Corrente

If you have "no place to go," come here!

Possibly the best passage ever on American dental surgery

Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon:

And so finally the big day came, and Randy took care to enjoy his breakfast because he knew that, considering the nerve damage he was about to incur, this might be the last time in his life that he would be able to taste food, or even chew it. The oral surgeon’s minions all looked at Randy in awe when he actually walked in the door of their office, like My god he actually showed up! then flew reassuringly into action. Randy sat down in the chair and they gave him an injection and then the oral surgeon came in and asked him what, if anything, was the difference between Windows 95 and Windows NT. "This is one of these conversations the sole purpose of which is to make it obvious when I have lost consciousness, isn’t it?" Randy said. "Actually, there is a secondary purpose, which is that I am considering making the jump and wanted to get some of your thoughts about that," the oral surgeon said.

"Well," said Randy, "I have a lot more experience with UNIX than with NT, but from what I’ve seen, it appears that NT is really a decent enough operating system, and certainly more of a serious effort than Windows." He paused to draw breath and then noticed that suddenly everything was different. The oral surgeon and his minions were still there and occupying roughly the same positions in his field of vision as they had been when he started to utter this sentence, but now the oral surgeon’s glasses were askew and the lenses misted with blood, and his face was all sweaty, and his mask flecked with tiny bits of stuff that very much looked like it had come from pretty far down in Randy’s body, and the air in the room was murky with aerosolized bone, and his nurses were limp and haggard and looked like they could use makeovers, face-lifts, and weeks at the beach. Randy’s chest and lap, and the floor, were littered with bloody wads and hastily torn-open medical supply wrappers. The back of his head was sore from being battered against the head-rest by the recoil of the young brilliant oral surgeon’s cranial jack-hammer. When he tried to finish his sentence ("so if you’re willing to pay the premium I think the switch to NT would be very well advised") he noticed that his mouth was jammed full of something that prevented speech. The oral surgeon pulled his mask down off his face and scratched his sweat-soaked beard. He was staring not at Randy but at a point very far away. He heaved a big, slow sigh. His hands were shaking.

"What day is it?" Randy mumbled through cotton.

"As I told you before," the brilliant young oral surgeon said, "we charge for wisdom tooth extractions on a sliding scale, depending on the degree of difficulty." He paused for a moment, groping for words. "In your case I’m afraid that we will be charging you the maximum on all four." Then he got up and shambled out of the room, weighed down, Randy thought, not so much by the stress of his job as by the knowledge that no one was ever going to give him a Nobel prize for what he had just accomplished.

Randy went home and spent about a week lying on his couch in front of the TV eating oral narcotics like jellybeans and moaning with pain, and then he got better. The pressure in his skull was gone. Just totally gone. He cannot even remember now what it used to feel like.

America, as we may see clearly from a distance, does not have a culture where avoiding or preventing suffering for others is highly valued.