In case you are wondering how my year is going and why I am offline…
2019 kind of blows!*
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*This is karma in action, I swore I wasn’t going to buy any more tea until I drank all I already have…but I just can’t kick the loose-leaf habit.**
**Fingers Crossed People. Otherwise, get used to the pithy new mode of blogging I can achieve typing with one finger on my cell phone. On the upside, I can now blog while on the toilet. So this is a case of the glass being half full, really.
Please join me for the continuing saga of last week’s story (A Royal Pain – Part I) a kind of a mashup of Dentist the Menace and the Molar Crown Affair.
Warning, some images may be disturbing to the dentally or aesthetically sensitive…
I invite you to follow along on my magical, anesthesia-induced adventure.
With a Bippity…
Boo Hoo Hoo!
There is a hole in my life.
I just don’t understand it fully until the dentist says he has a plan to fill the emptiness I’ve been feeling.
He probes the moist recesses of my gaping maw, as he talks.*
“We could do a core build-up for about $270, maybe.” He suggests, with great reluctance. “Or we could do this…”
With a motion reminiscent of floor models revealing the latest, greatest innovation, the television screen, which previously showed highlights of a kitchen remodel, now glows with the recommended option to increase my dental family by one.
The dentist gushes, “…you could have this beautiful baby installed.”*
If there is a Ferrari of teeth it has to be the Onlay-Porcelain/Ceramic Crown he unveils with unsettling prestidigitation. Then he adds,
“All it will cost you is your soul.”
Or at least, that’s what I heard.
“Beg pardon? How much did you say?”
“Approximately eleven hundred dollars, plus X-rays.” Dr. Smith says…as if he isn’t joking at all. “My lovely assistant will prepare you. I’ll be right back.”
In a puff of smoke, the white-coated magician disappears behind the curtain, where he bangs pots and pans together to create the illusion of great works or something.
The lovely assistant plonks an array of deadly-looking implements before me.
Yeah, that doesn’t look scary at all. I think.
I ask the dental assistant, as she belts me in for the ride,
“Can’t we do the cheaper option?” Me, hopeful.
“I don’t know. I’ll ask the doctor…” She says, doubtful.
Then she gives me some happy-happy gas and I am feeling a heck of a lot less anxious about anything.
As she places the funky nose trough on, the assistance tells me, “The gas will work faster the less you talk.” She laughs as she says this, so I’m pretty sure she doesn’t mean it the way it sounds…I think.
(You’ll note, my ability to take selfies is seriously diminished, along with my cognitive reasoning, as the shots and nitrous oxide take effect.)***
The dentist returns and with little fuss or muss, he drills down until he finds un-decayed pay dirt.
Dentist: “Let’s see what the damage is underneath the repair job you did.”
You know you’re in a bad place when you hear the doctor making the following sounds over the drill:
Me: “Ah ah.. hunh ah?” (What is it? What’s wrong?)
Dentist: “Oh. Well this goes a lot deeper than I expected…”
Dental assistant probably wipes dentist’s damp, furrowed brow in an encouraging manner.
Drilling noises resume…accompanied with what sounds like boulders being crushed in my mouth. Then sounds stops.
The dentist turns and comes back with a weird wand of some sort and a ring tone like an alien landing throbs as he probes my open orifice (and not in a sexy way).
NOTE: The drugs have really kicked in at this point…the next bits might be total hallucinations on my part:
DA (Dental Assistant): “Doctor…is that…TOOTH DECAY??”
Dentist: “I’m afraid so. We’d better keep going…”
DA: “But, is it safe to continue, doctor?”
Dentist: “Safe or not, I’m going in…”
UNHOLY SHRIEKING COMMENCES.
A CHOIR BEGINS CHANTING A GREGORIAN DESCANT…IN LATIN!
Dentist: “Oh, dear god, what is that thing?”
DA: “Aaahhhhh. Hit. Hit it with mallet. Kill it. Kill it dead!”
Something heavy slithers away. Crashing dental implements hit the floor. The room is filled with weeping and the gnashing of teeth—not necessarily human.
Dentist: “What have we done? What nightmare have we unleashed? Oh the humanity…”
—INTERMISSION FOR A BRIEF REALITY CHECK—
What actually happened:
Dentist: “I had to take a bit more than expected. This is what’s left of your tooth.”
Me: “So, that’s not going to be the cheap option is it?”
