I didn’t have to work on Friday, my school was closed for a holiday. What did I have planned? A root canal. 0900 hours. I was starting my free day with painful dental surgery. Pleasant. I usually like to spend my free time overeating and drinking something special, now there’s no point in indulgence; pain.

The day started like any other day though, up at 0600 and on the bus by 0700 hours.  I take bus #26 to this part of town, the university district. The university operates a dental clinic as a part of their school.

Dental students stood around watching the doctor tap on my bad tooth asking,” does this hurt, does this hurt?”

I’d say yes, it g*d d*mn hurts, but both of his hands were in my mouth. I let my flailing limbs do the talking. As I outweigh three Korean women, there is no point in the two young female technicians trying to restrain me. They are like dolls to me. I lifted them and set them down each time the doctor jabbed my debauched tooth.

After the doctor was satisfied with my level of pain, I set the girls back down on the ground. The doctor turned to the several students who are watching and said something in Korean.

“Behold the exotic white gorilla, fantastic in strength, but unwise in oral hygiene. He has eaten too much sweet bamboo and now has an achey-breaky tooth. Poor gorilla.”

Or something like that.

He tapped on the computer screen showing my x-ray and continued in Korean. Pause. They all turned to look at me. Silence.

I’m ashamed. Me likey sweet bamboo.

The doctor settled on his approach and explained the procedure to the two dolls, who scrambled to get his instruments ready, and to the students, who nodded in unison, “Yes, gorilla is naughty. No brushy, no flossy. Bad Pongo.”

Me want hug.

After a few seconds of anesthesia, I was very, very happy. I slept during my root canal.  I thought about the Buddha’s earlobe. Glorious pendulum. Great mattress of enlightenment. Orchard of cookie dough.

After the procedure, I drifted back into my body. It felt saggy and heavy. Damp. I wanted to go back and walk with Buddha. Alas…

The doctor pinched my arm to get my blurry, semi-focused attention. I think he was explaining the follow-up care for my wounded tooth. His Korean is flawless. I wish I understood him.

He finished explaining and stared at me. I felt like I should say something.

“Si, señor, no problemo.”

He harrumphs and dismisses me. The dolls usher me to the door, bowing as I leave.

“Auf wiedersehen.” I reply. “Ich goingzee home now.”

As I neared the bus stop, and home, my anxiety grew. The bus. My nemesis. There is no bathroom on the bus and I have a nervous bladder. A floppy  bladder, weak with indecision. And me without my bedpan. I’m good for another 10-12 minutes, but the bus ride could exceed 15-18 minutes. Two red lights will destroy all that is innocent.

I used my last adult diaper to get here. Usually, at times like these I could share with my infant son. An inflamed rash is a price I’m willing to pay.

“God, please, two green lights,  please…

I dropped my change into the fare counter and walked to a seat in the back, smiling a swollen, bloody smile to each person on the bus. I do this even though I hope they don’t notice me. They notice. I smile bigger.

“Bon jour, bon jour…”

I usually get my own seat in the back. (Thanks can o’beans.) In fact, I usually get several seats. It makes it a little harder to talk to the people who gave up their seats for me. So I talk louder.


It’s all a part of being a guest in a new country and I think I’m doing pretty good. I’ve nearly perfected the art of blending in.

I settled into my seat, pulling a bottle of Coke and a doughnut from my backpack, my reward for enduring the root canal. I opened my book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”.

Chapter One.