Hygienist: “So, Josie, we haven’t seen you in a while, where have you been hiding?”
me: “Well, I live in Birmingham now.”
Hygienist: “Oh goodness, yeah that’s, what, a three hour drive?”
me: “Well, yesterday it took me seven.”
Hygienist: “Heavens. I know, the traffic was awful. Okay, now lean back.”

She clips the bib around my neck, shines the overhead light on my face and leans in with a very sharp instrument.

Hygienist: “You know, speaking of traffic, your father was in here about a year ago…”
Although I usually avoid eye contact, I fix my eyes on her to prove I’m listening. I can see her sharp, hooked tools navigating and tapping around my mouth in the reflection of her glasses.
Hygienist: “It was a Thursday (tap tap tap) and I was telling him about how my Uncle Bill and Aunt Mary were flying in for the holidays and were going to take the MARTA home… (tap tap tap)

I almost nod to prove I’m following the story. I secretly hope she’s paying attention to what’s she’s doing.

“And so he asks me,” she says, “How old are they? And I say, well Uncle Bill is 88. But he’s very spry and agile, you know. Tiled my mom’s floor last spring.” She waves a pic-wielding hand for emphasis and I watch it whiz by my face.

Awkward nod from me as she sticks a mirror down into the back of my cheek. I am so stuck here for the duration of this story.

“So your father, he looks at me–and you know, I love your father, dear, he’s such a sweetheart–but he looks at me and says, ‘You aren’t going to meet them at the airport?”

Uh-oh. tap tap. 

“So, you know, I told him, they’re very capable, they’re happy to take MARTA. And he just looks at me and says (she sticks her nose in the air a little for effect), “It’s about respect.” TAP TAP TAP.

Here we go. “Respect” is my father’s favorite word.
She pulls out the abrasive toothpaste and the electric tooth shiner thingy and continues to talk over the buzzing.

“And I just felt so guilty.”
I widen my eyes and nod to show I understand. I’m your friend, lady. A little more abrasion on the tooth, a little less on the gums, please.
“I went home and told my husband all about what your father said, and I told my husband, ‘I feel awful, I think we should pick up Uncle Bill and Aunt Mary at the airport.'”

Noo….eyebrows up, slight head shake. Not necessary! Don’t let Pasco drag you in, too! Live your life!

“So anyway,” she continues as she strings floss between my teeth, “The point of the story is we got in the car on Thanksgiving weekend and there was construction on 85. We got stuck for 2 and a half hours. Ended up having to call and tell Bill and Mary to take MARTA after all and we finally were able to meet them at the MARTA station like we originally planned, but it was a huge disaster. Took hours.”

Gentle with the floss, lady.

“You just tell your father that I felt awful and listened to him and I did try to pick up my aunt and uncle at the airport. Because I love your father, dear, but I’m just not used to feeling such guilt! My family never was into the guilt thing. Spit.”

I lean over, spit, then turn to her and say, “That’s because you don’t live with my family.”