Volume 34, Number 9,  September 1999

Oh ...The Pain Of It All!

It hurt. In fact, I couldn’t remember when I had been in such pain ... oh wait, yes I could. It was that time when I had cut my price drastically to get the big Argosy job, only to find out I was the only bidder ... believe me, that’s a pain that just won’t quit.
It had all begun just three days prior, when I had bitten into a piece of petrified soft candy dropped off at the office as part of a promotional give-away by a well known glass supplier. I had hoped for a sleeve of their golf balls, but apparently we hadn’t bought enough of their glass lately so I got this somewhat tarnished jar of old candy.
The second I bit into that old candy, I knew I had done serious damage to at least one of my teeth. But not to worry, I had one of the finest dentists in all of North America. In fact, “Old Doc Genace” was legendary ... not only for his technical expertise but also for his dedication to his patients. Once, many years prior, the good ol’ doctor had gotten out of bed in the middle of the night to meet me at his office to perform a much-needed repair on one of my molars. His patients always came first. And his fees were always reasonable too. But, I wasn’t worried about the cost ... after all, I have dental insurance.
After a number of unsuccessful attempts to reach Doc Genace, I learned that he had retired and moved out of state. Not knowing where to turn, and convinced that I would need some major repair work, I called my trusted insurance agent ... he had been handling my insurance needs for more than 32 years. We went to the same church, lived in the same neighborhood and every promotional brochure he had ever sent me always proudly proclaimed that he and his company cared for me on a personal basis and would be there for me if I was ever in need.
“Sorry,” he said. “Not much I can do for you. You gotta call this 800 number claims processing network that we’re now a part of. They’ll handle everything. I’ve got nothing to do with it.”
This wasn’t exactly my idea of ‘being there for me’ but I took the information and called the 800 number he had given me. The pain was now getting worse ... in more ways than one.
The call was answered on the third ring and a somewhat cold computer generated voice began to talk.
“Thank you for calling the one-call-solves-it-all hotline. To help expedite your claim, please listen carefully to the following menu instructions. For carpet cleaning press one. For septic tank cleaning press two. For auto glass repair or replacement press three. For emergency hemorrhoidal relief press four. For dental work, press five.
I quickly pressed five on the phone’s keypad, but in the back of my mind I thought I’d be calling back to make use of whatever suggestion came with selection number four before this was all over.
At last, I was talking to a real live person. She was efficient and pleasant enough and after I provided her with all of the required information such as policy number, zip code and such, she told me that I would be treated by my local area “Mobile-Mouth” industry approved dental technician. She told me that the technician would call me and make all arrangements, and that I should pay my deductible to him at the time of service. She also informed me that the technician would actually come right to my home to provide this service and that any attempt on my part to use anyone other than my local “Mobile-Mouth” service provider could result in the cancellation of my policy. The pain worsened further still.
“Hi, my name’s Larry and I’m your local ‘Mobile-Mouth Molar-Pro’ technician. Would you like to schedule an appointment?”
I couldn’t help but think how much things had changed during the past 25 years. The old ways just don’t seem to work anymore. I guess with the new technologies and fast paced ‘squeeze-a-buck-out’ approach to everything, the old ways are gone forever. It will never be the same. But then again, everything changes ... the only constant is change. Maybe my years are starting to show more than I’d thought. I guess I’m just not with it. The pain heightened.
“Ok.” I replied, “How soon can you get here?”
“I’ll be there in about 30 minutes,” Larry the Molar-Pro guy said.
About four hours later a white van pulled into the driveway. I had been hoping for the Molar-Pro but the side of the van proclaimed boldly that this vehicle was part of the Pizza-Pro network. I hadn’t tried Pizza-Pro yet. It’s a new concept where the driver actually makes the pizza on his way to your home. The ingredients are mixed automatically and then a conveyer carries the pizza to a heater box installed over the van’s engine. If timed correctly, the pizza comes out of a slot just above the van’s headlights at the exact time you pull in front of the intended customer’s residence. There are still some details to be worked out but they do have a cute radio ad and nifty little brochure. Of course, The Independent Pizza Makers Association of America has voiced a number of concerns about safety and health issues and is threatening legal action if necessary. I’ve heard that the pizza tastes bad and that the delivery is pretty poor too. So ultimately I think the whole pizza thing will take care of itself, but associations have to have a cause and apparently the passions in pizzadom run pretty deep. But what do I know about pizzas ... back to the tooth story.
To my surprise the guy that came in the pizza van was none other than Larry the Molar-Pro. He explained that the Mobile Mouth program was not all that he had hoped it would be, and that in order to make ends meet he also did the pizza thing. Apparently, his magnetic Molar-Pro signs used to cover the Pizza-Pro signs had blown off on the way over to see me. He looked a little sloppy and had a smell that made me think of pepperoni, but I didn’t care ... I needed relief. The pain was getting worse. And actually, I kinda felt sorry for him.
“Could I borrow a flashlight?” Larry asked. “The batteries in mine are dead.”
I found a light for Larry and opened wide as he had instructed.
“Not good,” he said. “I see two cracked teeth. But don’t move, I want to get some pictures of this.”
“Do you mean you have a mobile x-ray machine too?” I asked thinking maybe my initial suspicions had been unfounded and that this mobile thing was OK after all.
“No, my Polaroid,” Larry replied. “You’re my very first customer as a Molar-Pro and I want to get your
“Larry, are you sure you’re qualified to work on my teeth?” I asked.
“Of course,” he replied somewhat indignantly. “I’m certified by the ‘National Molar-Pro Association’ as a level three technician.”
“Does that mean you had to pass a test or something?” I asked.
“No, I read some books and then I came in under what’s called the Grandfather Clause,” he answered.
“Oh, I see. You grandfathered in because you’ve been in the business for so long,” I said feeling a touch better.
“No, I’ve got three grandkids and mostly I read the books to them, but I sent in my application and the required fee ... plus a little something extra if you know what I mean, and I got
I didn’t like it, but I had no choice. I had to get relief. So I asked Larry what the procedure and price would be and I also asked him to please hurry.
“OK,” he began. “Here’s the deal on the two cracked teeth. I’ll fix the first one for $59 and the second one for $29. I’ll mix up some epoxy stuff and fill in the cracks. It cures by way of ultra violet light in no time at all.”
“So how long will you have to hold the ultraviolet light in my mouth?” I asked thinking that this could be somewhat uncomfortable.
“Well, actually I couldn’t afford the light kit yet,” he began. “So after I put the epoxy in your teeth you’ll have to stand outside facing the sun with your mouth open until it hardens.”
The whole thing seemed crazy to me but what choice did I have? The pain was now unbearable and it was starting to get dark out so I knew we had to hurry.
“OK,” I said, “Go for it. And Larry, while I’m standing out there with my mouth open to the sun do you think you could make us a pizza in your Pizza-Pro van?”
“Yeah, no problem,” Larry responded. “But I’ll need to borrow some gas from you cause I ran out just as I pulled into the drive.”
Oh ...The Pain Of It All!   


Copyright 1999 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.