Columns like this one usually have a format. They tend to go: funny anecdote; expand on anecdote; serious moral musings; bite-sized takeaway. This week, let’s scrap all that and get right down to the bite-sized lessons, because I have two, and you should listen up.
Lesson number one: Karma exists. Remember this, if you are ever tempted to put off planning something special for your two-year anniversary until the half hour before you meet up with your loved one.
Lesson number two: Make sure you have proper dental insurance. The Yale Health Plan does not cover you. This is not a drill. Do it right now.
Here is what will happen if you do not follow these lessons. First, you will scramble to find transportable food for the last minute picnic that you have half an hour to assemble in order to prove your significant other that you, too, are capable of romantic gestures. Sushi! you will think triumphantly, as you send time-buying texts like “Could you please look to see if I have lost an earring anywhere in your entryway?” Next, you will tear down York Street flailing wildly. Meanwhile, deep in the shadows, Karma is starting to flex her muscles.
An hour later, as you and your beau romantically feed each other wilted fish, you will suddenly have the daunting realization that Sushi on Chapel cuts its New York rolls into giant, fist-sized pieces. To avoid dribbling rice down your shirt, you will try to eat these in one bite. Hubris! In so doing, you will inadvertently tear open the half-healed incision over what used to be your wisdom teeth. You will wake up the next day with a face the width of a basketball, gently oozing. Karma: 1; You: 0.
If you’ve already followed lesson two, at this point you can pass go and collect $200. If, however, you have foolishly assumed that the Yale Health Plan will pay to fix a gaping hole in your mouth, you are in trouble. At this point — because this is how Karma works — it will definitely be a Saturday. So, you will reluctantly drag yourself to Acute Care, where, after a four hour wait spent watching a documentary on the History Channel about toilets, a physician will literally Google your symptoms and then give you an antibiotic recommended by the internet. A week later, another doctor will tell you that the medication you have been given is actually intended for gastro-intestinal infections, and that you must pay out of pocket to see an oral surgeon immediately. Karma: 5; you: 0.
At this point, you may realize Karma has it in for you, and start doing good deeds to try to change her mind. Apparently working at the soup kitchen is not enough: your cheek will continue to fester. You might have job interviews; when you go to them, and smile at recruiters, they will ask if you need a second to finish your mouthful before you start the interview. A friend, alarmed by the radical asymmetry of your face, will force you to consult Yelp for an oral surgeon.
This is how, at 8 a.m. on a Friday morning, you will find yourself 20 minutes up Whalley Avenue, in a building between a car parts wholesaler and a desolate wasteland of broken paving stones. You will feel nervous. The waiting room you are sitting in may in fact go so far as to display a plaque saying “Voted New Haven’s 12th best oral surgeon in 2009.” Strangely enough, this will not make you feel much better. The oral surgeon will then pull a scalpel out of a drawer of what seems to be a desk purloined from a Vandy dorm room. His syringes wait in a pen pot. The radio is playing the Spice Girls. He will ask if you need to call your parents. He will ask, no joke, if you folks have phones in England. Karma: 10; you: -1.
You think I’m exaggerating. But this would be a good moment to go put all your loved one’s birthdays (and any anniversaries) into your iCal, because, believe it or not, every word of this has actually happened to me over the past two weeks. So be nice to people — and, if you don’t plan to — get full dental insurance. I’m serious. Otherwise, this really and truly will happen.
The story ends where all regrettable actions do: in the neon corridors of Yale New Haven. There, if you, like me, haven’t treated others quite as you might like to be treated, Karma will make sure you are given an X-ray by a doctor with unbelievably long finger hair. When you look at who’s next to you, you will, no joke, see a convict in beige scrubs handcuffed to the machine, flanked by two particularly no-nonsense members of the NHPD.
The two of you will catch each other’s eyes. Karma, you’ll both think.