Dentist: “I think we’d better go with the crown. I couldn’t guarantee the work would last otherwise.”
AD: “If you want, you can follow me; you can watch me make your tooth.”
So, I got to see the birth of my new tooth. It’s a step above watching a B-grade horror film and I recorded it for posterity. If you squint, you can hear me slurring questions about the process.
WARNING, this video is a lot more interesting under the influence of dental anesthesia.
The dental assistant chats very nicely as the two tiny drills carve away at the cube of purple stuff that looks like so much plastic explosive to me.
You put this purple thingy here…
Then drills come spinning like blades of death whirling in a scene from Indiana Jones…
T-minus ten minutes and counting…
DA: “It only takes about ten minutes to make the tooth.”
Me: *clicks photo of screen* “Cool…”
And it is. Despite the hassle of it all, watching the Star Trek-level technology carve a new tooth out of ceramic is pretty fascinating. Again, I am still kinda drugged…though the gas is starting to wear off when it comes time to actually install the new tooth.
F.Y.I—This is NOT the fun part.
DA: “It starts off purple, but then we heat it in the kiln and it strengthens the new ceramic piece and the color turns to a more natural shade to match your existing teeth.”
They test the tiny wedge of ceramic to make sure it fits the space before firing it. You can see the before image left of the after one above.
The dentist returns and, with grim determination, fits the formerly-purple, puzzle piece into my mouth.
First, he rinses the existing tooth with an acid wash. (And I thought I hated the 80’s jeans by that name.) If I had to describe the taste—think rancid nuclear waste mixed with tinfoil.
Then he sands the new tooth to make sure my bite is good—with me chomping colored paper between takes.
Dentist: “How’s that feel?”
Me: “It’s kind of high in the back.”
Dentist: “We’ll keep grinding until it fits. Don’t worry.”
I swear this part takes the longest…or maybe it is because all the nitrous has worn off and I’m starting to feel things again. Like panic over the impending bill.
The dentist shows me the final work. And it’s pretty impressive.
He positions this R2D2 type cart with a rollerball joystick to spin through the pictures he took of my mouth.
While I might whinge about the expense, I can’t deny, the work looks good.
“Now the rest of my teeth look terrible.” I cry with no little dismay as a thought occurs to me. “Are they all going to fall apart like this one did?”
“We don’t know. We look for signs of stress.” Dr. Smith rolls the ball and a new image appears. “Like here, where you can see a crack going right through the tooth.”
“Ack. Are those my teeth?” I say. (Showing signs of stress.)
“No, no! I’m just showing you these as an example. All in all, your teeth are in pretty good condition.” Before I can relax, he adds, “We just can’t tell from an x-ray what might be happening underneath the fillings.”
“Good to know.” I say. Then another alarming thought occurs to me. “What if this pops out and I swallow it?”
“It won’t.” Dr. Smith assures me.
“They never come out?” I say, pushing for some reassurances.
“If it does, we’ll make you a new one.” He says, probably tired of me but hiding it politely.
“For an additional $1100?” I say with a squeak.
“For nothing.” He says, moving to leave. “I guarantee my work!”
And that’s all one can really hope for. I thank him and pay up and skedaddle out of there.
So, like a disturbingly dark fairytale or an old-fashioned monster movie, you leave the experience relieved that it’s over…but not entirely certain you’ve left the horror behind for good.
Only the teeth know for sure…and they’re not talking.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Any resemblance to the start of a raunchy, seventies-style porno is totally unintentional, I assure you.
**He did not say this. I exaggerate for effect. I do that a lot while under anesthesia.
***I had to wait several days before writing this just so I could piece together everything that happened. I’m pretty sure there weren’t any pixies involved in the procedure…at least none that showed up in the photos I took.
This is a humor blog. I embellish. I stretch the truth. I invent. This was a very routine dental procedure done by a competent professional with courteous and friendly staff. It is no way an endorsement of getting one procedure done over another. Though, I would recommend D.D.S. Joshua Smith of Northway Family Dentistry in Grandville, MI, if you can afford the work. If you can’t, you’d better be diligent about flossing, because plaque waits for no man. Let’s also hope the doctor has a sense of humor about the above portrayal.
After receiving many kind and wonderful remarks on my autism parenting skills, the very next day, I decide to take my son to the nearby Kroc Center to swim…DURING SPRING BREAK.
