as a hygienist in his office and Allan had been asking around to find someone to add on another room because he wanted another chair to work from.

When I found the place I was a bit amused that his dentistry had been tacked on to the back of an already very old used furniture store. The place was funky, but funky cool, and I knew why Kathy, the hygeniest, recommended me. I fit right in.

Allan was one of those dentist who did work for anybody who could not afford it. He found things and ways for people to pay him back. Artists traded him paintings for bridges, things like that. His dentistry was kept clean by people working off their bills. It was painted by those people with some great murals too. Allan’s wife, who schooled me in the proper pronunciation of the word “mauve” (rhymes with Karl Rove) did all the billing and filing. Allan himself was dating his receptionist, and his oldest daughter, who came in after school, developed a crush on me and would bring me a soda every day and ask me how old I really was. The place was as liberal as a California sushi roll, and just as nutty.

The plan was to construct the new room from inside of the used furniture store, then at the last, when all the dust was gone, cut a new doorway into the hall of the dentistry.

Imagine the joy I felt running SawZalls and skilsaws and hammer drills just around the corner from where a waiting room full of dental patients sat and read their magazines? Every now and then (to the consternation of the dental staff) I would swing my hammer at something and then yell “It’s just a stupid tooth!” or some such thing to keep my days fresh and lively and everybody else on their seat edges and toes.

It was fun, and it took me two weeks to do. I got dental exams and a cleaning all in the bargain and I got to know Allan and his wife pretty well (and even his girlfriend) in a short period of time. The place had a bohemian aura about it, and I’ve never come across another dentistry or doctor’s office with that same humanitarian, community feel.

I sort of kept in touch with all as I did numerous small jobs (as it always went) for people somehow connected to the dentistry, either employees or patients who asked, with sharp instruments in their mouths, “Who did the new room?”

About five years later I heard Allan had developed cancer and was at home dying. Six months after that, his wife called me and asked if I could fix some wooden flooring by a sliding door in their house. I stopped by one day, and while prying up warped and water damaged boards, heard the story of how Allan liked to lay in bed while he was gravely ill and watch the rain with the door open, and the rain just kept pouring in.

I noticed too, that the house was full of paintings and murals done by patients who couldn’t pay. Some weren’t even any good.

8 comments:

Cheesy said...

Now that my friend was a wonderful and peaceful post... I loved reading it~~

citizen of the world said...

Interesting guy, and what a kindness to take art in trade. But, um, did Allan's wife care that her husband was dating his receptionist?

Shirley said...

This is a lovely story. You have certainly been blessed to know a lot of wonderful people and to collect great memories like this.

Billy said...

Touching story. LOved it.

Jeannie said...

Nice guy - and the world needs more of them - obviously his wife was ok with trades as well - if not with the girlfriend - can you imagine the poor guy's hell if his wife had been the high maintenance type?

kario said...

I used to work for a doctor like that - he took chickens, homemade tortillas, office cleanings in return for providing health care. Loved every minute of it!

Only in rural Oregon, huh?

singleton said...

Beautiful story Scott, and to think, now, the kids would think you were spinning a fairytale....that it just couldn't be like that, but it was...

relliott4 said...

I really enjoyed this story. Would have enjoyed going there, as well.