April 11, 2022 at 5:13 p.m.

Character tests

By Jerry [email protected] | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Another election is looming on the horizon. This means we will soon be plagued by a plethora of political prattle that the candidates will spread around like the organic waste from a bull shed.      
It seems that character is a hot political topic nowadays. “I would like to say that my opponent has the moral fiber of a snake except that such a statement would be an insult to snakes all across this great land of ours.”     
In my opinion, a good way to separate the bafflement from the brilliance, character-wise, would be to observe how the candidates behave in stressful situations.
Something such as a visit to an old-fashioned dentist like Doc Shefte would be one way to accomplish this. Back when I was young, the mere mention of old Doc Shefte’s name was enough to make a kid shiver involuntarily and swear off of Halloween candy for the rest of his life.      
And for good reason. Doc Shefte was the kind of dentist who believed that a little pain never hurt anyone.     
I was about 10-years-old when I was afflicted by my very first toothache. When Mom said she had made an appointment for me with Doc Shefte, I was glad. I was blissfully ignorant regarding the implications of this news.     
The first thing I noticed when I entered Doc’s dungeon-like operatory was the smell. There was a medicine odor, but there was also something else, something more ominous and visceral. As I was about to learn, it was the stench of fear.     
Doc motioned at an ancient leather chair and ordered me to sit. As I climbed aboard the chair, I noticed that its armrests had an awful lot of wear.      
Doc peered into my maw and announced that the tooth had to go. He went to a cabinet to fiddle with something, so I took the opportunity to observe my surroundings.      
Next to the chair was a small porcelain basin; its function was a total mystery to me. I was admiring Doc’s drilling rig when I happened to spy a small table nearby. I craned my neck to take a peek and was instantly filled with terror.      
A collection of medieval torture instruments littered the tabletop. Tools whose main purpose were obviously to dismember and inflict pain. I decided I could live with the toothache and began to leave.     
But it was too late. Doc returned just then, brandishing an enormous syringe that was tipped with a sharpened knitting needle. As the needle glinted wickedly in the baleful light, Doc admonished, “Hold still and open wide.” 
I squirmed mightily as he gripped me with his icy fingers and injected Novocaine into my inflamed gums. I suddenly understood why the armrests were so worn.      
“Almost done,” Doc declared, trying his best to sound cheery. He went over to the table and returned with ... a humungous stainless steel vice grip.     
There followed a flurry of grunting and whimpering. It was over in mere seconds but felt like an eternity. Doc didn’t just cure my toothache that day; he also caused me to reevaluate my obsession with Sugar Daddy candy bars.      
Fast forward a dozen years or so. I was once again in the dentist’s chair, this time for troublesome wisdom teeth. How is it that a guy can be in his early 20s and still be teething?      
Much had changed in the world of dentistry. My new dentist didn’t ask me to call him Doctor or even Doc, but just plain Dan. Instead of a creaky old leather chair, Dan seated me in a space-age electric recliner that felt downright luxurious. The operatory’s walls were painted with soft pastels and relaxing music played gently in the background. Gone was that stomach-churning medicine aroma.      
Then came the moment of truth. Dan approached me with a hand behind his back, hiding something. Aw, man. Not another needle. I hate needles.      
Dan addressed me in a soothing tone, sounding much like the maître d’ at a classy restaurant. “Would you like some gas today?” he asked. “We have an excellent nitrous oxide available.”      
To make a long story short, what happened next is why I can’t ever run for elected office. Because on that fateful day, sitting in that cushy dentist’s chair, I totally flunked the character test.      
As a result, should anyone ever ask, “Did you inhale?” I would be obliged to reply, “You’re darn tooting I did.”  
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: [email protected].


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