The gasp you just heard was all autism parents everywhere, inhaling in shock. Wait for a minute; the planetary vacuum pressure should return to normal momentarily.
For those of you who DON’T have autistic children, picture taking any child anywhere at times of peak attendance…and then hand that child a rabid mongoose and suggest he or she juggle the beast, while running barefoot across broken glass, and let’s throw in some flaming darts to dodge for a little excitement. The reaction would probably be somewhat similar*
My son managed one turn on the swirly slide into the pool before he informed me in his inimical fashion, that he was “All Done.”**
After the aggression and tears subsided, I slunk home depressed and discouraged and kicking myself for trying when I knew it was not likely a good idea.
So, I decide a night like this calls for take out pizza.
What could go wrong with pizza?
Alexei scarpers away from the table with his half of thin and crispy—like Gollum hoarding his precious. I’m just calming down from the painfully upsetting events of the day. I take a few bites of food and have to admit, pizza is a nice consolation prize…and then, something goes unexpectedly…
I feel around with my tongue–excavating the new, sharp dental landscape. I’m no expert or anything, but even I recognize when a sizable portion of a tooth is missing.
I head to the store for some emergency tooth spackle, lightning and thunder are crashing down around me…mixing with April snow showers…and HAIL. I kid you not.
I stare up at the greying dusk looking for the frogs that are obviously next as a harbinger of the apocalypse. I’m reminded of the scene from Forest Gump in which Lieutenant Dan climbs the mast of a small shrimping boat and curses God during a hurricane:
Unfortunately for me, the world doesn’t end…because I am just not that lucky. The next day dawns bright and crisp and I find a nearby DDS with an opening.
“You’re probably gonna need a crown.” Dr. Smith is peering into my mouth and poking around with sharp implements—because that’s what sadists…I mean dentists…do to fill the time. “We won’t know for sure until we remove your emergency filling and see what kind of damage there is. How’s next week look for you?”
Me, glumly, “Expensive. Next week looks expensive.”
All I wanted was a tiara. To feel like royalty.***
The universe answered my request, but it did so in the way Grimm’s fairytales warn us about. Be careful what you wish for…it may just come true.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Not good. This just goes to show, despite many years of experience, we autism parents can have fatally blind optimism about outcomes.
**He bit me.
***I felt royally screwed, if that counts. On the upside, while Googling terminology, I discovered a secondary definition of Dental Dams. A whole new understanding of crass humor is now mine.
Wanted: A naughty cup of tea with a bergamot bite.
I’m on my knees.
I’m begging for relief.
Aching for that particular and distinct pleasure that only a true acolyte of the libatious arts can attain. But alas…
My cup is empty.
I am truly lost without my Earl Grey Crème.
The week I learned that Teavana was going to close its doors, I went straight to the mall, plunked down a piece of plastic and ordered an obscene amount of tea–something near 7 pounds–because that was the minimum I could order to get 30% off the total price. I did not even look at the receipt when I signed it. No price was too high a cost to pay.*
You think 7 pounds doesn’t sound like a lot? Imagine the backpack sized tea parcels they gave me–I’m sure I looked like a tea mule smuggling fine grade, uncut pure leaf addiction–I’d show you…but I drank it all.
In less than a year, my precious was gone.
I swore I wouldn’t buy anymoretea until I have drunk some of the thousands of other teas in the many, many containers I already possess.
You think I’m kidding?
I’ve stuck by my resolution not to succumb to temptation. Not to bend. Not to splay myself prostrate crying
“Why have the tea gods abandoned me? WHY?”
I’ve been sucking down Twinnings Chai to sublimate my desires. I sugar it. I even use the latte foamer that makes me feel like a pampered princess…until I have to clean it.
IT’S ONLY DAY THREE!
I am now hunting for a replacement.
How hard can it be to find a fragrant facsimile?
A delicious doppleganger?
A tantalizing taste bud teaser to pleasure the palate? A tea that will make me whimper when it’s gone bottom’s up!**
I’m putting out an ad to the area tea purveyors:
“I’m a sweet young thing looking for the bad boy I’ve been missing…oh where, oh where is my Earl Grey Crème?
Fortunately, the internet is ready to cater to most discerning clientele.
*I lied. I did look at the receipt. The total was shocking, and this was after the discount. And, though I did not faint, it was only because I was afraid I would drop my complimentary cup of tea in the process.
