by Rob Rosen © 2006
She came to my office much the same way as all my patients do: referred by her usual dentist who didn't have the time to deal with such an extreme case. But there was something different about her. Something not quite right. And it hit me as soon as she stepped into the examining room.
She wasn't nervous.
Far from it, actually. She was, surprisingly, humming. I believe, if I'm not mistaken, that it was to the song, "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing"; made famous more than thirty years ago by the Hillside Singers; and made famous, yet again, around the same time by Coca-Cola. I knew, almost immediately, what I'd find when she opened her mouth. I'd seen it time and time again. Only this was more severe than anything I'd encountered before.
I asked her to have a seat. Introduced myself, "Dr. John Dennis, but my patients call me John."
"Nice to meet you, John. My names Jenny."
We shook hands. I looked into her gloriously yellow smile, as she got comfortable in the chair.
"So what brings you in today, Jenny?" I asked, already fairly certain of her answer.
"A penchant for Coke, or so I've been told."
"And just how many do you drink a day?"
"Oh, don't rightly know. Six or seven, I suppose."
"Sounds like an addiction." I prepared to look into her mouth, though I knew what I'd find. She'd be lucky to have any enamel left at all.
"Coca-Cola is the shortest distance between thirst and refreshment," she informed.
I stared into her eyes and only nodded, unsure of just how to respond. For a nut case, she practically radiated self-assurance. Buzzed with it, actually. But maybe that was the caffeine. It's hard to say for sure.
"Well, it's eating away at your teeth. Why not try something else for a change. Maybe a juice the next time you're thirsty."
The smile left her face.
"Not drink Coke? The friendliest drink on earth? The drink of quality? The pause that refreshes?"
"There are other, well, less caustic drinks out there, you know."
"Other than Coke? No way, Doc. It's ice-cold sunshine. It's around the corner from everywhere. Coca-Cola revives and sustains." The smile reappeared. Her mantras clearly had a relaxing effect.
"It's the real thing, huh?" I played along.
"Coke adds life."
"But it subtracts from teeth. I'm surprised you have any left in your mouth. Not to mention what it's doing to the lining of your stomach."
"Have a Coke and a smile," she said, and flashed me hers. Actually, even though it was as yellow as, well, a Mountain Dew, it was a glorious smile to behold. I'd seen that look on Buddhist monks before, but never on any of my patients. Perhaps she'd found a new religion in her addiction. Perhaps the slogans she was spouting had actually brought her joy. Truthfully, I'd never seen anyone so happy before.
"But aren't you in pain?" I inquired.
"Sometimes, I suppose. But sacrifices have to be made. Life is good, Doc. Enjoy! Catch the wave!"
Her insanely upbeat personality was infectious. Maybe she was on to something. Besides, I could replace her teeth. Could I replace her bliss?
I tried one last time. "So, I can't persuade you? It's Coke or nothing?"
"Coke is it. Always, Coca-Cola. Can't beat the real thing."
And I couldn't beat the feeling that she had a point. I gave up and went to work on her mouth. She hummed the entire time, oblivious to my often jarring work. I was right, of course. Her teeth were barely hanging in there. Even with regular brushing and flossing, it was a lost cause. The acidity of her life-sustaining fluid was eating away at her. And still she smiled and hummed. Tapping her foot to the beat of her song.
It was mesmerizing. And, after a while, I too found myself singing the song and tapping my feet.
"I'd like to buy the world a home and furnish it with love. Grow apple trees and honeybees, and snow white turtledoves. I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, I'd like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company"
"Ipsa weel fing," she sang along with me. A look of pure bliss spread across her radiant face, as I finished up in her mouth.
Several visits later, I finished what I'd set out to do. Once again, Jenny had opal-white teeth, which, I was fairly certain, she'd fast stain and ruin all over again. Still, I wasn't all that upset. I actually looked forward to our next encounter.
Truth be told, I too would now like to buy the world a Coke. It's good for business and, apparently, the inner harmony of the soul.
Photos courtesy of
Teeth Dean Jenkins
Cola and Lime Lars Jensen
Xray Matthew Maaskant
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