Rita is Back

The Dentist, The Mugger, The Bank Robbery

Posted in Odd Stuff by ritaisback on January 7, 2010

I  have to thank Dave at www.bloggerdad.com for inspiring the telling of the odd experience I had recently.  I urge you to read his riotous post, “People are Animals.”

Over the long Thanksgiving break I cracked a tooth.  I was having too much fun with my family to even notice it at the time, yet after the long weekend I realized that I should phone my dentist to have the tooth fixed before it became a painful bother.  This was not an easy decision for one reason:  I loathe going to the dentist.  Years of childhood experiences with poor dentistry put a fear in me that has lasted for years.  Nonetheless, the Monday after the long weekend I called my dentist of over 20 years and made an appointment for the following Friday.

I was a nervous wreck all week.  Though I like my dentist personally, I assiduously try to avoid him at all costs.  As the day of the appointment finally arrived, I drove myself to the large office complex where the dentist is located, which happens to be in one of the worst parts of one of the most disgusting cities in all of America.  Good fortune must have smiled upon me, as I got a parking spot right next to the window of my dentist’s first-floor exam room.  As I was locking my car, another car stopped.  The car was filthy.  Inside the car were two very large, menacing lugs of young men.  My New York City mentality immediately kicked in:  extricate myself from what could be a potentially harmful experience as politely as I could without showing the terror which was now controlling my mind.

The driver of the car had his window rolled down.  He addressed me with “Hey lady, you got any cash?”  

“Um, ah, not very much”

I walked on.  The men in the car followed me.  “Hey lady.  I’m here with my friend who has to have some stuff done.  Your front bumper is hanging off and I’ll fix your bumper for $200 cash.  I have nothing to do but wait for the next hour.  Whaddya say?”  I knew that this was a $600 job, as I had already checked with my mechanic and ridiculously decided that I didn’t want to spend that amount on a bumper that was an eye-sore but could wait until I had an extra $600 to get it repaired.

I turned to the rather large and somewhat intimidating man. “Sorry.  I don’t have $200 in cash.  Thanks for the offer, but I have to get into the dentist.”  He persisted.  “How much cash do you have?”  It quickly became clear to me that I was going to be robbed.  Rather than risk bodily harm, I opened my wallet.  “Look, I have 4-$20 bills.  That’s it.”  “Well, there’s an ATM right over there so you can get the other $120 for me right now.”  Great.  Now I was being mugged by a guy with math skills.  “Sorry, I don’t have my ATM card with me.  Thanks for the offer but I have to get into the dentist’s.”  “No problem.  Give me $40 up-front.  Tell me your dentist’s name and when I’m done I’ll come in for the other 40 bucks.”  I breathed a sigh of relief.  This escalating situation was going to cost me $40 to be rid of these guys.  I handed him the two twenties, grateful that my wallet had not been demanded and that my life was going to be spared for 40 bucks.   Shaken, I walked into my dentist’s office, was immediately called in and took my seat in the chair of agony.

Of course, there is a back story.  How had my bumper gotten to be this way in the first place?  I admit that the only thing that I fear more than the dentist is the bank.  I know.  It sounds odd, but I am terrified to enter a bank.  I will use the drive-thru unless it is imperative that I have to do more sophisticated banking (which I try to leave for my husband to handle).  When I worked in Manhattan in the early ’80’s I was involved in a bank robbery where three men came out of nowhere, opened fire and shot the bank guard.  We were ordered to lie on the ground and not make a sound.  As I lay there, munching carpet while the robbers did their thing, constantly threatening us with death if we moved, all I could think of was “Please God.  DON’T let the cops show up.”  One might think that under the circumstances the average person would be praying for the police.  One would be wrong.  While trembling with a mouthful of fibers, one does NOT want to be taken hostage.  During an armed bank robbery the ONLY thing that one wants is for it to end:  fast and without more bloodshed. 

What did this have to do with my bumper?  I will try to connect the dots.  Last Spring I had to make a bank deposit.  I went to the drive-thru and miscalculated the room that my car had between the concrete pillars.  Instead of easing my car through the small opening I accidentally hit one of those concrete pillars with the front of my car.  The pillar emerged victorious, taking my front bumper with it.  I emerged furious with myself yet unharmed.  I re-adjusted my car, went to the drive-thru the proper way, made my deposit and took off, thoroughly embarrassed.  This led to months of people asking me the obvious:  “Did you know that your bumper is hanging off.”   Sarcasm aside, my answer would be a simple “yes” as opposed to “gee, no.  I’m a total idiot and had no idea.  Thanks for letting me know, you asshole.”

Back to the dentist’s and my altercation with the mugger.  As I sat in the dentist’s chair, telling him what had just happened, we both agreed that I was lucky to escape unscathed for $40.  My hands tightened on the arms of the chair, knuckles whitened, as the drill of agony started to whirr.  The Nitrous Oxide was doing its job.   “Marathon Man” was  firmly rooted in my subconscious, mixed with the little fishie mobile on the ceiling and the distraction of this nasty looking man outside the dentist’s window, now trying to steal my car. 

Tooth fixed, gas mask off, I stood up just as the menacing man entered the dentist’s office, hand in pocket.  Certain that we were all going to be shot, the mugger approached the reception area.  There stood the dentist, his receptionist and me, all a-tremble.   As this huge lug pulled his hand out of his pocket, the three of us were now in a pants-wetting situation.  Out came the hand.  Our eyes were agape as he pulled out his business card, complete with his name and the words “Licensed Auto Mechanic.”  He said “Forget about the other 40 bucks.  I don’t want you to have to walk around without any cash in your wallet.  Please tell your friends about me if they ever need a mechanic and have a great holiday and a Happy New Year.”

I had pre-judged.   Here I was, a teacher who had taught so many classes on ethics, prejudice, racism, bigotry and hatred, now standing with the back of the crow hanging out of my mouth.  Not all people behave like animals.  I was humbled and ashamed at myself by the experience.  The proverbial “Good Samaritan” did still exist. 

Please let me know if you need a good auto mechanic.  Rather, please let me know if you want the name of a gentleman. 

Does anybody have a “Good Samaritan” story that they’d like to share?  If so, I’d be delighted to hear about it.  (BONUS POINTS if you word-meisters can figure out the actual time of my dental appointment!)

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