How can I describe my fear of going to the dentist? Ok, since we’re all
craft beer folk here maybe this might just do it. Imagine you’re being forced to attend an
excruciating dull gathering, you go to the refreshment area for some solace, and find the only
brew on hand is….. Bud Light. No, no. Better yet, how about if you win an all expense paid visit
to the world’s largest pub with 397 taps only to arrive and discover that only Coors Light flows
from each and every one of them. Now, just multiply that distress by ten and you’re just about
got my feeling towards visiting the dentist. Any dentist. For any reason. Heck, I even changed
my regular driving route to work just to avoid going past a dentist’s office. On general principles
Now while I might be the adventurous type when it comes to trying every new label of brew that
springs up seemingly daily at my local retail outlet, I am a solid bulwark of conservatism when it
comes to visiting my dental professional. My iron-clad rule is easy – if it doesn’t hurt don’t go,
if it hurts just a little don’t go, if it hurts a lot don’t go. There is only one exception. If it really,
I mean really, hurts - to a point where 5 pints of barely wine doesn’t take the edge off - then go.
But only after drinking the pints.
Unfortunately, this time it the pain was well beyond the five pint perimeter. Ugh. Oh it started
casually enough. At first it was just a little discomfort that went away. Then it became a small
but clearly tolerable ache. Then suddenly it jumped to the intolerable level as the searing pain
burned every possible rationalization away. I now faced the inevitable - dentist time.
Trying to think of pleasant thoughts to block out my distress, a sort of La Maze for the tooth
impaired, I focused on the memory of recently going to a very excellent beer festival. What a
day. Sunshine galore, good music from the band playing under a large elm, and most
importantly, twenty tents with three taps each. By anyone's math
that’s a serious festival. During the course of that joyous day I remembered comparing notes
with what seemed to be an informed, dedicated, amiable, beer loving individual who simply called
himself Larry. As we progressed through the various tents, commenting, criticizing and
critiquing each of the many brands present – he loved the Ruffian Porter by the way – he seemed
like a truly kindred spirit. Then, just as the brotherhood of beer was about to forge a lifelong
friendship he let it slip out – he was a dentist. Who would have thought? But since the beer had
been good and plentiful, I magnanimously decided not to hold that against him. Forgiveness was
easy. He knew his beer. Somehow there remained some goodness in his soul that had not been
exorcised by the corrupting power of doing root canals. As the day ended we shook hands and
he gave me his card. Now, as I faced the crushing reality of total tooth anguish, I desperately
needed that card.
I shuffled through the treasures of that delightful afternoon that I had preserved in the
complimentary “festival bag”. The brown, low grade paper, bag was a freebie that each festival
patron was given at the entrance. This was no barf bag in waiting (“drink better, not more” is,
after all, the craft beer drinkers golden rule) but a welcome place to store the avalanche of
advertising paraphernalia from within the festival gates. My bag proudly held twelve souvenir
coasters, seven key-ring bottle openers, fifteen bottle caps, two stock prospectuses from
budding brewing enterprises, three beer club membership applications, five pub menus, four logo
imprinted pencils, and my personal favorite, a flashing light pin bottle cap that flashed “Another
Round, Bartender”. Finally, at the bottom of the bag, I found the needed item. I read it aloud,
“Dr. Larry Bremmer, Family Dentistry – new patients welcome”.
Amazingly, my tooth seemed to improve instantly when I called the listed number on the card as
the receptionist answered with a cheery “Dr. Bremmer’s office, can I help you?” While I
momentarily considered hanging up, common sense somehow gripped me and I heard myself
mumbling something about “help” and “quick”. When she asked if I was a new patient I said
yes. Quickly sensing that my novice status meant I was about to be shuffled off to permanent
hold so that the regular patients’ calls could be taken, I played my ace in the hole. Clearing my
throat with my most officious, stentorian, “hmmmp”, I told her that I had been in close personal
contact with the good doctor at a recent, ah, “community event” and he said to call at any time.
Magic. Appointment in three hours.
Three hours. An eternity. I left early for the 45-minute drive to his office in Springfield, NJ. Of
course it was pouring rain. Did you expect anything less? After all, I was going to the dentist.
As I finally opened the door to the doctor’s spacious waiting room I began to panic. What if this
was a different Larry Bremmer. After all, it is possible. Really. How many TV shows have had
just that very theme? Ok, not many, but that’s not counting cable. With a massive burst of
courage and fortitude I went directly to the receptionist’s window and announced my presence.
Unsmiling. Dripping with rainwater.
Her warm welcome and the soft music playing so gently in the background were of no help. I
took the registration form she gave me with my head bowed and spirits crushed. There, at the
very top of the page, “For New Patients”. Oh boy. Now I’m an official patient. Let’s see, ah,
question # 26 – please rate your fear of dental work. Unfortunately I couldn’t be totally honest
since the options only went up to extremely neurotic. At least I had the satisfaction of
underlining and circling.
I returned the form and took the least visible, most inconspicuous seat in the office. After all,
they might just forget about me being here. There’s always a first time. It could happen.
Besides, at the very worst, perhaps they’d be backed up and I’d have at least an hour or two
wait before Armageddon.
Then, almost instantly, the door to the inner rooms of the office swung open. No, can’t be. Not
this quickly. Not me. Not now. Not already. Egad, it can’t be. It was that the receptionist
calling my name. She stepped through the door and as I huddled forlornly, in total resignation to
my fate. Then I looked up and heard her calmly and simply say “Dr. Bremmer sent this out for
you. He thought it might make you feel a bit better about being here”.
There in her hand was a tray holding a glass and a bottle of New Amsterdam Black and Tan ale.
No mirage, this was real. There is a God. The other two patients in the room seemed not to
notice. They were probably too busy reveling in the fact that I was next in line. My shaking
hands took the beer and suddenly become steady. I poured and drank. Now, I readily admit to
having quite a few beers in my time but for the life of me I can’t remember ever tasting one
more satisfying, more welcome, or more unexpected.
The beer gods had been benevolent. Eventually so were the dental gods, thanks to their minister’
s unparalleled skill. Dr. Bremmer knew his stuff as well as his beer. His work done, the good
doctor shook my hand and said, “see, that wasn’t so bad.” After thanking him, just as I was
about to leave as a reformed former paranoid, he said, “by the way, don’t forget the prescription
I left for you at the desk”.
Oh, no. Probably for the evening’s pain. He never mentioned that. Isn’t that always the way?
There’s always a big catch. Could Dr. Bremmer be just another dentist? Is there nothing left to
believe in? I trudged to the desk as the doctor hustled to another room and patient. The
receptionist smiled with appropriately white teeth and handed me the prescription. Reluctantly, I
opened it. There, in surprisingly legible doctor’s scrawl was the order, “have another brew with
your dinner, it’s good for what ales you”.
Thank you Dr. Bremmer. You’re one of the good guys.
|Vince Capano is a two time winner of the prestigious Quill and Tankard
writing award for humor from the North American Guild of Beer Writers.
Vince's column is now a regular feature of beernexus.com
Check back often for the next installment of
Vince's Adventures in Beerland
|Ale and an Aching Tooth