The Waiting Room

I’ve got no dental insurance and although I could use this forum as a place to rant and rave about my feelings over this country’s brain aneurisms when it comes to voting for universal health care…. I’ll spare you, dear reader, from the diatribe that I could express over my anger about getting medical bills from the doctor’s appointments I had to make in order to stay healthy so that I won’t need to suck more resources out of the system later if I didn’t get checked in the first place. Those lobbyists/lawyers/politicians who opposed health coverage for all, need to live in an apartment in the middle of poop-slick Brooklyn with a couple mid-twenty-something’s who are no longer covered by Daddy’s insurance, have about 80K in debt to their college and are paying half of what they make a month at their menial day job to their rent for a couple months and then let’s see how those lawyers and politicians feel about helping a brotha’ out with some damn health care.

But, I’m not here to rant….

Instead, I took matters into my own hands. Being that it’s been about two years since anyone’s looked at my teeth, I made an appointment at NYU’s school of dentistry. Why? It’s cheaper than a regular dentist and they’ll take the scum of the earth who have no dental coverage (i.e.: Me.).

I grew up in Manhattan covered by a pretty cushy Park Avenue, corporate America health plan that my father’s job so graciously allowed my sorry under-age-ass to be covered by. I spent my younger years going to Madison Avenue “Dental Spas” where women wearing too much perfume greeted you at the door after you were buzzed in “Hello, Ms. Allen. You’re right on time for your 3 o’clock“. The kind of dental offices where if one were to run 40 minutes late, it’s OK, because your insurance provider is paying the dentist a pound of flesh and a bag of gold for you to be there in the first place; they’ll accommodate! These white and pink offices with the flat screen TV’s playing re-runs of Oprah and the “personal massage” waiting-room chairs were the kind of places I have come to expect when visiting the dentist. And, after a prompt visit, I leave with a goody bag full of dental floss and a squeaky clean feeling mouth.

So, when I showed up at the reception desk at the NYU Dental building I was greeted with a completely different experience.

“Hi! I’m here for my 1:15 appointment!” Woah. Am I in the right place? That bum in the corner is the same one I saw begging for change on the F train last week. 
“Who are you?”
“Um. Natalie Allen?” Where’s the Oprah and the water tanks full of colorful fish?
“Do you have any insurance provider, Ms. Allen?”
“No. I have health insurance, but otherwise I’m screwed, which is why I’m here.” But, I’ll bet you didn’t know I have an iPhone 5. Ok? I’m normal!
“OK. Then I’ll need you to sign these forms for me and then you’ll be called to discuss payment plans in a minute.”
“Great. Thanks!” I’m broke! But, I want you to think this was a choice! So I’ll look really happy to be here. 

The waiting room was a sick teal color and was brightly lit by fluorescent lights. Mario Batali’s fat pink cheeks were smiling at me from the only TV in the joint as a cooking show demonstrating how to make sausage on a skillet was playing. I sat down opposite a heavy set, middle-aged man, who looked deeply troubled and was rummaging through his backpack full of empty soda bottles. I tried to concentrate on my medical history survey when I was interrupted by large belching noises the middle aged man was now making. I’m not talking small “whoops, that’s a burp!” burps. I’m talking full on belches, and this guy was ripping them like he’d just downed a 1 liter soda bottle. I tried to stay calm and focused, but the  sausage special on TV suddenly pictured a close up of the sizzling brown poop-colored meat in a pan and I wanted to scream.

I’m a middle-class brat. I’ll admit it! I’m used to weird men: but in context! Weird men talking to themselves on the subway? Sure! Weirder men taking a dump on the street? Why not? Weird men belching loudly while dropping empty cans of soda on the floor of my dentist’s waiting room? Nope! I want out! I pulled out my iPhone 5 to remind me of my roots. And to check the time. I’d been waiting for 45 minutes.

The Belcher was led off to another room by a very young looking man wearing a white coat before my name was called. “Natalia Alleny?” Yup! That’s Me!

The examination room was also in a brightly lit fluorescent space with no windows. My cubical was just barely big enough for my examination chair and the three medical students who jammed themselves into the space after I sat down. I was poked, prodded, biffed, bopped, and rubbed by the time the “real” dentist (let’s call him Dr. Langly) showed up and did the same thing again. “Got to make sure the exam was thorough” Dr. Langly said after looking into my mouth and slathering my saliva all over my face with his loose latex gloves that flapped spit every time he moved his hands to reposition my head.

I was told I might have a cavity. “Oh, no, wait…” I don’t. I may have a cracked tooth! “Um, actually, sorry, you don’t,” and: “How long have you had that gap in your teeth!? Whoops. Gotcha, doctor, not a big deal, OK”. The medical students seemed eager to find something wrong. “What about this, doctor?” They’d ask, excitedly pointing to my x-rays. “Is that cancer!?”

“Doesn’t look like anything to worry about.” Dr. Langly would reply, looking at the slides while scratching his eyebrow.

I left the building 3 hours later. The whole thing cost 95 bucks and a pint of saliva. I walked back to the subway and thought about my life. My teeth didn’t feel cleaner, I was scheduled to have a cleaning next week. I felt annoyed and grateful. Annoyed that this was the option I had at the moment, and grateful that I even had an option. My health insurance ends once I turn 26 in September and then I’ll have to start getting creative about who gets to assess the health of my vagina (shouldn’t they be paying me? I mean, c’mon!) Or, maybe I’ll flip this country the “bird” and go to Australia where I can get health insurance there for little to no cost. I shudder to think about the alternatives of having no coverage; I may be young and healthy, but I’ve been known to break my nose and get sick every now and then and the last thing I need is to join the ranks of the impoverished Brooklynite-20-somethings with 80K in debt from my medical bills and no voice in the government.

I have another date with the dentist next week.

February 28, 2013 at 6:00 am by Natalie Allen