Yesterday, I was driving along, minding my own business, as usual. Then, out of nowhere, I saw something deeply disturbing.
It was a Prius with a McCain-Palin bumper sticker. My God. Call 911. The world must be ending.
With quick thinking, I skillfully avoided a wreck. I sat at the red light, trying to understand the situation.
1) Was it a deeply conflicted person who was driving the car? In that case, wasn’t it my duty as a fellow human being to roll down my window and scream out the name of a really good therapist?
2) Could some young neo-con whippersnappers have placed the bumper sticker on the car as a prank? Was this a fellow granola-munching, bleeding-heart liberal driver who — unbeknownst to him — now sported a bumper sticker that would give him cardiac arrest? If so, I had better approach him cautiously so as not to unduly upset him while his car was in gear.
3) Could I be losing my mind?
Well, #3 was a definite possibility. I had just spent the past harrowing hour at the dentist’s office, where I had been given one of those good-news, bad-news scenarios.
Give me the bad news, baby. I always want to hear the worst first. But my dentist — a sunny, cheerful sort who appears to like filling teeth — told me the good news first.
“We won’t have to change out your crown,” he said, grinning happily.
“Yeah? Well, what about the bad news?” I asked.
“Root canal,” he said. He noticed my face, which was doubtlessly contorting like a Cirque du Soleil acrobat’s body, then added, “You know, root canals aren’t that bad. They’re easy these days.”
A root canal? I had always prided myself that, shitty as my teeth are, I had never had a root canal before. Sure, every square inch of my mouth sported a filling or a crown. But, no root canals! Not me.
“You’ll do fine,” the dentist said, patting me on the arm.
I stumbled to the receptionist’s office. That’s when the whole good-news, bad-news scenario went really grim. As it turns out, we were actually into good-news, bad-news, terrible-news mode.
“The last time we cleaned your teeth,” the receptionist said, “your insurance wouldn’t pay for it. They said you were ineligible.”
“Of course I’m not ineligible,” I said, still smarting from the whole root-canal assault on my dignity as a dental patient who flosses quite frequently.
She called the dental insurance company while I stood there, imagining drills going off in my mouth, with a keening whine in the background. My life was a nightmare. My teeth were under siege.
“That’s what I thought,” the receptionist said into the phone. She hung up and shook her head. “You’re not covered. Your husband is and your kids are. But you’re not.”
I could tell she thought it was some kind of little marital contretemps or something and my husband was getting back at me by canceling my dental insurance. Believe me, lady, I thought, my husband would come up with something far better than that if he wanted to get back at me.
She smiled, clearly pitying me, and showed me how much it was going to cost. Not quite a thousand bucks.
“I’m ineligible,” I told my husband when we got home for dinner. “You’re eligible, our kids are eligible. But I’m not.”
“I’ve already got dental coverage through my job,” said our son, who was joining us for dinner.
Oh, great. So, our son has double dental coverage, I thought bitterly, and I have none. Why doesn’t he get the root canal and we’ll make money on the deal?
“I don’t know how I could have done that,” my husband said, looking puzzled.
But I did. He’s sloppy about insurance, to begin with. Then, to make sure everything’s in order, he hands it to me to look over. I’m even sloppier than he is. It’s one of those areas of life that we are an absolute shipwreck of a couple.
“Boy, you all are sure bad teachers for kids,” our son said unnecessarily. “How am I supposed to learn from the two of you?”
“You learn from our mistakes,” I told him. I bit into dinner, trying to avoid my tender, right-lower tooth area, the site of my future root canal. The future most expensive part of my body.
I sat and moped and comforted myself with my usual blend of feel-good propaganda: Hey, I may be messed up and sloppy and dentally uninsured. But at least I know it. At least I’m not driving around in a hybrid car with a bumper sticker that announces to the world I have a split personality, that I want a team whose most cogent, heartfelt message is, “Drill, baby, drill!”
Drill, baby, drill. First, the Republicans. Then my dentist. Enough already. I’m a little sick of the phrase.
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)