Wednesday, June 26, 2013


I think I should call Guinness and see if I qualify for a new world’s record.  In the last 10 days, I have had eight dental appointments.

The main problem is that my dentist, Attila the Driller, and I don’t see eye to eye. The perfect smile I’ve had these past few years was a result of some pretty expensive caps. When I was young, I always had a gap between my two front teeth, through which I used to have fun squirting water at other kids. But as I grew older, I began to like the gap less and less until eventually I had my front teeth capped to get rid of it. Unfortunately, a couple of those caps recently decided to fall off – and they took most of the teeth underneath them with them.

That’s when I decided that my next smile should have the gap back. When I mentioned it to my dentist, however, he reacted as if I’d just asked him for Dracula’s fangs.

“Why would you want the gap when you could still have a perfect smile?” he asked, frowning at me.

 “Because I’m getting too old for a flashy Hollywood-type smile. I need some imperfections – to match the rest of my body!”

The look he gave me clearly told me he wondered if I might be in serious need a long vacation – in a place with nice padded walls.

He took impressions for my two new front teeth and sent them off to the lab. Later that day, I returned to try them on.

“They look great!” Attila said, smiling so broadly I could see every tooth in his mouth. He handed a mirror to me.

The first thing I noticed was there was no gap between the two teeth. In fact, they were so close together, they looked like one big tooth. I was pretty sure the lab had cloned them from Alvin of the chipmunks.

“I look like a cross between Gary Busey and Mr. Ed!” I whined to Attila.

“Don’t be silly,” he said. “You look fine.”

I set down the mirror before my reflection cracked it, and glared at him. “Do you seriously like these teeth?”

He took me by the chin and studied my chipmunk smile more closely. “Well, now that I’m looking at them on you, I think they could use a little more definition between them.”

“Yeah, like a gap!”

“No, not a gap – definition!”

So back to the lab they went for more “definition.”  And back to the dentist’s I went to try them on. I didn’t see any change at all.  I put on my glasses. Still no difference.

“I don’t see any change in these teeth,” I complained to Attila. “Or do I need cataract surgery?”

Again, he studied my smile. “No,” he sighed. “I don’t see much of a change, either. Let me call the lab and explain exactly what I want.”

So once again, I went home looking like a jack-o-lantern.

The next few appointments weren’t much different – except I also had to endure a root canal and two fillings on some of my other teeth. I actually was relieved that I was so sore, I was having a lot of trouble chewing, because after seeing my bill, I couldn’t afford to buy food anyway.

“Tell you what,” my dentist finally said. “Meet me at my other office at 8 a.m. tomorrow morning, and I’ll have the guy from the lab come over there with his tools and see if he can make some sample wax teeth exactly the way you want them, then when you’re satisfied, he can make the permanent ones.”

That sounded like the perfect solution to me. I also figured I could sweet-talk the lab guy into putting the gap back.

The next morning, I arrived at the dentist’s other office, which I had not been to in ages, at 8:05 a.m. – a real feat for me, considering I’m a night owl who’s never in bed before sunrise. I was puzzled to find the office door locked and no one around. So I sat out in my car and waited. And then I waited some more.

Finally, after about 20 minutes, a lady pulled into the parking lot and got out of her car. I had my windows down, so she looked in and asked, “Are you waiting for someone?”

“Yeah, my dentist.” It came out sounding more like a bear’s growl by then.

She seemed surprised. “Oh, he’s not here any more. He moved to another office here in town a few months ago.”

Luckily she knew where it was and gave me directions. All the way over there, I muttered so many unprintable things, my dentist’s ears must have been on fire.

The lab guy turned out to be very understanding when I told him how I wanted my teeth to look. He also was a practical joker.

“Here, let’s try these,” he said, shoving the two front teeth into my mouth. The gap was so wide, I could have eaten steak without even opening my mouth. He burst out laughing when he saw my expression.

Finally, after a lot of adjusting and melting wax with a little torch, he made the gap just the way I wanted it – very slight, not too prominent, but there.  He called Attila to come see the final result.

My dentist took one look at me and shook his head. “I still like it better the other way – no space. But if you’re happy, I guess that’s all that matters.”

So now I have my new smile. It’s bigger and bolder and has a thin space between the two front teeth.

And that space causes me to make a whistling sound whenever I say words that have an “s” in them.

I’d rather roll naked in a field of poison ivy than ever admit this to him, but I’m now thinking that maybe –just maybe – I should have listened to my dentist.

