It was about two or three years ago. Me and the Missus were chatting in the living room like we normally do, taking heroic shots of Paint Thinner and watching an infomercial for the Miracle Blade ‘Rock-N-Chop.’ You know, just enjoying the afternoon.
Okay, let me stop right there; a lot of that isn’t really true. For starters, it was much later in the evening. Also, due to my impaired mental state, the Missus looked suspiciously like a stick of butter. Let’s continue.
Butter Stick starts talking about going to the Dentist for a cleaning, which was something we both were long overdue for. She gets into telling me about her previous Dentist, who didn’t believe in painkillers and always drilled and filled without the aid of anesthesia. She claims he was a former Nazi that defected to the country with a bogus passport.
“Wow, sucks to be you.” I said, as I dialed the number on the TV screen and looked for my credit card. “I’ve never had a cavity. Do you want to get the zesting tool for just five bucks extra?”
“What are you talking about?” she responded. “You have cavities. You have all kinds of fillings in your mouth. And no, we already have a zesting tool in the junk drawer.”
“These aren’t fillings; they’re sealants. I got them when I was a kid.”
“Dude, those are fillings. Go and look in the mirror.”
We both toddled into the bathroom and I opened wide.
“All of your molars are filled in.” she said, “Here, look at mine.”
Sure enough, my sealants looked a hell of a lot like the Butter Stick’s fillings. Something was amiss.
“Something is amiss,” I said.
It was 1990. The small town I grew up in only had one dentist’s office, so Dr. Armstrong was quite simply the only game in town. His practice was a hole-in-the-wall deal, nestled up against my family’s old grocery store, also the only one in the town. Come to think of it, everything in my town was the only one in the town, save for the gaggle of taverns that littered the main drag. They never had a problem staying in business, however, and the suicide rate wasn’t high enough to warrant an alcoholic recession.
My mom, who was around 26 at the time, knew Dr. Armstrong from when he would come into the grocery store. She tried to ignore the locals when they sniffed and gossipped about his lifestyle. “Him and his wife are swingers, you know?” said one older woman. “They throw wild parties every weekend!” chimed in another. Mom was never one to listen to rumors and hearsay, so she didn’t think too much of it when Dr. Armstrong hired her to become his Dental Assistant later that year, after the grocery store closed down.
This was strike one. First off, Dental Hygienists need to be licensed through the state. Working with medical equipment, sterilized tools, blood and mouths all day require a certain amount of training and experience from the get-go. My mom didn’t know this, and Dr. Armstrong didn’t seem too bothered by it.
After a few weeks of this, it appeared that Dr. Armstrong wasn’t too bothered by a lot of things.
(For the remainder of this story, I’m going to let my Mom take over. Here’s the transcript of the e-mail she sent me concerning the matter; her story is in bold, my interjections are in italics:)
Not long after I was hired, the mention of this Christmas party came up. The people in town all laughed and said I should be careful, and me, being naive, thought that sort of thing would never happen because he hardly knew me. I was wrong.
(My mom isn’t naive, so much as she trusts people far too much. For example, she trusted me not to turn this e-mail into a blog post, but here we are; mainly because I’m out of material.)
He asked me at the office what I drank so he could have it at the party; I told him that I didn’t drink. He then told me to bring my swimming suit; I told him that I didn’t swim. I was a little concerned about what could possibly happen, so I asked him how many people were coming. He said 20 couples. At that point I thought nothing could happen, since that was way too many people, and it was supposed to be every employee from the 3 offices he had.
(My mom doesn’t drink, period. A few months ago, I bought her a bottle of wine from a beautiful place in southern Wisconsin. She was afraid to have a glass with us, for fear she wouldn’t be able to drive. This is why I don’t need therapy; I already know where all of my problems came from.)
