Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Stress of proofreading

As you can imagine, I do lots of proofreading in my little cube in the Publications Office. I sit with my reading glasses - now proudly hanging from my neck on a gold chain - under a hot halogen lamp that illuminates the page like noontime sun. As you can also imagine, I get to proof some pretty juicy stuff - donor lists, newsletters, catalog copy, letters to constituents, and more. On my left, The Chicago Manual of Style, AP Stylebook, big dictionary, and the Harbrace handbook. On my right, several red pens and sharp Dixon Ticonderoga pencils.

It can get pretty tense.

Today, for example, I was editing a newsletter with an astonishing number of typos, misspelled names, and just plain jumbled sentences. Would I make it to the end without running screaming into the hall? No, the outcome was worse. After popping two pieces of Eclipse super mint blast gum into mouth, followed by a swig of cold water, I felt something hard hit a molar. I fished out a piece of tooth that had broken off.

I hate to admit this to anyone, but I will tell you: I haven't been to the dentist in four years. The last time I went work was being done in the area now in question and I experienced, to quote an ex coworker, "mindbending pain." The dentist provided shot after shot of Novocain and they didn't numb that tender area between the tooth and gum. I gave up complaining and he continued to drill, scrape, and pick. When he was done, my face was white as a sheet and I had to peel my hands from the vinyl on the chair. I staggered out to my car, vowing never to visit a dentist again as long as I lived.

Well, then, today, what to do with this chunk of tooth in my hand and a gaping hole in my jaw?

I opened the phone book. "We cater to cowards," one ad said. "We can see you today," another offered. "Gentle dentistry." I dialed one of the numbers and a cheery voice answered. They could get me in at 2:00.

I made it to the office and sat nervously in the waiting room. When I was called back I told them I didn't know if I could do this and I told them my husband's number, feeling sure I'd pass out in the process. Before the technician left, I told her I had the tooth in my purse, if they'd like to see it. I produced a clean white envelope. She opened it and exclaimed, "it's a crown - we can probably just glue that back on."

And that's what happened. No shots, no drugs, no drill, no whirring high-pitched equipment shoved in the mouth. Just some icky cement and pressure.

But, the dentist said. You need to have the tooth next to it looked at when you have time. We'll see.

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