Douglas L Perry, The Author blog

January 14, 2009

Great Expectations

Filed under: Stories,Thoughts — douglaslperry @ 9:09 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Do you ever notice how much your expectations of an experience can change the end result? 

This happens to me with movies all the time. I see very funny scenes in the trailer on TV and think the whole movie is going to be as funny as those scenes. That almost never happens and I am left with the feeling that I was subject to a bait and switch scam. It’s really bad when the trailer contains the only funny scenes of the movie. 

The same happens to me with books. One example was The DaVinci Code. I had no expectations about the author’s writing ability. I found it OK, but not good. However, based on the sales numbers and the hype, I had expectations of a great story. I was disappointed. 

The point is, that if I didn’t have high expectations going in, I suspect both of these experiences would have been better. Such was the case in going to the dentist a couple of days ago. 

I had a temporary crown put on before the holidays because I had broken a tooth. My parents didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up, so it wasn’t like I would see the dentist very often. Mostly I went to fill a cavity caused from lack of proper care. One of these filling couldn’t stand the stress anymore and finally broke. 

My expectation going in was that the dentist would pop off the crown, apply a little glue, put on the new one, and I’d be on my way. I was all set to go watch some football in half an hour or so. 

I got as comfortable as one can be, sitting in a dental chair, and waited for the dentist to get to work. He grabbed a set of stainless steel pliers with long sharp looking points on them and told me to “open wide”. Though I couldn’t see the smile under his mask, his eyes twinkled through the magnification lenses he had attached to his glasses. 

He grabbed my molar and pulled. Nothing happened. He twisted the pliers a little and tried again. The crown didn’t move. The only thing that did move was the tooth wiggled slightly in my jaw, emitting a slight pain. The dentist’s brow furrowed. He removed the pliers and tried again, this time a little harder. My eyes teared slightly as the pain was even sharper this time. He put down the pliers and stared at me. I just lay there with my mouth open, and a bright light searing into my eyes. 

He told me to relax and left the room. A few minutes later he returned with news. Seems that the intern had used Duralon glue to put my temporary crown on, so that it would not come off during the holidays while they were on vacation. He wasn’t going to be able to pull the crown off, he was going to have to drill it off. The good news was that he didn’t have to use Novocain to numb me. That was good news? Sure didn’t sound like it to me. 

He attached a grinding bit to his dental drill that was bigger than any one I had ever seen. It probably doubled as a tool that a mechanic might use to remove parts of an exhaust system on a car. Instead of a high pitched whine of a typical drill, this made a low growling sound and I could feel my head vibrate from the impact of the sharp little teeth of the bit. In the glare of the light I could now see tiny bits of something shooting up from my tooth, then arcing off in different directions they lost their  momentum. I guessed those were small bits of tooth.

About the same time I saw what at first looked like mist, but my nostrils soon confirmed as smoke, wafting out of my mouth. Was he burning my tooth out? 

Now it was time for the second act. The dental assistant grabbed a small hose like object in one hand, and shoved it into the back of my mouth until I thought I was going to choke. Sharp edges of plastic dug into my cheeks and I was sure I would be tasting blood any minute. In her other hand was the drowning tool. When she pushed the button it would squirt out a river of water that I assumed would almost instantly fill your lungs with fluid so they could cash in your insurance policy. I mean, what other reason did they have in trying to drown you? 

He would drill for what seemed like five minutes, stop, grab a crowbar, OK a dental pick thingy, and break off a piece of tooth. I could hear the snap as it broke and a number of times, a piece flew out of my mouth onto the paper towel I wore around my neck. They felt huge in my mouth, but when I picked one up it was a mere flake. 

After 20 minutes of drilling and picking, I felt like a human mineshaft. I was ready to get out of the chair. But that’s just when the fun really began. Now when he would drill, pain would radiate out from the tooth. He was getting close to the bottom, but so was I. 

After 45 minutes, which I originally expected to be just a few seconds, he was finally ready to attach the new crown. But wait, there was one more shot of pain delivery needed first. He packed cotton swabs around the tooth to keep it dry while the glue was brushed on. Before putting on the glue, the tooth needed to have the moisture removed. That involved grabbing another metal tool and pressing a button that would imbue the tooth with the proper amount of pain. This was done by shooting icy cold air onto the nerve. After I peeled my cramping fingers from the chair’s armrest, it seemed the crown was finally ready to go on. 

Bite on this, hold it… hold it…. hold it…. OK, you’re done. That’s what I had expected. That’s what I had in my mind when I walked into the office. 

So next time you have a really bad experience, ask yourself. Were your ingoing expectations were set too high? Yes, then it probably wasn’t as bad as you thought it was. No, OK maybe you were right.


  1. OMG Douglas!! I am SO sorry you had this experience. It is like my WORST nightmare to have to go through what you’ve described. I am so scared of the dentist that I have had mild tooth pain for the past 10 years and have ignored it so that I don’t have to have a root canal and then a crown. Maybe I will get lucky and get hit by a truck before my tooth falls apart and I’m forced to go to the chair!

    Comment by idigressalot — January 14, 2009 @ 9:15 pm

  2. Ouch!

    Comment by idigressalot — January 14, 2009 @ 9:19 pm

  3. yikes. not at all fun. but i definitely agree w/ you about the whole expectation thing re: books & movies. good point.

    Comment by Alex Moore — January 18, 2009 @ 8:28 pm

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