Fake Laughter and Artificial Happiness

July 6, 2010
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October 21, 2009:

After an after-school bake sale, I have a 4:30 dentist appointment. There’s a new dentist there named Reena. I like her quite a lot, until she finds the cavity in my mouth. At first I am worried she would just pull it out like my orthodontist unexpectedly did a few months ago, but clearly I know nothing about dentistry – you don’t pull out bad teeth, you have them filled and then continue your life drinking soda less and brushing your teeth more… at least, that’s what the nurses tell me to do.

For a children’s clinic, it is not a very complicated procedure but somewhat painful, so I need to have nitrous oxide; or, as they tell little kids to keep from confusing their yet honors-chemistry-free brains, laughing gas. They put a bright orange nose contraption over my face: it looks really intense and when I first start breathing I feel a too-clean smell coming into my mouth. Reena asks me if I feel tingly yet in my arms or legs and I say no, but a minute later I feel tingly all over.

In another minute, my body feels disconnected from my brain, and I feel like I am in a dream. In the background I hear one of the nurses tell my mom, “We won’t leave her dizzy, the way she came is the way she will leave.”

Somebody hands me one of the toy monkeys they keep in the room to hold on to; my nervous hands are already sweating. I try to fall asleep and succumb to the nitrous oxide, but my body decides it wants to be rebellious and give the chemical a hard time in calming me down.

I feel as if I have been sleeping, or unconscious, but all of a sudden I wake up. The reason I wake up is because of a noise – my own laughter. I am laughing so hard that I cannot stop. My eyes are still closed, but not from tiredness, just from laughter. I do not remember at all what I started laughing about, but once I started I could not stop.

I am in a dentist’s chair that has me lying down backward at a 45 degree angle. Because of this awkward position, I happen to be snorting while laughing. Hearing myself snort, which I do not usually do, makes me laugh even harder… and snort even louder. Reena comments that my laughing-snorting routine is like an endless cycle, and her comment alone makes me laugh – and snort – even more.

I try very hard to stop myself and repeatedly apologize for laughing so hard. Every single comment she makes, I am laughing, and I feel so good. I am sweating but I just want to keep laughing because it feels so right. She starts doing the most painful part of the procedure and tells me to try to stop giggling; she cannot operate on a patient that keeps moving. I feel the pain already, but I still shake from laughter. When that part is over I am laughing harder still, and Reena decides I am shaking too hard for her to get any work done. She turns down the nitrous oxide and attempts to finish the procedure. I don’t realize that she’s cut off the flow of laughing gas, because the mask is still on my face, but I continue to laugh and laugh and laugh.

A man I have never seen before comes in. I see him from my upside-down position in the chair. He stares at me and I stop laughing; I hold it in until he is gone and pretend I am a good, quiet patient. As soon as he leaves I ask Reena who he was. I am surprised that she understands my question since my mouth is wide-open and she has her dentist utensils in it. She tells me that he is the senior dentist’s son, and that makes me laugh more. I snort again. I am laughing so loud by now that all the nurses come in: there are at least five, and they listen to me laugh even though I no longer am under the influence of the nitrous oxide. The dentist working on me points this out, and it makes me laugh harder. I am hysterical.

When the operation is over, I am still giggly but starting to get sad because I feel the effects of the gas are wearing off. Reena is a little tired, but she tells me I am her new favorite patient, and that I made her day, which happens to be her birthday. The nurses describe to me how they have never seen a patient so red in the face while laughing. Tears are now coming out of my eyes and a dentist wipes them away.

I go back out to the sitting room, where my little brother, who has heard my laughter, tries himself to make me laugh before the chemicals wear off.

“Why did the chicken cross the road?”

I try to hold it in but I cannot, I burst out laughing once again and have to grab a tissue. My brother is satisfied; under any other circumstance he is never successful at making me laugh.
I still have a smile plastered on my face, and I am waiting to think or see something funny to make me laugh again, but it is becoming more difficult. As the gas dies away, I feel sadder and sadder. It felt so good while I was laughing, I felt so carefree, I liked all the attention and how everything made me laugh. Then the feeling was gone and I don’t know if I left the dentist’s office my normal self, or even sadder then before. “The way she came is the way she will leave.”

I wanted them to put some laughing gas in a doggy-bag for me to take home. I even wanted to get another cavity just so I could have more laughing gas. I wondered if having wisdom teeth pulled out required laughing gas.

Before I leave, the nurses tell me I have a nice smile, which they probably tell all of their patients. When I come home, I tell the story to the rest of my family and a few of my friends. When I tell my best friend, she thought the funniest part about the whole story was the fact that I had a cavity. In less than an hour, the feeling has completely died away but I still remember the dream-like state I was in. I loved it. I loved to laugh.

I sadly realize that the hour I spent in the dentist’s office was like a happy hour: it was only because of drugs and chemicals that I was so happy. I realize that this may be what other people feel like when they are drunk or high. I am somewhat disgusted with myself for enjoying so thoroughly an experience which, under other circumstances, would be considered dangerous or illegal. I promise myself never to seek such artificial happiness through drugs or chemicals.