**I want a tea that will own me, make me say “Thank you! May I have another!”
***This post may be a sign that I need an intervention…or a really dominant cup of tea.
I am spending Christmas Day writing cards to friends because, apparently, I am living the holidays backward. And it started off so promising too…
The cookies were baked and frosted in early December…ready to be handed out to teachers and neighbors instead of requiring exhausting shopping jaunts and wrapping to accomplish. Ta dah!
*She gloated and lo’ the gods of irony did take notice.*
So, of course, the minute I added the last dragée sprinkle, I came down with the worst bubonic nasal funk, like, EVER. I didn’t dare hand out the frosted ones out to anyone…I liked.
We’ve been eating them all in lieu of chicken soup. (Note: I make something like 100 cookies each season.)
As a result of the plague, all shopping was done last minute. Like on Saturday, or as I was calling it, the Eve of Christmas.
I gritted my teeth and plowed through the tinsel strewn madness in a frantic bid not to throttle my fellow man–just so I’d have presents to hand out at the family gathering.*
I stayed up all night Saturday wrapping the last-minute what-nots decorated with frills and furbelows and wondering why BBC America wasn’t showing the much-awaited Dr. Who Christmas special.
*A clue, she has not.*
Dizzy with a stuffy head, thrown by the fact I work from home and days are marked by whether I have to shove my kid on a bus or not, things are spectacularly wonky. Festivities happen in spastic fits and starts if they happen at all. To be perfectly blunt, I’m off! In fact, I am so off in my order of traditional holiday crapola, that we celebrated early.
LIKE…a DAY early.
I woke Sunday thinking that it was Monday because I saw a mail van delivering to the house next door. So, Santa came early. I made the traditional pop-n-fresh, cinnamon rolls from a Pillsbury can baked into the shape of a lumpy Christmas tree the way my mom always made for us when we were kids. My son happily opened his giant tube of popcorn and his Orville Redenbacher fun-fun air popper.
It is only after the morning is gone and all the presents are opened that I realize…oh, wait. It’s only the 24th.
So, here we are, December 25th with nothing to celebrate. The snowy day precludes the emergency ‘road trip’ that I blankly promised my son yesterday with the caveat “If the weather is good.”**
And we woke to this…
This wouldn’t be so all-fired tragic if it weren’t for the irony of it all.
My kid, the Calendar King, said NOT ONE WORD about the fact mommy was off by a day.*** I guess all kids dreams of Christmas coming early. This does explain the kind of puzzled looks he kept giving me when I told him to keep opening his presents though…
So, Happy Holidays to everyone… and I might as well wish you Happy New Year. I’ll be with you in spirit/s next Saturday as we toast farewell to 2017! Because who in their right mind would put New Years on a Sunday of all things! Am I right?
*I was shocked to find other people shopping and leaving me with no place to park but the butt-end of the parking lot. Seriously, why weren’t they all home with their families and snug in their beds?
**Note: all weather is good weather for travel according to my son. The roads could be melting with lava, hail could be denting the roof and Pteradactyls might be making a bid to return from the primordial ooze from which they sprung and he’d still say, “Car ride?”
***Yeah yeah. I know. Non-verbal autistic. But he could have pointed to a calendar or something!
Life is funny. And tragic. Sometimes it’s both. But mostly, it’s a fight to the finish.
Bathos Theater in Conjunction with the Below-the-Belt Boxing Federation Presents:
“A Low Blow”
Announcer: “In this corner, weighing it at 8000 pounds pressure per square inch, the reigning champion: LIFE!*
[LIFE bounces around in the corner wearing hardened leather gloves. Shiny, red satin shorts jiggle as the mammoth boxer warms up.]
Announcer: And in this corner, weighing it at… (looks down at card)… None-Of-Your-G.D.-Business, and facing the wrong way: The Czarrrrina of Pain!*
[Czarina looks down at pink Hello Kitty boxing gloves with perplexed bewilderment.]
Kiri-Czar: “Hey… there’s been some kind of mistake here.”
[Announcer walks to center ring, dragging reluctant Czarina along with him and holding a hand up to stop LIFE from plowing right over her before the bell rings.]
Announcer: (grabs dangling mic) “This fight will go ten rounds until one of the fighters is knocked out or their manager throws in a towel.”
Kiri-Czar: (looks frantically around) “Where’s a towel? Wait…where’s my manager? Somebody get me a manager…or a towel!”
