Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Religious dentistry

Being a chronic procrastinator, I hadn't been to the dentist in way too long. First my dentist moved out of town and I dragged my feet about finding another one. Then I got laid off and was uninsured for a while. I should have gone as soon as I was hired at HappyTech, but here it is a year and a half later. With the possibility of another job change looming I finally decided I better go while I still have dental coverage. So I went to my HMO's website last week, plugged in my zip code and picked out a provider.

When I got to the office this morning ten minutes before they were officially open, I walked in to find the entire staff standing in a circle holding hands in the lobby. The dentist led them in a lengthy, wordy prayer in an oratory style that suggested many years of public prayer if not pulpit experience. He prayed for God to guide his hands as he performed his job. He asked for a special blessing on the dental assistant, the receptionist, the office manager, a specific request for each of his six staff members. He prayed for the patients who patronize their practice, those with appointments today and those he would see in the future. It went on forever. I stood there feeling awkward, not knowing if I should bow my head in respect or walk out. Finally just as I was about to leave they said their amens and greeted me as though this were the most normal thing on earth.

And I'm sorry, but it isn't. I mean no disrespect to anyone's religious beliefs, but a workplace is not the appropriate venue for such professions of faith. Pray to whatever deity it pleases you to worship in your home all day long if you want. Do it at your church. Do it among friends who share your beliefs. Do it privately in your car or your break room. Pray silently to yourself. (I understand most God believers think He can hear that too, right?) But don't make an ostentatious public display of it at your place of business, because that's just bullshit.

Afterwards, I was filling out the requisite intake form and of course it asked for my spouse/partner's contact info. Oddly, it also asked for the length of our relationship. Like, how could that possibly be relevant to my dental care? I had to take a minute to deliberate whether I should reveal any of this information in an office that is likely full of homophobes. Finally I decided what the hell, let them judge me. I had already judged them to be showy religious freaks.

He turned out to be a nice enough guy with a gentle touch. God did not intervene on behalf of my enamel though; he found four lucrative cavities to fill. I guess I'll keep going back to him so long as nobody preaches at me. I did show up before business hours and maybe their little ritual was not intended for my eyes. But what a surreal way to start my day.

Listening to: Combustible Edison - Utopia