Printer-friendly version
Emily Grossman

The $900 Souvenir

March 29, 2009 at 9:30 AM

For the third time in three months, George took on a mounting headache that wouldn't go away, even after two days of ibuprofen and Excedrin. When he gets these, I just assume he is really going to die this time, so I spend the rest of the day asking how he feels. "My head hurts." Where does it hurt? "I don't know." Do you feel hot? Is anything swollen? What about when I push right here? How do you feel now? "My head hurts." Did you get enough water? Too much water? Not enough salt? Here, put some ice on it. How do you feel now? "My head hurts." After some more probing, we had it narrowed down to a tooth problem.

I watched his pulse while he watched the tv. I checked his breathing as he dozed off at night. I googled horror stories about botched wisdom teeth extractions. I watched the Zapruder film on Youtube, over and over again. Where does it hurt, George? Back, and to the left.

In the morning, since George was still alive, we scheduled an appointment with the safest sounding dentist in town: Dr K.B. Chun and Sons. They immediately squeezed him into the schedule and took him back to the chair. And then, the results were in. No, George would not die after all. But across the estimate, these two words were written--two words so severe, they are forever hallowed in the halls of pain and dread and worst case scenarios: Root Canal.

Forced into a dead end, we reluctantly agreed to the procedure. "Have a nice vacation," I called with scantily clad sarcasm as they whisked him back to the chair. Then, in one of the red waiting room chairs, next to the coffee table covered with vacation magazines and leaflets of perfect pearly whites, I shed a silent tear as I thought about our empty vacation fund. 900 dollars. More than a ticket to Hawaii. More than a two week car rental, or two weeks of housing. For $900 you could dine on kobe beef and fois gras at Tokyo-Tokyo not once, but maybe four times. 180 toe rings. 100 bottles of sunscreen. 450 americanos. 75 hawaiian shirts. 120 glasses of wine. Instead, I got "In sickness and in health" cycling through my head as I walked to the car, drove past the restaurants and shopping centers, and returned home to sulk at the computer.

But then I started thinking some more. Back in Alaska, where it's currently 30 degrees and snow packed, a root canal would run upwards of $1500. Add on a crown, and the bill would run easily over $2000. So, in reality, the timing could not have been better for a bargain on root canals. If it had to be done sooner or later, why not have some ukulele music to listen to while they're drilling and a warm place to bask when you're done? After all, sunshine is still free.

After making a few jokes at George's expense on facebook, I returned to the dental clinic with a better attitude. George came out and showed me his tooth, which now had a shiny white crown. "They crowned it?" I asked in alarm, as dollar signs spun circles in my eyes. "No wait, look at this:" He held out the bill, which had been reduced from $1110 to $860. "He gave us the crown for free and knocked off the tax. Said it was our 'vacation discount'." So, basically, we'd saved $1140. Hmm, that's five kobe dinners. 570 americanos. 126 bottles of sunscreen, or all the sunburns you can pack home.

"Well, look at that, George, it's definitely the pearliest tooth in the bunch. You should have had them paint a red hibiscus on it, seeing as how it's our souvenir and all."

From Karen Dotson
Posted on March 29, 2009 at 8:11 PM

I really enjoyed your blog, even to the point of reading it out loud to my husband! I'm sorry about your unexpected expenditure, but you do have a great vacation story to tell!

From Laurie Niles
Posted on March 29, 2009 at 10:32 PM

I applaud you for seeing the silver lining in the dark cloud!


From Emily Grossman
Posted on March 29, 2009 at 10:49 PM

I'm glad you liked it.  I almost didn't publish this one because obviously this is a direct result of our neglect to maintain six-month dental cleanings.  But then I thought of how happy I would make the people who do go every six months.  To spare them such joy would be wrong of me. 

Not that that has anything to do with the reason for your own enjoyment.  I think.  Never mind, I'm glad you liked it.

From Dottie Case
Posted on March 29, 2009 at 11:26 PM

Emily, how long are you staying in Hawaii?  As one who is still looking out at a foot of snow on the ground (and high snow banks) at 28 degrees, I agree that the recovery might as well be with great scenery and warmth!

From Emily Grossman
Posted on March 30, 2009 at 12:13 AM

That's the question of the day, Dottie.  We were going to fly out this evening, but are currently stranded on Oahu because Soldotna's neighborhood volcano won't quit erupting.  I'm in the process of rescheduling all my Monday lessons.  Mahalo! 

Posted on March 30, 2009 at 12:15 AM

Glad you found the ROOT of the poblem

teeth GIF Animation

Avoid going home to Alaska altogether...the volcano seems to be following you


From Jerald Archer
Posted on March 30, 2009 at 2:19 AM


I enjoyed that story. Hang in there, George!

From Dottie Case
Posted on March 30, 2009 at 3:01 AM

I just spent 5 days on Florida Gulf Coast last week.  Even though my brain knew it was coming, I can't tell you how discouraging it has been to get back into my sweaters, boots and winter coat after being on the beach.  SIgh...just doesn't seem right.

Volcano issues...not many of us can say that!

From Tom Holzman
Posted on March 30, 2009 at 1:14 PM

Great blog.  Hope George has a swift recovery, and remember to do those semi-annual visits. 

Your story reminds me of a similar experience we had some years ago when traveling in the UK.  My son woke up at 3 a.m. in terrible pain.  He does not usually complain about anything, but we found him writhing on the floor.  We were in Oxford and had an ambulance drive him to the local ER.   We were thinking, OMG will he be o.k., but also, here we go with the reputedly awful  National Health Service, and it will cost us a mint besides.  To make a long story short, we were the only folks in the ER at that hour, they saw him immediately, and, after several hours were able to diagnose a kidney stone.  They wanted to keep him overnight until the stone passed but had no open beds, so they let him go early afternoon with some medication.  The charge for all this, which included blood and urine tests and a CAT scan: $0.00 except for a nominal amount for some medication.

From Ray Randall
Posted on March 30, 2009 at 2:58 PM

Well written and intereating blog. Glad he's ok.

This entry has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Anne Cole Violin Maker
Anne Cole Violin Maker

Miroirs CA Classical Music Journal
Miroirs CA Classical Music Journal

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Classic Violin Olympus

Coltman Chamber Music Competition

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Jargar Strings


Violin Lab



Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine