My Left Tooth
By Robin Jovanovich
Dentist or the DMV? Choose your own weekday adventure, but there have been times the past six weeks when I’ve wondered whether it would be better to face that off-course great white shark, who is checking out dining opportunities in the Long Island Sound, than sit calmly in a dentist’s chair or act non-violently at the White Plains DMV when my number isn’t called — ever.
Both the dentist’s office and the DMV have been my destinations the past six weeks. While I have great affection for my dentist — and his mother — despite the fact that he doesn’t even ask if you want disco or techno before revving up the power tools. When George W. Bush was president, I looked forward to dental appointment, because my dentist did “Saturday Night Live”-quality imitations. These days, however, he’s more concerned about where his daughter, a West Point graduate who is headed to a conflict zone, will be assigned. I feel his concern, even as he’s been probing deeper into a root zone in my mouth.
About the DMV much has been written, and very little of it good. What do they expect, when the first person you ask is hostile, the second uninterested, and the third stifles a yawn. The fourth recommends you step away from the counter. Everyone waiting for their turn stares at you. Even the babies stop crying. One grandparent kindly suggests: “Maybe you should make an appointment.” A gruff man who looks familiar — many find themselves asked to return Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday — says, “Lady, you’re holding things up. I think my number is before yours.” That’s another thing, no one waiting comprehends the number system. You have ticket C123. C122 is called. But then A161 flashes on the screen.
The process is undemocratic and the atmosphere tetchy.
In the hours I’ve sat in the dentist chair, driven to the DMV, and waited at the DMV, I’ve tried to use my time — 32 hours and counting — well. I haven’t checked out online offers, played Words with Friends, or responded to pointless emails. And I have refrained from assaulting a clerk or a person who’s barged in line to plead the case that their problem is more critical than the other 325 people waiting, standing, perspiring, talking loudly on their cells with the speaker function on.
Instead, I’ve gathered up all my inner resources, filtered out the drill and the background turmoil and pondered how I can help change the course of modern conversation. Why do more and more of us think the country is going to hell in a handbasket? Perhaps because there are only two sides in any attempted conversation or debate. Facts are tossed aside because your side is the only one whose positions matter.
Friends of the Rye City School District accuse you of helping defeat the first School Bond and trying to do the same with the three-proposition bond coming up for a vote on Tuesday. How? Because you allowed opponents of the bond to advertise. (Trust me, newspapers only survive with the help of advertising.) Ad hominem attacks become routine and unprintable.
Friends of a Better Bond print up mailers which include the masthead of this paper, causing many in pro-bond community members to attack us for being card-carrying supporters of their positions. We call the Friends and emphatically tell them never to do that again.
Meanwhile, “friends” of friends of the Rye City School District include the masthead of this paper on a typed sheet which includes a “Vote Yes” letter filled with baseless charges about Rye Country Day parents and grandparents trying to defeat the Rye City School District bond. Hundreds of those papers are deposited at the Rye train station.
My tooth aches.
I refuse to publish anonymous letters, and all those letters claiming a private school plot, one of which was distributed at the Rye library’s annual Vehicle Fair, (seriously), and I am attacked for favoring the Better Bond folks. I will admit to favoring all those letters that are thoughtful, intelligent, and perhaps helpful to voters.
Then there is the unraveling of the Playland deal with Standard Amusements, followed by the bankruptcy of Standard Amusements. Did the County Executive make the best decision when he decided to sever the deal and announce that the County will be operating the park for the foreseeable future? If you posited that perhaps now is the time to consider making it a passive park, you were accused of not caring about the poorer residents of Westchester and the Bronx. If you asked how Westchester residents of all income levels felt about investing $150 million into an amusement park whose attendance has fallen 58 percent below its peak, you were called “one of those people who just looks at the bottom line” — and worse.
My head aches. Mostly I ache for the community spirit and conscience I discovered in 1992, the year we moved here to this wonderful town.
We live in a democracy and everyone is entitled to their opinion, but everyone needs to do a better job of listening — and filtering out the noise of unbridled and often misplaced rage.
There is common sense and civility.
Next week, I will need to return to the dentist and the DMV. I’m not asking for your vote in making this the last time I have to go to the dentist this year or the DMV ever! But I am counting the days until we rediscover the better angels of our natures.