Down in the whirlpool

Feb. 1, 2006
It’s been awhile since I have seen Tom (see January 2003 issue) in the sports bar.

It’s been awhile since I have seen Tom (see January 2003 issue) in the sports bar. We’re both older, and care less about sports than we used to. When our paths do cross, we realized we’re tired of talking about cell phone drivers we swerved to miss or cell phone conversations we’ve overheard.

We know things won’t change. Future generations will have to address the cell phone issue. It will probably be a Roe vs. Wade kind of thing.

“Judge, before we confirm your nomination as a Supreme Court justice, I want to be clear on one thing. In your youth you were observed hurtling down the highway at 90 miles per hour as your wife was telling you via a cell phone conversation that another man was more satisfying to her. You’re telling me that you would now rule in favor of safe usage of cell phones?”

“Yes, I would. Actually, the incident you refer to occurred the day after the alleged conversation. I was just talking to my lawyer about the alimony.”

I envy the young folks. C-SPAN will be more entertaining in the future.

So when I saw Tom the other night, a wrestling match was breaking out into a hockey game, as they say. We shrugged and nodded as men do when they don’t really have anything to say to each other. But Tom’s wife is a hygienist and that fact still serves as an icebreaker.

“You still the editor of the tooth cleaners?” he asked.

“Come on, now. You know Sally would be insulted if she was here.”

“Whatever. Are you?”


“I’ve got a story for you. My wife’s boss had a whirlpool tub built for his office. Patients can soak while they wait. Isn’t that wild?”

“Yeah, well, dental spas are the thing,” I said, shaking my head. “It does seem a little odd, though. Wouldn’t patients have to bring, you know, something to wear for it?”

“Who says they wear anything? It’s just Doc and his new assistant, Heather, in there with them. Patients just lay back in their birthday suits while Doc grinds away.”

“No,” I replied, astounded.

Tom poked me. “Just kidding you. Sally says not many patients use it yet, as far as she knows. Actually, she thinks Doc bought it for himself to relax after hours, not that we’re going to go up there and check.”

“Amen to that,” I acknowledged.

He chuckled. “I guess that isn’t much of a story. I don’t know. I’m just thinking about Sally, I guess.”

“What’s the matter with her?”

Tom looked up at the nearest TV screen in the bar. “Before you walked up, I was thinking about the money those athletes make. It’s obscene how much they make. But if they don’t love the game, they’re out of a job. Coaches always talk about playing for the love of the game.”

He paused. I prompted him with, “So Sally no longer loves hygiene?”

“To the contrary, she loves it more than ever. Bless her heart. She gets so excited about some patients, telling me more about her day than I want to know.”

“I think that’s a common sentiment among husbands,” I said.

“Yeah, well. Let me ask you this. As the editor of that magazine, if you got caught accepting kickbacks from dental manufacturers, how long would you last?”

“About five seconds, the amount of time it takes my boss to walk from his office to my office.”

“You do that magazine because you care about dentistry, right?”

“Don’t make me out as a saint, Tom. There are some typos folks aren’t going to let me forget. But, yeah, I enjoy it. Dentistry has its warts, but all-in-all, it’s a great profession.”

“Maybe that’s it. Sally and I are worrying over a wart.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Ah, it’s not just that whirlpool. It’s not that spa thing. And it’s not even the dental treatment; it’s all good. I think Sally is concerned about the emphasis on profits. That’s not what I want to say. I’m a businessman. I know how important revenue is. I think it’s more of a matter of how health care has become somewhat less important in her office, and she knows it. You know what I mean?”

“I think you don’t have your finger on the pulse, but you’re awfully close. Buy you another beer?”

“Yeah, thanks.” Tom smiled, “Did I tell you about that guy talking on his cell phone during our CEO’s annual state of the union? I couldn’t believe he was talking about ...”