Archive | Catch 22 RSS feed for this section

One Flew Over the Dentist’s Chair, or Butch Cavity & the Periodontal Kid

27 Sep

by Roger White


Having been raised in front of our family’s trusty old TV set and in the darkened imitation-butter-smelling theaters of suburban Anytown USA, I often find myself comparing personal life situations to those on the screen. And yes, there really is a “Seinfeld” skit for approximately seven-tenths of the events of my life, big or small. Serenity now!

Recently, however, I found myself mired in a swirling mélange of three movies at once. And it all started at the dentist’s office. I had broken a tooth, you see. It fell apart while I was flossing, of all things. You know you have serious doubts about the strength and durability of your pearly yellows when you crack a tooth by flossing. I imagine that pretty soon my molars may start nice-teefusescrumbling while eating pudding. In that event, I’m just gonna pack it in and head off to the old gummers’ home.

Anyway. It took a few days to get an appointment, so I suffered through the interim by stuffing a tiny ball of chewed gum in my fractured fang. That way, I could keep from shredding my tongue on the ragged remnant of my poor tooth. The dentist said it was a clever temporary fix, but he feared I may have caused an infection. I would find out, he mentioned in passing, as he began to pump my gums full of anesthetic. Infections, he said, tend to render anesthetics and numbing agents ineffective.

There wasn’t much of anything left of the old tooth, so the decision was made to extract. Shouldn’t take too long, he said.

Thus began my descent into the Seventh Circle of Hades. Dente’s Inferno.

Brother, either I had a bad infection, or my tender pie hole is the most sensitive mouth this side of the Susquehanna. For a mindblowing, life-flashing-before-my-eyes, expletive-spewing one hour and thirty-five minutes, the poor Spouseman suffered through the worst pain I’ve experienced since Daughter Number Two nailed me square in the cajones with a sharply hit, line-drive softball. Why do they call them softballs, anyway? That thing felt pretty solid to me.

So through the pungent dental haze of grinding and cracking and tugging and groaning I found myself transported to the movie Marathon Man. I was Dustin Hoffman, supine and at the mercy of former Nazi prison camp dentist Laurence Olivier, who was drilling into my defenseless teeth all the while smiling is-it-safeand calmly asking me if it was safe.

“It’s safe! It’s safe!” I hollered, but the torture continued.

Eventually, finally, dentist man had his prize, and I had a mangled mouth and a prescription for some hefty pain meds. The pharmacy guy advised that I eat something with these pills, but eating something—anything—was out of the question. The inside of my mouth looked like a bad Picasso.

Thus, later that evening, in considerable agony, I weighed the nuclear-powered pills in my hand and found myself suddenly in the movie Catch-22. The catch, in my case, was the fact that I needed something substantial in my belly in order for the meds to bestow the blessed relief without terminal nausea; however, eating was impossible because of the very pain I needed relief from. See Heller, comma, Joseph. I scarfed down the pills and dispatched a quick prayer to the digestion gods.

The meds slowly eased the agony enough for me to fall asleep. But.

Sure enough, in the wee middle of the night, I woke up sick as my old tabby cat after a heavy catnip bender. Getting out of bed was no easy feat; the world was spinning worse than an old Iron Butterfly video. I felt my way to the bathroom, took a step toward the toilet, and promptly passed out. The next thing I remember was my dear wife screaming at the top of her lungs. I managed to peer open an eye, and suddenly I was in the movie Helter Skelter. From my vcarrieantage point sprawled on the floor, the bathroom looked like . . . , well, let’s just say it weren’t pretty. I hadn’t seen that much blood since the prom scene in Carrie. Or Helter Skelter, take yer pick. I had apparently konked my noggin on the sink on the way down. Sinks and foreheads don’t mix well.

I took the next day off work to rest, heal up, and catch up on Seinfeld reruns. Fittingly, it seems, the first one I tuned in to was the episode in which Jerry is accused of being a rabid anti-dentite because of his skittish reaction to dentists. Indeed. I was able to funnel some warm soup into me in order to prevent the pain meds from bursting forth violently from my bod again.

