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Exercise #175 : In the Dentist's Office : Stretching, Folding, Tilting

In Dreaming By the Book, a path-breaking analysis of how novelists instruct us to form images in our minds as we read, Elaine Scarry devotes an entire chapter to stretching, folding and tilting. The exercise is this: In a dentist's office, what might stretch, fold, or tilt? Simply make a list of as many items as you can, and very briefly describe the way in which these stretch, fold or tilt.

1,2,3, GO!

There is nothing good about the dentist's office. Absolutely nothing. You sit in the little waiting room while your ears are tortured with the sound of drills and crying children. They try to cover up the horror with cheesy muzak, but it can't possibly mask the sounds of pure evil going on behind the examining room doors.

But that's not what this exercise is about. It's about stretching, folding and tilting...
  • the scary chair, of course, folds and tilts
  • the overhead light does all 3, and quite menacingly, I might add
  • the mirror thingy that they stick in your mouth to 1) push your tongue out of the way or 2) look at the hard-to-reach places tilts
  • the elastic on the dental hygienist's face mask - the part that wraps around his or her ears - stretches
Ok. This exercise is freaking me out. I hate going to the dentist's office. It's not because I've had a bad experience or anything. I have nice teeth. I take care of them. But there's just something about how sterile everything is. It's so clean and uninviting. And also, they're sticking foreign objects into my mouth, which has never been pleasant for me.

Does anyone else hate the dentist's office as much as I do? Or am I alone in my pain?


P.S. If anyone else can think of other stretching, folding, tilting things you can find in a dentist's office, please regale us all. I, for one, am not willing to delve back into that catastrophic mental place.


MKTRAT said…
What about the x-ray machine (the arm like style) or the fancy tray the hygienist uses to hold all the tools for torture? maybe the sweet drool bib that is permanently creased so it never lays flat. And don't forget the stretching of the syringe as it soaks up the novacaine....

Just a few ideas....
May-Day_Aura said…
You're not alone! I saw the title of this exercise and instantly shuttered. I hate going to the dentist's office as well. (Even though I have an amazing dentist whom I love.) Like you, I haven't had a bad experience or anything like that. I mainly dislike the noises of the dentist office. The whirling and scraping and nails on a chalkboard to me!
Anonymous said…
You know, when I was a kid, I used to LOVE going to the dentist. I have absolutely no idea why...
Now I go just to get it over with.. and lately it's been nothing but bad news. So I've stopped eating sugar. For now.
But all that poking and prodding really is no fun!
Guy Duperreault said…
Well, since you asked, you failed to mention:

from the stretchy category, the rubber dam that dentists snap onto the tooth anchors to keep tooth particulate from collecting in our throats;

and then that means the metal sprung clamps that anchor the rubber dams, given that they stretch and snap onto your teeth, even if they are not rubber;

rubber bands associated with braces stretch, of course;

then the rubber gloves, which they stretch onto their hands;

x-ray machine folds and tilts;

and the x-ray film holder folds and tilts as well;

the lead apron shield folds;

the anesthesia is stored in a bottle that is tilted before being dispensed;

the paper towel from the dispenser also folds;

which means, unfortunately, that the floss, cotton gauzes, towels and even clothing demand to be included in the foldable category;

socks and hosiery probably need to be included in the stretchy foldy categories, along with underwear and/or their elastic bands;

and this might be too obvious, the human animal is a stretchy tilty foldy thing, and so the dentist and the hygienist need to be included;

and perhaps finally, time, which seems to stretch interminably whenever you are either sitting in the waiting room with your toothache, or waiting for the casting compound to set while your plugged nose wants to sneeze.

Not sure if this exhausts the office, but...
Your jaw tilts and your neck bends!
Laura Camp said…
I do not wish to enter into the scary world of stretching, folding, and tilting things in a dentist's office, but I do wish to say this: that photo is going to give me nightmares.
Summer said…
UGH! I really don't like going to the dentist either. I hate the scrape-y noise that comes from the poker thing that gets the plaque off your teeth. And the feeling of the swirling toothbrush. It all sends chills up my spine just thinking about it, which is the precise reason I take care of my teeth, so I spend as little time as possible when I am forced to go. The only thing I like is the way my teeth feel afterwards.

Your mouth stretches when you open it wider than what you're normally used to.
The bib folds, and so does your tongue (kind of..).
I think dentists also use those magnifying glasses attached to their heads (I'm not entirely sure because I always squeeze my eyes shut), but those can go under "things that tilt."
Linda said…
The dentist tilted back my head, his eyes stretching in horror as he saw the extent of the decay in my mouth. The fat dental nurse folded her arms and looked smug. People like me kept them in business..."my pain was their gain".
Rachel said…
I've got no problem with the dentist. My dentist and my eye doctor are two of my favorite people in the world. It's the nurses I often have a problem with, because they seem to be constantly coming and going and have no concern for if they stab you in the gum too hard. Or try to floss you to death.
Astrid Crosland said…
My mum's a dental nurse, so I used to hang about the dentist's quite a lot. Once you critique novels with your dentist a lot of the fear goes away.
Robert Tutton said…
i must have had a half dozen dentist appointments this summer, and i'm not looking forward to going back (even in my mind for this exercise). the only stretchy/tilty/foldy items i can think of: curtains/blinds on the windows, hoses and tubes that connect the tools, that cardboard you bite when they x-ray you, tooth paste tubes and flexible tooth brushes they give away and the packaging from a fresh set of tools.
I'm never, ever going to be able to think of stretching, folding or tilting in the same light. Thanks Stef! :(
Harlen Anne said…
Maybe I'm the only one young enough to remember those nasty flouride trays, where you tilt your head back, the dentist stretches your lip back a little and folds that nasty 'bubblegum' or 'strawberry' flavored over even your back teeth so that slime runs slowly down your throat.
ib said…
What about those plastic things they ram in to your mouth before they radiate your inners? I don't mind the denist much because she believes in the concept of a patient feeling no pain. The syringes are somewhat menacing but after the first injection, i'm already on my way to thinking about cute and fuzzy bunnies.
M. A. S. said…
I don't mind the dentist. My 5 year old LOVES the dentist. And I really can't think of other stretching, folding, tilting stuff in a dentists office. But it makes me think of what other things stretch fold and tilt.

I'm thinking of flags and astrophysics.
ib said…
Harlene, I am aware of those nasty flouride treatments that they administered back in the day. I would have rather had a root canal.
Robin said…

Time stretches to an eternity as I approach the chair. With some trepidation I sit down and slide my legs across the vinyl surface. As I glance up at the light the chair begins to tilt backward, forcing me into a more compliant pose. Trembling just a bit I open my mouth to prepare for the dentist's first glance of my bare naked teeth. The dentist reaches for some sharp object and I feel my mind fold in on itself in order to preserve my sanity.
Tony Destroni said…
"There is nothing good about the dentist's office. Absolutely nothing. You sit in the little waiting room while your ears are tortured with the sound of drills and crying children." - yes you're right all the kids when we say dentistas or dentist its just like a nightmare to them . but i think this will help us to relieved our toothaches.

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