Then I wonder what I can do to make me as happy as I felt in the dentist’s chair. I take a long time to think about the things in my life that make me smile and laugh. I realize I have a pretty funny little brother, even though he sucks at telling jokes. I have friends who make me laugh just by thinking it’s funny that I have cavities. Eating cheap milk chocolate or watching my puppy chase wag his tail makes me pretty happy too!

So it’s not like my life is void of happiness. In fact, I have a pretty good life. I have healthy teeth and a healthy family; good friends and good food. Artificial happiness is fake and fleeting, but what I have stays with me forever.

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This article has 19 comments. Post your own now!

partlycloudyholiday This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 25, 2010 at 4:14 am
This story is hilarious and shows the importance of how laughter is the best medicine. I would recommend not changing the tense as you did when you began talking about your brother. Changing tense creates confusion for the reader. The sentence fluency needs a little work. Many sentences begin with "I" and it creates an awkward pattern. It can be tricky to fix, (I have that problem when I journal) but other than that, the writing is strong. Overall, it's a cute story and it's easy to appreci... (more »)
Esther V. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jul. 25, 2010 at 8:29 am

the tense was a bit tricky to write but im not sure what you mean about changing it when it gets to the part about my brother - i thought it stayed present tense throughout...?

sure i'd love to read your story! what's it called?

a.m.f said...
Jul. 15, 2010 at 9:29 pm
I love this story!  Even though I wasn't there, it makes me laugh.  I think the ending is perfect.  I like how you realized you're life is absolutely fine and that you don't need "artificial happiness" to be content.  I also like that you wrote this story in the present tense.  Not many people can pull that off, but you did.  The only thing you could work on is a few grammatical errors, but everything else is great!
Esther V. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jul. 16, 2010 at 7:29 am
thanks so much! yeah the tense was a little bit hard to pull off but once i started it was pretty easy to maintain. glad it could make you smile :)
xcrayolaxstormx said...
Jul. 13, 2010 at 2:31 pm
Hey :) You wanted me to let you know when the Lion King 3 got published. It did! LOL. Hope you read it, I think you'll like it.
Esther V. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jul. 13, 2010 at 3:43 pm
already did :) it was really good; it felt almost like i was watching the beginning of the first 2 movies haha
xcrayolaxstormx replied...
Jul. 14, 2010 at 12:17 pm
Thanks :D I'm glad you liked it.
DemonXxXchild903 said...
Jul. 12, 2010 at 8:50 pm
All in all, a great story.  I often come home from some where and want to write down what happens, but I never do. Maybe i should! lol! It turned out great for you! I think you should work on descriping things better. That might make it sound a little better. Also, add a little more about the other people. And, this one is hard to explain, but show us what happens. Don't just tell us. Let your voice come through in the piece. This is a very wonderful piece! Kudos!
Esther V. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jul. 12, 2010 at 9:18 pm

wow thank you so much for all that feedback!!! very specific and helpful; thank you!

this is the first time i've ever written something down like that; probably because the experience was so random and crazy that i felt it deserved to be written down. i'm not very good at making the normal seem interesting, but when its already interesting, all i have to do is write it down haha. i understand what you mean by showing, not telling, and letting voice come through. im not very good at tha... (more »)

DemonXxXchild903 replied...
Jul. 14, 2010 at 1:44 pm
Anytime! I will read some off your other stuff, too. I had trouble with my voice, too. Act liek your friends in the room with you and tell them the story. And make it really exciting so they listen! lol!
sunnyhunny This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 11, 2010 at 7:50 pm
I really like this!  Until the last few paragraphs, I just thought this was a really cute, humorous story.  I was pleasantly surprised when  I found out that you had even found a moral to it!  Nice job! 
Esther V. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jul. 11, 2010 at 9:09 pm
thank you! i was surprised i found a moral too, mostly i just had fun describing the experience :)
xcrayolaxstormx said...
Jul. 9, 2010 at 10:42 am

You're welcome :D

And, I know how you feel. I was excited when I got my first comments and stuff. I'll tell you if I have any constructive criticism and such. Can't wait for your next one!

Esther V. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jul. 9, 2010 at 4:50 pm

i have 2 reviews and 1 fiction waiting for approval (the wait is killing me!!!!)

and now im waiting for your lion king fanfiction :)

xcrayolaxstormx replied...
Jul. 10, 2010 at 2:46 pm
Haha XD Me too.
AlyAT said...
Jul. 8, 2010 at 9:35 pm
Great article, certinaly makes you think. I spend a ton of time in the dentist chair and have never thought of the laughing gas that way...but it makes sence! Keep this up :-)
Esther V. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jul. 12, 2010 at 9:19 pm
thanks :) i think right now im jealous of you for having had laughing gas multiple times haha
xcrayolaxstormx said...
Jul. 8, 2010 at 10:48 am
I really liked this. It was funny, but it had sort of a "life lesson" behind it. I like the way you write. :) Keep it up, and keep writing :D
Esther V. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jul. 8, 2010 at 4:59 pm

aw thanks!!!

you're the first person to comment on any of my writing in the 3 days since i've made this account. i definitely will keep writing and if you have any constructive criticism please feel free to let me know :)

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