I changed dentists. I left one in Irving for another in Colleyville. These are Texas towns that seem like different parts of one giant town known as Dallas-Fort Worth or The Metroplex.
The Irving dentist is a male with a strong opinion and a firm belief in a dental gameplan for yours truly – one that will cost in excess of 20K, all told. (Welcome to the mess inside my mouth.) The Colleyville dentist is female. She has a more budget-friendly plan and a better dental chairside manner. Kinder, gentler. That may not work in politics as President Bush the Elder hoped but it is a dang good quality when you ply your wares in a sadistic medical field.
On the morning this column was due, I was under the influence of a few shots but no happy gas to my dismay. My dentist scheduled for me a tooth extraction, a filling, and a deep cleaning for one side of my mouth. It was to be a two-hour-and-then-some ordeal. She shot me up with Novacaine or whatever they use these days and then set about taking what sounded like either power lawn equipment or the inside of one of the bays at Dad’s old mechanic shop. The faint odor coming off the diseased tooth and the saw blades added to the ambience.
About the time she was standing with both feet on my chest, gripping the broken tooth she was trying to extract, red-faced, forearms quivering, leaning back with all her might to pull my tooth, I was reevaluating how to choose a dentist. Maybe one with bigger biceps or more lead in his britches. I grinned and bore it. (It was a funny half-grin since there was a big rubber donut wedged between my teeth on one side to hold open my yapper and a half-dozen injections on the other.)
I write you, not toothless, but a tooth less today. The numbing juice has worn off and the dull ache in the crater my tongue keeps going to explore sometimes becomes a throb, which is my signal to take more Ibuprofen.
Idiom, I say
All this has me thinking about the phrase, “It’s like pulling teeth…”
For the idiots who do not know, this is an idiom (which is not the plural for “idiot”).
Now, if you refer to Cambridge Dictionary, which, let’s face it, you could refer to much less an authority, you will learn this about the phrase:
If you say that making someone do something was like pulling teeth, you mean it was very difficult and they did not want to do it
You have said it yourself, right?
“Getting so-and-so to do such-and-such is like pulling teeth!”
Instructions for pulling teeth
So, if you are trying to get someone to do something they do not want to do (like sitting in a dentist’s chair and being tortured with miniature power equipment), how can you accomplish this?
· Know the benefits of compliance – “If you do this, you will gain that or be better for it because of…”
· Explain the benefits clearly, calmly, and completely
· Know the consequences of noncompliance – “If you do not do this, here is what will happen or not happen.”
· Explain the consequences clearly, calmly, and completely.
· Ease the pain of compliance – What can you do to make the process of compliance less ominous, monotonous, or distasteful? What is your Novacaine?
· Empathize with the resister – If they know you understand why they don’t want to, that is a step in the right direction.
· Insist and persist – Not every great idea is met with enthusiasm. If you know what you want from them will better them or improve a situation or achieve a desired outcome for you and them, don’t throw in the towel.
Let to my own devices, I would still have a broken tooth, an unfilled decaying tooth, and far less clean teeth. But my dentist understands what it’s like. It’s like pulling teeth to get someone in her chair. So, she sells it well.
It may be like pulling teeth to “get something done around here.” If so, grab your pliers and Novacaine and yank a molar!
If it is “like pulling teeth,” then it is difficult but doable. Persist.
If it is “like pulling hen’s teeth,” it is impossible by definition. Desist. Move on to the next victim, um, prospect.