Upon awakening one bright Jerusalem morning, a bugle call from deep within me came thundering forth. On this particular day there was no time for my usual brain-fog to lift over two cups of strong tea while I sat in bed.
I had a clear and instant realization….
The surrounding tenderness.
Oh yes! I was the proud owner of a painful toothache!
Living in Israel barely 2 years, I had not delved into the workings of my dental insurance plan, and I suddenly realized that I must now get acquainted quickly. Through a series of phone calls and personal references from friends, I decided to visit the local emergency walk-in dental clinic for an assessment, hoping this would lead me down a path to recovery.
I have an enormous anxiousness when it comes to all things medical. It doesn’t matter what kind of appointment it may be, a routine test or an unfamiliar procedure, as soon as I walk through the door I am lost in a world of gitters! Call me childish, but at my age of 60-something, I have stopped trying to figure out why… it just is. My family doctor even sent me home with a 24 hour blood pressure monitor which I wore strapped to my person, as he wouldn’t take my word for why my reading was through the roof and concluded that, yes indeed, I have what they call “White Coat Syndrome”….. Another way to put it is, I’m a freak!
My husband, always a remarkable optimistic man, assured me everything would be okay as we set out on the journey of locating the after-hours clinic, followed by the search for a place to park, further followed by finding the correct floor and office. Our Hebrew is still very inadequate, so navigating our way in Jerusalem is always a challenge, but we succeeded and there we sat in an empty waiting area, 15 minutes early.
Realizing that going to the dentist is no one’s favorite pastime, I tried to calm myself, knowing that I was not alone, but in the back of my mind I was sure my blood pressure was deaf to all my efforts of self-talk. I recalled a friends antidote for nerves when going to the dentist. She would imagine herself at a ritzy spa and envision all the pampering she would receive. Try as I might, this visualization unfortunately does not seem to work for me, nor does any other imaginary, fairy tale locations I can muster up.
Soon, two female staff appeared at the front counter. One was a very petite young woman with long hot-pink acrylic nails which she tapped excessively upon her desk while staring at her computer screen. The other woman was a middle aged flaming red head, wearing a kelly-green satin blouse. She acknowledged me briefly and seemed to speak a few words of English. I tend to talk too much when I am nervous, so attempted to chat a bit with the red head. I ascertained that she had some authority in this clinic realm, so thought it may be to my benefit to make a few points with her through small talk. She complied, and soon we had developed a strained, yet friendly rapport. Another couple soon arrived and took a seat who were speaking fluent Hebrew, interrupted by the woman’s periodic moaning as one hand cradled her jaw. I suddenly felt foolish, as I didn’t think my pain was as bad as hers, and my motherly compassion instantly went out to her. When my name was finally called to see the dentist, I offered to let her go before me, as she seemed to be suffering much more than I, but she insisted that I proceed first.
Dragging my husband along for support, I entered the exam room and was met by a young dentist with a shiny shaved head and blue eyes, who reminded me of big Hoss Cartwright from the TV western, Bonanza. I soon realized however, unlike Hoss, this dentist was not given to mild manners or pleasantries, maybe due to the fact that he didn’t speak a word of English, except to say “sit down” in a very caveman-like tone. We tried communicating with gestures, — me pointing to the location of my tooth pain, and he, repeatedly speaking Hebrew, until finally, frustration overtook him and he abruptly opened the exam room door shouting words in Hebrew for the entire clinic to hear, escalating my already frayed nerves to new heights! A few co-workers quickly scampered in and a loud discussion in Hebrew ensued that would have satisfied the hearing impaired. Then, to my surprise, the young woman cradling her jaw appeared and joined the conversation! Soon, the little exam room was a hub of crowded activity, as I lay immobile, reclining in an upside down position while blinded by the search light above my head. Through blurred vision, I could see my wonderful husband, who continued his efforts to soothe me, wobbling back and forth atop a miniature stool attached to roller wheels in the corner of the room. I wasn’t sure what was being said among this impromptu crowd, but then, out of the blue, the young lady in pain asked me in English if she could translate for me. I was shocked by her willingness to assist. I was a stranger to her and she was in obvious discomfort, nonetheless, she assured me that she would be glad to help. So, with this new plan of action, the ominous dentist now seemed to relax, as the extra staff slowly backed out of the room. Calmness rose from the ashes as he continued the exam followed by his explanations, with my new found friend translating beautifully for us.
I left my first dental experience in Israel that evening with a prescription for antibiotics and a warm sense of thankfulness due to the kindness shown to me by a stranger in much worse pain than I.
Sometimes translation goes beyond words alone and calmness appears when least expected.