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Fake Laughter and Artificial Happiness
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.