Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dentist, thy name is confusion

When you're looking for an unfamiliar locale in an unfamiliar area, New York can be a very confusing place. Just because you have an address doesn't mean you will find your destination with anything resembling ease, especially if that destination happens to be an office of some sort. Often, a large number of offices share a single address - you know, because buildings in New York are tall. All of this helps to explain what happened to me recently when I went to my first dentist's appointment in the city.

I had an address, cross street and the dentist's name - we'll call him Dr. Teef - so I felt prepared. I got to the neighborhood, found the address and was discouraged that I couldn't find his name on any of the building directories - lots of doctors, dermatologists and even other dentists, but no sign of Dr. Teef. I walked around to the side of the building, where another sign indicated a second entrance for the same address. Still, no Dr. Teef listed; however, I found a sign for a general dentist's office. This must be it, right? I rang the doorbell (because you can never just walk in anywhere in New York, except for maybe Duane Reade), and after a minute or so they buzzed the door open for me.

The office was really small. I mean even for New York, this office was really small: two dental rooms, a teeny bathroom, an X-ray room or something, and a waiting area with like three seats. There was no one sitting behind the reception desk, so I stood and waited, mildly annoyed. Eventually a dental hygienist emerged from one of the two rooms, removed her face mask and asked if she could help me. I told her I had an appointment at 2, and she looked utterly confused and apologized that the receptionist was out sick and that she was pulling double duty cleaning teeth and handling the phones. I said it was OK as she scrolled through the day's schedule and asked me my name. I told her, and she just continued to look more and more confused. I told her that I had received a phone call the day before confirming my appointment. More confused looks.

She apologized for not being familiar with the computer system, and after calling the receptionist at home, who contacted my insurance company to make sure I was covered, filling out some paperwork and having me wait a little while, she finally cleaned my teeth and all that. The dentist saw me, and delivered the verdict: two teeny cavities. Sad face! The universe blessed me with amazing teeth - I've had like two cavities my whole life and never had braces - so hearing I have cavities is always a disappointment. Not a shock, though, considering how much HLLWN candy I've been eating recently. But that's another post for another day.

As I was exiting, I made an appointment to get my cavities filled, and, just on a curious whim, I asked the hygienist/temp receptionist: "Is this Dr. Teef's office? This is Dr. Teef's office right?" She looked (again) utterly confused, and told me that no, it wasn't; there was only Dr. Cav, who I just saw. I lolzed to myself and realized I had just seen the completely wrong dentist at the completely right address. I felt bad, as I'm sure Dr. Teef was feeling dejected, crying into his spit sink and wishing he was examining my beautiful teeth.

Sometimes things happen in this city that are just so New York. Random nights out with friends that end in drunken cab rides home. Finding out that dude you met at the bar actually works in your building. Your new best friend knows that girl you randomly went to college with for like a year. You went to the wrong dentist, and because the receptionist happened to be sick and the hygienist happened to be covering for her, she assumed she was the one making the mistake when she didn't see your name on the day's schedule.

When it comes to seemingly random things just happening, I have to confess that living in New York has made me more of a believer in destiny/fate than ever before. In a city where every little action - sleeping in, getting up early, going out to dinner, going grocery shopping, meeting friends at a bar - can determine a lifetime of connections and experiences, it becomes increasingly clear to me that things don't just happen. Everything happens for a reason. Even dental cleanings.

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