Announcer: “Are you ready to RumbbbbbbbbBBBBBLLLLlleee?”
LIFE: (snorts like bull, nostrils flare) “AaaROOOOOoooooOOOOOO!”
[Bell Rings *DING*]
Kiri-Czar: (holds up Hello Kitty clad hands) “Wait! You wouldn’t hit a girl with glasses, would you?”
LIFE: (swings) “Snarl!”
Kiri-Czar: (ducks frantically) “I guess you would.”
[The next five minutes are a slap-stick routine where the Czarina runs around the ring trying to hide behind an annoyed announcer while LIFE tries to pin her to the ropes. Brace yourself, sports analogies are not her forte.]
LIFE: (growls, dances back and forth) “Stop running away!”
Kiri-Czar: “Stop chasing me!”
[The Czarina grabs an oar from an audience member and WHACKS! LIFE over the head with it! LIFE shakes head as tiny yellow birds tweet in a circle around LIFE’s head.**]
LIFE: “Oh, so that’s how you wanna play it?” (grabs tweety bird, throws it at Czarina) “I whip the bird at you then!”
Kiri-Czar: (ducks bird) “That’s not how you whip someone the bird…” (tries to whip bird…stares at boxing glove) “Oh…right.”
[The Czarina raises the oar once again as LIFE stomps toward her. She swings. Misses. LIFE snatches oar with dismissive snort.]
LIFE: (breaks oar over knee) “You can run…but you can’t hide!”
Kiri-Czar (eyes announcer): “What happened to Three Mississippi?”
Announcer: “If I don’t count…LIFE gets to come over and stomp you until you get up again…”
Kiri-Czar: “What kind of crooked game is this?”
Announcer: “It’s the game of LIFE. Two-and-three-quarters Mississippi.”
Kiri-Czar: (scrambles upright) “Does that mean LIFE always wins?”
Announcer: “It means, no matter how you play, sometimes, you gotta lose.”
Kiri-Czar: “Well that’s just great.”
LIFE: (charges) “ROAAAARRRRRR!”
[Czarina drops to her knees and crawls through LIFE’s legs.]
LIFE: “Get back here punny human!”
Kiri-Czar: (stops to correct LIFE’s spelling): “I think you mean ‘Puny!’ ‘Punny’ would be like if I said I would called you a banana…except you have no appeal!”
LIFE: “PUN THIS!”
[LIFE lands a sharp jab—a sweet kiss to the Czarina’s glass jaw.]
Kiri-Czar: (staggers back, one drunken blue bird whizzing before her eyes) “Now, that’s a bird of a different color!”***
LIFE: (Feints left, crosses right) “That was a play on words. Not a pun!”
[SMACK, SMACK, KA-POW! THUD.]
[Announcer looms over Czarina, counting while LIFE gloats.]
LIFE: “Just for that, your son gets chronic constipation and an addiction to popcorn.”
Kiri-Czar: (aghast) “Noooooo!”
LIFE: “Plus you have to give him this medicine for three days until he goes ‘Pop!’”
Kiri-Czar: “Don’t you mean poop?”
LIFE: (*evil smile*): “You’ll see.”
Announcer: (wheezing) “Two and ninety-nine-one hundredths Mississippi…”
Kiri-Czar: (staggers to feet) “That’s it. Go ahead. Pick on the little guy!”
[Wildly swinging, the Czarina advances throwing haymakers as she goes. She lands a glancing blow to LIFE’s bread basket.]
Kiri-Czar: “How do you like that, you…you big bazooka?”
LIFE: “Do you mean ‘Palooka?’”
[Czarina continues to piffle away at LIFE throwing more dope than rope. LIFE holds her off with one leather glove pushing against her sweaty forehead.]
Kiri-Czar: (winds up and swings): “Whatever! I’ve had it. I go canoeing. I go camping. And wherever I go, I get no peace. There is always this counter attack waiting to knock me down, every damned time I step in the ring. I’m beginning to feel like a punching bag. When am I gonna get a break?”
LIFE: “You want a break?”
Kiri-Czar: (Hello Kitty balled fists on hips) “Yes. Yes I do!”
LIFE: (shrugs) “Okay. If you say so.”