When I checked my e-mail later that morning, I found one of those robotically-dispatched surveys from the dentist office, asking me about my recent experience. Was I satisfied? Was the office clean? Etc., etc.

I typed four words: “No soup for you!” Not sure why, seemed to make sense at the time. Probably the pain meds. Not that there’s anything wrong with them.


Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a morbidly obese dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr Syndrome. For further adventures, visit Or not.



Insurance Companies & The Ninth Circle of Hell

11 Jul

by Roger White

A dubious milestone of this haphazard voyage we call aging is the unique privilege of having one’s most private of bodily parts probed, scoped and examined with cold, silvery steel instruments and high-tech cameras that lay bare one’s innermost of innards for the whole world to see. This, and a whole host of other expensive and excruciating invasions, is surely the primary reason old folks have that constant sourpuss get-the-hell-off-my-lawn look about them.


If the seasons of one’s years can be parceled into 20-year increments, then I figure I’m now in the late autumn of my earthly existence, and I’ve recently been invaded in ways I never quite imagined. If you still have the green leaves of youth on your person and haven’t undergone such a procedure, picture one of the “Saw” movies, except with anesthesia and hospital food. And I even pay for the privilege—quite a lot, as a matter of fact. Which brings me to the point: Insurance companies are the instruments of Satan. It is true; strip away the fur of the MetLife Snoopy character or the feathers of the Aflac duck, and you’ll find the gnarled skin, boils and jagged horns of Beelzebub himself.

Oh, insurance people make all the requisite noises of friendly service and compassionate care, as long as you’re shelling out those monthly premiums on time. But try to call on your amiable insurance guy for actual coverage and you’ll witness the meek Smeagol flash to the snarling Gollum faster than you can say what’s my co-pay. Ya see, when I was first invaded a few years ago (see First Battle of Colon), I got the standard percentage of coverage—minus the hefty co-pay, of OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAcourse. In that First Battle of Colon, the general—I mean doctor—captured a few rebel polyps. I hate and fear that word: polyp. When you hear the word “polyp” in a sentence in reference to your body, you can be sure it isn’t good. The very word sounds rubbery and unpleasant—malevolent, even.

“Did ya hear about Rodge?”

“No, what?”


“Oh, my God.”

Anyway, these rebel polyps looked suspicious, so they were executed—and I was ordered to succumb to a second invasion in a few years (see Siege of Polyponesia) to determine if there was another uprising. So just recently, in preparation for the second great invasion, I received a call from the general’s—er, I mean doctor’s—office. The pleasant woman on the line asked how I would be paying for the procedure, and I said the same way I did for the first pleasant outing. She said sorry, but my insurance company pays for this type of invasion only every 10 years. Because of my—ugh, polyps—I have what is known in the insurance world as a preexisting condition. Sorry, Charlie. Yer on yer own. Well, she didn’t say it that way; she asked if I would consider a payment plan. As in paying the Ass Man a couple hundred dollars a month for the rest of my seasons.

Needless to say, I was flummoxed. Gobsmacked. Flabbergasted, even. Let me get this straight, I said to the pleasant woman. My insurance company will chip in its rightful portion for this god-awful event if I’m just doing it on a whim, but if it’s been determined that I really need it, then they won’t pay up. How convenient for them.

 insurance guy

Yes, she said. Welcome to the world of the preexisting condition. Gadzooks, people. Where will this lead? Will the Satan-worshipers insurance people eventually come to the greedy conclusion that everything is a preexisting condition?

Emergency room administrative person: “So how will you pay for surgery on your cracked skull?”

Guy with cracked skull: “I have insurance.”

ER person: “Sorry, we contacted them already. They determined that your clumsiness, which caused you to fall on your head, is a preexisting condition. Do you have any credit cards?”

I’m hunting down that damn duck. Anyone for Aflac à l’orange?

