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.