On the night of the party, your dad and I showed up and there were 2 couples; Dr. Armstrong, his wife and 1 other couple (surprise). The second we got in the door, they asked what we wanted to drink and again I said that I didn’t drink. Your father asked for something (of course) and I am sure it was mixed extremely strong.
(My dad, on the other hand, likes to drink. For the last 23 years, my dad has been picking up the slack for all of the drinking my mom didn’t do. It’s a fair balance, but it’s probably something they should have worked out before the wedding.)
Then they said they wanted to play darts, and we should pick teams (our names were in a hat, already written up). Armstrong picked the teams, and of course we were all mixed up. After playing darts for a game or two (and them all drinking heavily), they decided we should go swimming.
(This is what us writers like to call a ‘Major Plot Point.’)
They had an indoor pool and a sauna. I again told them that I didn’t swim, but they insisted. Your father also insisted, because he was drunk by this time (I honestly think they put something in his drinks). I told them that I didn’t bring a suit, so Dr. Armstrong’s wife said she had one for me. Of course, they had trunks for your father, which he was more than willing to put on.
(They probably did put something in my dad’s drinks. Alcohol. Nonetheless, this is the point in the story where most women would take the keys and leave their husband for the buzzards to pick clean. Things are clearly going from bad to worse.)
The suit that they gave me was nothing but string and I was throwing a fit in the bathroom, telling your dad I didn’t want to put it on, but again he insisted. So, stupid me, I put it on and we went out by the pool. After about 2 seconds, they decided to go into the sauna. We all went in there, but I couldn’t breathe because of my asthma, so I said that I was going back out. Your dad, by the way, was sitting between Dr. Armstrong’s wife and this other woman.
(Let it be known that my dad is not a domineering or demanding guy. It’s just that my mom has this thing where she would rather live with shame for the rest of her life than to simply step out of an uncomfortable situation. I’m like her in many ways, although I still couldn’t believe that she went through with this. It is pretty funny, though.)
I go out to the pool. Dr. Armstrong follows me out and says, “Lets go skinny dipping.” I tell him no, and he says, “Why not? your husband is in the sauna making out with my wife.” I was sitting on a chair at the time, and he took off his trunks, jumped in and came up over where I was sitting; jumping completely naked out of the pool. He said, “Let’s have a drink,” and I told him that I was going home.
(Finally! You know, me and the Missus aren’t swingers, but you’d think that most swingers wouldn’t assume that others practiced a similar lifestyle. Seems pretty intrusive, if you ask me. Swinger Rule #1 should state that you explicitly ask the new couple in question before you advance on them. It’s just good business.)
I went and got dressed; put on my coat, gloves and scarf (it was winter), and went to get your dad. He was having a great time (not making out with anyone, by the way), but the girls were wearing less than him. I had to wait for about a half hour to get your drunk dad to leave. I didn’t speak to him for a week.
(Yup, that sounds about right. My dad would have never cheated on my mom, but he was certainly likely to get drunk and make an ass out of himself. I’m like him in many ways.)
The next week, I told Dr. Armstrong that I was not coming back to work for him because of what happened, and he said that he would not pay me my last paycheck. I had to get a lawyer to get it from him.
As far as his shady business practices go, I saw him spank a kid who wouldn’t sit still (that always makes it easier to get your child to trust the dentist). He also filled yours and you sister’s teeth with fillings instead of sealants. He didn’t sterilize his equipment sometimes and just used alcohol to wipe them off.
(Epilogue: Dr. Armstrong eventually got into more trouble for not keeping proper records and had to relocate his business to another city. A few years later, he administered a drug to a patient that was severely allergic to it and was stripped of his Dental license. A huge lawsuit followed with many former patients accusing him of neglect. He went bankrupt in 2003.)
Despite the nature of this story, my mom thinks it’s quite funny nowadays. I never got my dad’s opinion of it, but I’m certain he wouldn’t remember anyways. Every year or so, I make her tell me this story again, simply because it’s hilarious.
And that’s why I have a mouth full of fillings.