Announcer: (bellows into mic) “LIFE feints left and then crosses with a right hook to the head. Czarina’s glasses go flying. She’s blind now, ducking a barrage of punches. Hello Kitty gloves are no defense against LIFE. LIFE isn’t pulling it’s punches anymore. LIFE delivers a damaging blow to the kidneys. The injustice! There’s no Marquess of Queensberry here, folks! Next, the Czarina dodges a jab only to walk straight into an uppercut. Oooh, the Czarina’s on the ropes. The blows are pounding her like hail on a Kansas wheat field. LIFE is raining down. Rain is raining down. LIFE switches to KickBoxing and the Czarina takes a roundhouse to the noggin. The Czarina’s on the ground. She’s taken a beating, ladies and gentlemen. I don’t think she’ll be back up again for quite some time. I’m calling this fight. The Winner by KO and Ultimate Fight Champion of the World is…LIFE.”
[LIFE dances around the ring, both arms raised, pumping the air in victory. Stops to stand over the inert form of the Czarina sprawled on the floor. In the distance, the final bell *DINGS*.]
LIFE: (shouts) “Get the cutman…we’ve got a bleeder!”
[The crowd departs, LIFE raised on its shoulders. The loser is left in a pile on the floor, the white towel of surrender shrouding her face.]
Cutman: “C’mon, let’s get you patched up.”
Kiri-Czar: (wakes confused) “What…what happened?”
Cutman: “It’s 3:00 A.M. LIFE dropped a tree on your house and took out your electricity. Your kid is on the power laxatives for two more days. You get to stay home and wait for the shit to stop pouring in.”
Kiri-Czar: (jaw drops) “WHAAAAAT? You’ve gotta be kidding me!”
Cutman: “You asked for a break from the routine chaos, right? You were tired of everything you’ve been dealing with, yeah?”
Kiri-Czar: “Uh…yeah. But, I didn’t ask for…” (looks around, gestures to the dark and utter chaos)… “THIS!”
Cutman: “LIFE’s tricky that way. You asked for a ‘break’…it gives you a ‘break.’” (points to tree on roof, shakes head) “You just gotta be grateful it wasn’t your leg! Or worse.”
Kiri-Czar: (holds ice to black eye) “Right…just, ask LIFE…no more breaks for me for a while, okay? Please?”
Cutman: (packing up gauze, tosses loose pinecone to the Czarina) “I can’t make any promises. But let’s agree…we won’t be complaining about ordinary LIFE so much after this, right? That’s what LIFE gives you…perspective. It can always be worse.”
Kiri-Czar: (raises pinecone in disbelief) “If life gives you lemons…you make lemonade. What’re you supposed to make with pinecones?”
Cutman: (looks around and the devastation/deforestation) “I don’t know…Pińa Coladas, maybe?”
Kiri-Czar: (wincing) “Ugh…what a terrible pun.”
[With a flourish, the Cutman whips off the surgical mask revealing the grinning face of LIFE.]
LIFE: (taps Czarina gently on the chin] “Nuh Uh! It’s a playon words, not a pun! I think someone’s had just enough PUN-ishment for one day.”
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*Or, as my friend put it when she heard the news: “You’re some kind of shit magnet, you know that?”
**LIFE looks a bit like the HULK and MR. CLEAN had an angry, bilious baby.
***Look, coming up with sports-related puns was definitely not in my wheelhouse. And, even if it were, someone would probably drop a tree on it.
You’ve read the whole thing bonus:
I will be selling Roof Killer Pineconesat a reasonable price of $25.00. Drop me a line if you too want to plant this decimating conifer in your backyard.
And if anyone wants me, I’ll be at a cabin this weekend watching the campfire with a disturbing amount of pleasure as I watch the kindling burn. Burn baby, burn!
Picture courtesy of FreeDigitalPhoto.Net/praisaeng
Sometimes, life just is one big, flaming bag of poop. This is probably not a traditional start for a food review, but it is an appropriate one.
* * *
In search of experience as a food critic, I have finally run up against the burning question which every Culinary Columbo must face: “Is it right to totally tank a restaurant’s reputation because of a bad day?” I’ll let you be the judge.
Following a whirlwind vacation in Chicagoland, I decided I need to do my bit for local tourism. So, Friday ,I took take my very special guy downtown for lunch. It was only after getting on Monroe Street that I discovered construction has turned the downtown area into an M.C. Escher nightmare. Streets went nowhere or suddenly became one-way in the opposite direction. (I am fairly certain I drove up the side of a building at one point.) Eventually I nudged my flame-red Toyota Echo into the perfect parking spot on Monroe Center, chortling at my good fortune.*
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Stuart Miles
I filled my pocket with quarters for the meter and then got distracted by the effort of coordinating my date—who will eat nothing at a restaurant that isn’t covered in syrup served with a side of bacon—and his haversack of emergency snack food**, and as a result, I entered the nearest restaurant without performing that one task that, if forgotten, can turn your sunshiny day upside down in the blink of an eye.
