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A public conversation about our worlds.

  • Monday: Morgan J. Locke
  • Tuesday: Madeleine E. Robins
  • Wednesday: Maureen F. McHugh
  • Thursday: Bradley Denton
  • Friday: Steven Gould
  • Saturday: Caroline Spector
  • Sunday: Rory Harper

Brain Activity



Someone Else’s World

July 24th, 2007 by Madeleine Robins

porcelain_inlay_big.jpg

I love competence and professional pride. I think they’re sexier than broad shoulders or tight glutes, and right up there with a good voice and beautiful hands (hey, everyone has their buttons). But like most people, I get tunnel vision about all the different kinds of competence that are out there. Just because I’ve never wanted to be a butcher doesn’t mean that there aren’t artists out there for whom the proper filleting of a chicken breast is a deeply satisfying thing.

So: this morning I went in to have a crown put in, but my dentist wasn’t satisfied with it. Seeing that the crown is for the upper front tooth that I cleverly smashed last month, having it look like it belongs with the teeth on either side is important (in building design this is referred to as “vernacular architecture”). The dentist left it up to me whether this was something to worry about, but it clearly bothered her that the crown didn’t play well with others, and considering that it’s likely to be in place as long as I have teeth, well, her concern made some sense to me. Which is why I found myself driving to another part of the city, to the dental ceramics lab, so that her “crown guy” could get a better match for me.

My dentist warned me beforehand that this was not a glamorous place–just a ceramics lab. And in fact it was several rows of old desks littered with tools and magnifying lamps, and a patina of ceramic dust covering everything. Kind of a dreary place, not somewhere I’d want to work. I had to wait for a few minutes, until the “crown guy” arrived (tearing down the hall on a Razor scooter!) and turned out to be a tall, handsome, middle-aged Chinese guy with a deep voice, who looked at the crown he’d originally produced, shook his head, and announced that that one was all wrong. He then stood me in the light and spent five minutes debating with himself between two shades that were almost indistinguishable to my eyes. He swapped them one for the other in situ, hmming to himself as I grinned like a serial killer. And I realized that it was a matter of pride to the Crown Guy that he make my crown as close to the tone of my teeth as he possibly could. I’m gonna look great because making me look good makes him look good.

I get tunnel vision sometimes; there are all sorts of jobs I wouldn’t want to do, and many, many jobs I never even imagine. Making ceramic dental crowns is one of them. And the Crown Guy reminded me that it’s not just a job–for him, at least, it’s a calling. Cool.

Posted in Daily Life, Health and Safety, Mad, Medicine | 6 Comments »

6 Responses

  1. Morgan J. Locke Says:

    Nice post, Robins.

  2. Madeleine Robins Says:

    Thanks, Locke.

  3. Rory Harper Says:

    I’m glad you got a good guy, Mad. I empathize, as I’m going in for a crown next week myself. This will be the second broken tooth this year.

    Even though I have great insurance, it’s going to cost around $500. Once more reminding me how privileged I am over the people who don’t have insurance. I suspect many people simply do without.

    No more cracking unpopped popcorn kernals for me, I suppose.

    Pretty soon, we’ll all be reduced to eating nothing but vitamin-augmented jello, through a straw…..

  4. Madeleine Robins Says:

    I had my first root canal when I was twelve. Every dentist who has ever set foot, so to speak, in my mouth, has noted that I got the fuzzy end of the genetic lollipop, teethwise. I’m now up to root canal 13 (or is it 14?), but the last two were because I fainted and broke teeth–acts of God, rather than genetics. (I do love cracking unpopped popcorn kernels, though.)

    So you could say that I appreciate a good crown when I see it. Good luck with the teeth, Rory.

  5. Bradley Denton Says:

    I dig this post — because, like Madeleine, I have great admiration for anyone who takes care and pride in the details of his or her job.

    This is also why I have little patience for those in my own profession who believe that their great Ideas are enough to make them great Writers . . . and who therefore don’t bother to become skilled at details like grammar and punctuation.

    Nobody at EOB seems to be guilty of this particular sin. But Mad’s experience with the Crown Guy just reminded me of how disappointed I am when some of my colleagues don’t take the same care with their own work — especially when they excuse themselves by saying things like “that’s the Editor’s job.”

    Professional pride means that it’s NEVER somebody else’s job.

  6. Madeleine Robins Says:

    Amen. Double amen with nuts and berries.

    I will note that I have a friend, a good writer, a good artist, and the worst natural speller I have ever encountered. If she proof-reads her stuff (and she does) she’s quite capable of correcting a typo into something also wrong (in that sense she’s rather like a computer spell-checker which can turn a misspelled word into a totally unintended word). Copyeditors exist to catch the stuff you don’t catch yourself–either because you can’t catch it, or because you’re too close to it. She would never say “that’s the Editor’s job;” but she would be damned grateful for the people who keep her from looking dumb in print.

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