Monday, June 17, 2013


I did something so terrible, so heinous, the other day, I’m sitting here expecting my husband to rise from the ashes at any moment for the sole purpose of yelling at me.

You see, back in the 1960s, before I even met my husband, he applied for and received his first credit card. It was called Master Charge (now MasterCard) and his credit limit was $2,000.

In those days, $2,000 was considered a small fortune. You figure, in 1965 my parents bought a Colonial-style house near Livingston Park in Manchester for $12,500, which my father thought was outrageously expensive.

My husband was so proud of his credit card, he treated it as if it were made of spun gold. He wrapped it in tissue paper before putting it into his wallet, so it wouldn’t get scratched. And I suspect he even slept with it tucked in his underwear.

When we were dating, he often used the card to try to impress me. If we went out to dinner with friends, he would take out the card and say, “My treat, I have my Master Charge right here,” and then he would flash the card as if it were a signaling mirror for a rescue plane.

After we got married, he decided to honor me by adding my name to his account so I could receive a credit card, too – which, in retrospect, probably wasn’t such a hot idea on his part. I mean, not only did the bank eventually change the card’s name to MasterCard, it also changed our credit limit to a much higher one. 

So when my husband first handed me my very own card, I suddenly knew how Charlie, the kid in the Willy Wonka movie, felt when he found the precious golden ticket in his candy bar.

Over the next 40 years, the credit card served us well. We used it for emergencies, vacations, and for buying things online. And every three years, when the card expired and we were sent two fresh new ones, I would have to listen to the same thing from my husband.

“Do you know how many years I’ve had this MasterCard?” he’d ask, sniffing the new card and inhaling deeply, then making an “aaaahhhh” sound, as if he were smelling freshly baked bread. “I applied for it the day after I turned 18!”

I wasn’t quite so sentimental about the card. I’d just grab it, hop into the car and leave skid marks in the driveway as I sped off to the mall.

Last month, I happened to notice it was time for the MasterCard to expire, so I called the bank and told the representative there no longer was any need to send two cards because my husband had passed away.

“Just send me mine from now on,” I said.

“Oh, I’m very sorry for your loss,” the woman said. “We’ll take care of that for you right away.”

I thought nothing more about that call until two weeks later, when I was shopping online and whipped out the MasterCard to pay for my items.

The card was rejected. 

I tried again.  Still rejected.

I grabbed the phone and called the bank’s credit-card hotline.

“Oh, as it turned out, that account wasn’t a joint account,” the woman explained to me. “Your husband was the sole account holder. You were just an add-on.”

“An add-on?” I repeated, beginning to feel insulted. “What does that mean?”

“It means that because the account holder is gone, we had to close the account. And we’ll be expecting his estate to pay the outstanding balance.”

“Estate?” I laughed. “What estate?”

“Then you’ll be the one paying off the balance?” she asked.

I suddenly wished I hadn’t recently bought the Harley Davidson commemorative- edition Barbie doll. I was silent for a moment as the impact of what had just happened struck me.

Finally, I gathered the courage to ask, “Is there any way you can undo the cancellation and get the card back?”

“I’m sorry, no.”

“Then you’re saying my husband’s prized card that he had for over 40 years is gone forever, never to be used or heard from again?”

“I’m afraid so,” she said.

I hung up the phone feeling as if I had just committed card-icide.  I had killed my husband’s prized possession and sent it to the great beyond. Even worse, I now not only was without a MasterCard, I had to pay off the balance. Had I been a contortionist, I would have kicked my own backside.

Every time I see a MasterCard commercial on TV now, I cringe and then glance apprehensively at my husband’s urn on the counter, expecting him to leap out at any moment and insist that we hold a memorial service for his treasured card and then bury it out in the back yard, complete with a headstone with the MasterCard logo engraved on it.

But mark my words, I will apply for a new card and put it to good use in memory of the old one.

The only problem is, the way I figure it, my new credit limit probably will be around $12.

 #   #   #

Sunday, June 9, 2013



I have been at war for the past week. For a while I was losing the battle, but now I think I’m finally winning.

It all began when I dozed off on the sofa the other night while watching TV. When I woke up, I felt a pain in my mouth, on the inside of my cheek. I ran my tongue over the painful area and felt something unusual – kind of like two hard bumps.  

