Lawrence Hosken: Frivolity: Poetry: Wisdom

If William Carlos Williams had just had his wisdom teeth out when he wrote that poem:

I left those plums in the refrigerator.
They were so pulpy and tough to chew.
I'm getting mighty tired of this.
P.S. we're out of yogurt.

How I Lost my Wisdom Teeth

Excerpt from mail sent in 1996

I showed up at the San Fransisco Medico-Dental building, where my dentist's office is. I was going to visit the oral surgeon, and he was going to remove my wisdom teeth. I had the the phone number, but had left his business card back in Berkeley. I took a look at the building's directory bulletin board, but could not find the guy's name. Perhaps he was new in the building? Hmm.

I wandered back out into downtown San Francisco, looking for a pay phone. I would call the surgeon's office and ask for the room number. I wandered down to Union Square. Surely there would be a pay phone there. I'm sure there were, but I didn't spot any. I decided to head down to Macy's--they'd probably have a pay phone somewhere in there, though I might have to ask where it was. Macy's was closed. It was 9:30. Macy's didn't open until 10:00. My appointment was at 9:45. This was getting silly.

I decided to head down towards Market Street. If I didn't find a payphone anywhere else, I knew there were some in the BART station. I was about to head in that direction, when I saw Chris B. coming the other way. Chris was a former Geoworker who had decided to take off for Nicaragua.

He was on his way to take a class in teaching English as a Second Language. He said that in two and a half weeks, he would be done with class and would be back in Nicaragua with the love of his life. I said that I was trying to find a pay phone so that I could call my dentist to find out what room number he was in. Chris suggested Macy's. By this time, I was feeling the time pressure of an impending appointment, and bid him a regretful farewell.

I found a payphone half a block from Market and called the office to get their room number. As I was conducting this transaction, a beggar nearby was doing a bit of begging. He seemed to have his act together. So when I found out that the office was in room 800, I hung up and gave the guy some change. He said "God bless you," so I guess he didn't really have his act together, after all.

And, for that matter, neither did I. I went back to the Medico-Dental building, rode up to the eight floor, and looked around for the oral surgeon's office. There was no sign of it. It was at this point I realized that my dentist and my oral surgeons have their offices in different buildings. They're both buildings in downtown SF with brown faces and fast elevators. But they are different buildings nonetheless. I was in my dentist's building. Where was my oral surgeon?

At this point I feel obliged to point out that, in preparation for getting one's wisdom teeth taken out, one is not allowed to drink anything for several hours ahead of time. Including coffee. At this point I hadn't had any coffee in something over 48 hours.

I went back to the first floor lobby. There was now a guard on duty. I asked her if there was a pay-phone close by. She pointed out an alcove I hadn't noticed before. Jeez, I could have spared myself a walk through downtown if I'd spotted that phone before. Of course, then I wouldn't have had a chance meeting with Chris. And it sounds like in another few weeks, there's not going to be much chance of having a chance meeting with Chris.

So I called up the oral surgeon, got their address which was just a couple of blocks away, and breezed in at 9:45 on the dot.

So now I have four fewer teeth than I did early Monday morning. Over the course of Monday, I lost four teeth and four pounds. Right now I have cotton in my mouth, anti-biotics roiling in my veins, and am running on yogurt, applesauce, and bread dipped in milk.


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