Jewish World Review Dec. 18, 2003 / 23 Kislev, 5764

David Grimes

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Consumer Reports

Things we hate to do | According to a recent survey, people would rather get a tooth filled at the dentist's office than sit in gridlocked traffic for more than an hour.

On the other hand, my dental hygienist has implied repeatedly that she would rather bang her head against a brick wall than scrape plaque off my bicuspids.

I am not the bravest of dental patients. My hands begin to sweat while I'm leafing through the magazines in the waiting room. My first whimper comes when she clips the drool bib underneath my chin and by the time I catch a glimpse of the little hand-held mirror, I'm weeping hysterically.

I feel sorry for my hygienist, who is a very nice person and thorough professional but can't disguise the way the will to live drains from her eyes when she sees my name in her appointment book. I don't bother asking if she would rather be cleaning my teeth or sitting for an hour in gridlocked traffic. It is obvious from her pale, which-way-to- the-top-of-the-Skyway look that sitting for an hour in gridlocked traffic while Godzilla systematically crushed cars with his giant lizard feet would be preferable to poking around my molars.

But the survey taken by Yahoo! Auto did not seek the opinion of dental hygienists who have to deal with cowardly, white-knuckled patients like myself. Or, at least if it did, their responses did not outnumber those of people who hate being stalled in traffic, getting assigned the middle seat on a trans-Atlantic flight and shoving one's way through the mall on the busiest shopping day of the year.

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These are all awful things, I admit, but it seems to me that modern life serves up horrors that make those other unpleasantries seem rather tame. Namely:

  • Screwed-up telephone or health-insurance bills. People trying to straighten these out have died of thirst and/or starvation waiting to be put in touch with a live person who will either cut you off or tell you to call a different number. When I was younger, I wondered what retired people did all day to keep themselves occupied. Golf? Shuffleboard? Bingo? Hardly. They're on the phone five hours a day trying to solve their Medicare bill. If I had to do this day after day, I probably wouldn't be in the mood to turn off my turn signals, either.

  • Computers. Regular readers of this column have heard me describe my home computer as an expensive boat anchor. Upon reflection, this seems to be giving my computer way too much credit and is also an uncalled for slander of the many fine boat anchors out there that perform their job admirably and never once tell their owner that he has performed an "illegal operation" and will be "shut down" and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, if possible.

  • Digital photography. I had a wonderful little 35-mm camera. All I had to do was aim it and press the shutter button. Then I took the film to the drug store and in an hour I had a sharp, inexpensive set of double prints. But I was not happy. "This is too easy," I said to myself. "I want a digital camera that costs five times what my little 35-mm camera cost and I want a 200-page instruction book printed in four languages, none of them English, and I want to make at least three trips to Radio Shack to get the right kind of cables to hook my new camera into the back of my computer, which is wedged between my TV and my desk, requiring the dismantling of the den to get to the cable receptacles behind the computer, none of which are marked.

"Then I want to find out that I cannot view any of my digital photos on my computer screen without downloading a long, complicated program off the Internet and then I want to find that I cannot print any of my digital photos (all of which display the kind of clarity and color you would expect if you had taken photographs with your shoe) without buying a new printer and some high-quality paper that costs, per box, about what I spent originally for my 35-mm camera."

Compared to this, a trip to the dentist is no more unpleasant than getting run over by a bus.

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JWR contributor David Grimes is a columnist for The Sarasota Herald Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


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