This is the part of the food review where I am supposed to wax poetic on the innovative use of space, the side of the room which housed a wall of no doubt, high-end wines in their impressive angular, shoebox-sized cubbies and the other side which was part deli, part corner store rummage sale. I ought to be waxing about the novel, handwritten artsy signs which made trying to read with bifocals the pretty, but distant, menu an exercise in near-sighted humiliation: “Do you have this printed anywhere in Pica 16 I can hold two inches from my nose?” Instead I will raise a pointed question: “If one, hypothetically, bites down on something and a tooth goes ‘crunch’ on un-chewable matter, is one obligated to inform the restaurant their food is booby-trapped?”
Now, in my opinion, that answer is a resounding, ‘Yes’. I was happily masticating my very delicious salad when I heard a horrifying sound reverberate through my skull—a sound which I can only image is what glass sounds like when it goes through a trash compactor. Now, I like hyperbole as much as the next girl, but let me tell you I am not kidding when I say I was entirely surprised that, when I spat that mouthful into my napkin, that there wasn’t a sparkling diamond and/or a trail of bloody spittle following.
I dithered, as I checked my mouth for open wounds and picked whatever rock-like thing it was I’d gnashed with overly fragile molars. Should I tell the management the salad bites back? Should I just finish up and leave? Then I came up with what looked like a large-sized grain of something hard. Possibly a piece of my tooth, possibly whatever it was I’d bit down on. I decided this was worth informing someone.
This is the point of the story that gets kind of disgusting—but only to people who actually expect the restaurant to care whether they are serving sanitary, safe food. I went to the counter where I was met by a suspicious and hostile clerk who interrupted my explanation to go get a manager.
A young lady came over and asked what happened. I explained that I bit down on something in the salad and I showed her the piece of whatever it was—no doubt gifting her with my molar dna to replicate later, in private, for her alien overlords. She asked, “So, was it something plastic?” I whispered, as if I was afraid the health inspector had bugged the joint, “It sounded like glass.”
I heard the following when she walked back to the food counter to determine what it was I’d been served (paraphrased since I was ten feet away):
“What was it she ate?”
“A mixed salad with a lot of different ingredients.”
(Inaudible muttering which I took to be the decision that I was a con-artist who no doubt had eaten 90% of my meal and then complained in order to get my lunch for free.)
“…It wouldn’t be worth the trouble to go through everything.”
This last sentence I heard very clearly. They weren’t going to bother to check the food that, while delicious, apparently was working on commission for the tooth fairy.
I objected when the manager offered me a refund. “I don’t want a refund. I enjoyed the salad, it was delightful, right up until I broke a crown.”
Another underling came over and retrieved my credit card, when I protested again that I didn’t want a refund, he said, “No, my manager insists you get one.”
The thing is…they took my salad away. They took the bite I spit out away. It wasn’t until afterward that it occurred to me they wanted the evidence. They were apparently concerned about a frivolous, or fictitious, lawsuit. Perhaps the manager apologized at the time, but what I felt most of all when I left the restaurant was a burning embarrassment. That I was treated as if I was a plague upon their establishment. “The one who dared complain.”
Leaving the place, red-faced and feeling like I was somehow at fault for trying to prevent a rash of tooth-related catastrophies, I was confronted by the final inequity: a parking ticket slapped on my windshield. My free lunch had cost me more than my dignity. It also cost me the absentminded-parent penalty tax.
So, I have decided that, as a food critic, I will refrain from judging a place based on an isolated incident. It might have been an overlooked stone in my lettuce. It might be that my dental hygiene has slipped and I need my enamel checked. I won’t name the restaurant. I will say, however, that treating a customer as if they were to blame for faults with your food pretty much guarantees you are not getting a four-star review. The nicest thing I can do is to omit naming the place and simply advise you to chew with caution at deli’s located on Monroe Center between numbers 56 and 58…oh, and don’t forget to feed the meter.
Now, you tell me, what would you have done? Please comment below. Thank you.