Puzzled, I headed to the bathroom mirror and checked out my mouth. There, attached to the inside of my cheek, was a big black ant.  After I jumped around and screamed for a few seconds, I removed the ant and gave it a burial at sea (well, septic tank). I figured I must have fallen asleep with my mouth open and the ant crawled in. Then I must have shut my mouth and held it captive. I don’t know what the critter was doing in its attempt to get free, but it felt as if it had used an ice pick and a hatchet. 

The incident left me feeling so paranoid, I pictured myself waking up with ants between my teeth the next morning. I even contemplated duct taping my mouth shut when I went to bed that night.  But I quickly dismissed that idea when I figured the ants probably would take and alternate route and climb up my nose instead.

I finally convinced myself that the ant in my mouth had been just an isolated incident – that it was a loner that had become lost and disoriented and probably had smelled the peanut-butter cookies on my breath and crawled in.

The next night, I took a basket of clothes into the laundry room so I could do a load of washing. When I flicked on the light, I stopped and gasped. Ants were scrambling everywhere – up the walls, across the floor, into the sink, swinging on the chandelier (OK, so I don’t have a chandelier in the laundry room). The place had been transformed into party central for ants.  I ran and grabbed the flyswatter, then spent the next 15 minutes swinging it at everything that moved.

I then checked on the Internet to see if there was a natural method in which to get rid of ants. The thought of spraying the house with pesticides didn’t appeal to me. One website said that ants would not cross a line made of cinnamon. Another said they wouldn’t cross a chalk line. So I rushed down to the store and bought a big can of cinnamon and box of chalk.

When I got home, I proceeded to draw chalk circles everywhere in the laundry room. Then I filled the circles with cinnamon. It wasn’t long before a few ants appeared. I sat there, holding my breath, waiting for them to approach the chalk and cinnamon, and then make a hasty retreat back to wherever it was they’d come from.

The ants walked right across the chalk lines and then through the cinnamon. And when my dogs came in and sniffed the cinnamon, they ended up having a sneezing contest. I spent the next 20 minutes sweeping up the mess.

So I went to the hardware store and bought three different brands of ant bait with really fierce names like “Ant Combat,” “Deadex” and “The Enforcer.” All three said they were guaranteed to kill an entire colony. The ants were supposed to take some of the poisonous bait back to their queen and feed it to her. When she croaked, all the other ants also would croak because their whole reason for living – serving their beloved queen – would be gone.  Sounded good to me.

The directions said to locate the ants’ point of entry and put the bait there. It said it would be easy to find their trail because they would be following each other in a line from wherever they were entering – kind of like an ant safari.

Well, I don’t know which sadist wrote those directions saying finding the trail would be easy, because after pulling the washer and dryer away from the wall and crawling behind there, and then removing everything from the cabinets under the laundry sink and wedging myself under there, I was ready to feed the guy some of his own ant bait.

I finally located what I figured was the ants’ point of entry – an area in the back corner of the inside of the cabinet under the sink, where I thought I saw a couple ants’ heads poking out. I plunked down all three brands of ant bait there. Then I waited.

It wasn’t long before a procession of ants approached the bait – and I smacked them with the flyswatter.  That’s when it dawned on me that if I swatted them, they couldn’t very well take the bait back to their queen. So I forced myself to just sit there and do nothing – which was torture.  I mean, allowing anything smaller than a dog to crawl around my house was completely against my nature.

I finally decided I’d probably feel less stressed if I didn’t watch the ants. So as a distraction, I went out to the kitchen to have a snack – a toasted blueberry bagel. I took the brand new package of bagels out of the cupboard and immediately noticed something strange about them.

The blueberries were moving.

The package was full of ants.  That did it. The ants could party in my laundry room, crawl into my mouth, or swing like Tarzan from the rafters, but when it came to messing with my blueberry bagels, well, that was the final straw. The battle was about to turn into a full-scale war.

The irony of the situation was that just the week before, I had found dozens of dead bugs in my garage and had wondered what mysterious force had killed them all. Now I was wishing that whatever it was would make a return appearance and take care of the ants.

I knew that if the ants were coming in through the cabinet under the sink, then their main nest – and the Queen Mother – had to be somewhere in the basement. And seeing that the only living things in the basement have six legs or more, I decided it wouldn’t hurt anything if I sprayed some ant killer down there in the area directly beneath the laundry room.

So that’s what I did, cackling fiendishly as I sprayed. And I haven’t seen an ant in the house since.

Now, I just have to deal with the hornets’ nest in my mailbox.