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit

A Day at Six Flags or Waterboarding? Tough One

22 Mar

 by Roger White

Spring break was winding down and nothing of major importance in the house had been destroyed, the trees in our front yard had remained free of toilet paper, the police had not been called all week to my knowledge, and no one near and dear to me had been injured, died, gotten pregnant, or been hauled to the slammer, so as a reward the wife and I decided to take our lovely daughter and a friend of hers to the nearest Six Flags amusement park. Sweet Jehoshaphat, what a knucklehead idea that was.

First off, it was the last official weekday of spring break. And it is common knowledge that every set of parents in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and some regions of Guatemala clings to the belief that a weekday at a major amusement park will be considerably less crowded than a weekend day. We all truly think that we’re the crafty ones and will outsmart all those dimwits who go to the park on a Saturday or Sunday. Hence, everyone piles into the park on that final Friday, making the Six Flags experience not unlike rush hour on a Shanghai subway.

Using this reasoning, I would bet good money that the park is largely abandoned on any given Saturday. But don’t quote me on that.

Anyway, we elbowed our way in after almost an hour at the front gate only to find that waiting time for 99.38 percent of the rides was approximately three weeks. Additionally, lines for the bathrooms, concession stands, souvenir shops, park benches, first-aid stations, oxygen tents, and suicide counselors stretched from west San Antonio to one block from the Alamo. Just about the time we realized this, we body-surfed the crowd to a place called the Flash Pass Booth.

Are you aware of what’s transpiring at your friendly amusement park these days? For a fee—and I mean a big, fat fee—you can essentially pay to cut in line. And yes, the line to buy one of these legal cheating devices was down the hall, around the block, and straight on ’til morning. I fully expect within the next year or so that the corporate minds at Six Flags will open another booth at which you may purchase a Flash Pass to cut in line at the Flash Pass Booth. And so on.

Get this, they even have levels of cheating. A Standard Flash Pass is not much better than the common rabble. With a Gold Pass, you move darn close to the front of the line. Platinum—well, you’re practically Charlie Sheen here. You can ride twice in a row, kick dirt in the face of one schmuck of your choice still waiting in line, and get your shoes shined while you ride. I predict the eventuality of the Michael Jackson Pass or some such, wherein you own the damn park and can tell everyone to get lost. This pass, of course, will cost you approximately the Gross National Product of Great Britain.

The whole concept sickened me—almost to the point where we didn’t get one.

For a good chunk of our daughter’s college fund, we were given a handheld doodad that looked something like a blood-pressure monitor. In fact, it would be a good idea if this thing could double as one. Mind you, the wife and I passed on the Flash Pass; however, we didn’t want our daughter’s last official weekday of spring break to be spent standing in one spot in the hot sun for countless hours—which is basically what prisoners of war undergo. So off Lindsey and her friend went, happily cutting in line with the full consent and gratitude of park authorities. A democracy this wasn’t.

Now, it’s important that I mention here that to ensure that we didn’t run off with their precious Flash Pass device, the smiling Six Flags people held my driver’s license for the duration of our visit. Why is this important? Because lo and behold, after a nerve-wracking afternoon working our way through a jam of humanity more bunched together and hostile than a South American soccer match, my wife and I decided it was time for a nice, cold adult beverage. Ahh.

So, then we stood in line for a half-hour at the nice, cold adult beverage stand—only to discover that to purchase a nice, cold adult beverage, you MUST HAVE YOUR I.D. No exceptions. Not even for the Flash Pass doodad, which you leveraged your daughter’s future against to purchase in the first place. Plus I haven’t been carded since the Nixon Administration! Are you getting the picture of our day at the Disneyland of the Great Southwest?

After a short interim of choice, creative words at various decibel levels, I marched to our car (parked near the Alamo) to retrieve my wife’s I.D. Then and only then, after another 45 minutes at yet another libation station, did we get to sit down in the shade (night was falling by now), my wife with a luscious margarita, and me with a $9.50 Budweiser. At this point, price was no object. I would have sold my mother for a beer.

And now the topper. Just as we toasted one another with a long, heavy sigh, our daughter joined us, and in her exuberance, promptly spilled my wife’s frozen concoction all over the table. Oh well, there’s always Schlitterbahn.


Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat daschund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit