Death, Teeth, and Employee Dining

There was a rumor floating around work today that woman died in our employee cafeteria. The story goes that she laid her head down to nap and never woke up. After a few hours, someone tried to rouse her to no avail.  Allegedly, she was only 32 years old.

While I was, by and large, horrified by this story, I was relieved for two reasons.

1. She did not appear to die from causes related to the food in the employee cafeteria.

2. There are sadder ways to die than alone in your home.

That’s right, I think about this kind of stuff. As both someone who has lived alone for several years and someone who perpetually worries about everything, I have thought about what might happen should I meet my demise home alone.

I think about how long it might take someone to find me and, more importantly, I think about what state they might find me in.  There is room for the scene of my death to be horribly embarrassing. Just imagine:

“Well sir, we found the victim on the floor here in the living room.  She was wearing socks, boxer shorts, and what appears to be a shirt with the children’s book character Madeline on it. She might have been snacking. As you see, there is this log of goat cheese near the victim’s right hand.  Best we figure is she slipped mid-bite, fell, and choked to death on some chevre.

Looking around at the victim’s home, we found the TV cued up to musical station Spotify. It appears she was listening to a playlist entitled "The Showiest Show Tunes That Could Ever Be Show Tunes.”  The last songs played appear to be the second act of “Mamma Mia.”

Our best guess sir is that the fall came from a dance move gone awry. The neighbors tell us they regularly felt a commotion that sounded like dancing coming from the apartment along with a combination of show tunes, country music, and, on occasion, Kelly Clarkson. So, cause of death is accidental; a toxic combination of Meryl Streep, cheese, and exuberance.“

This, ladies and gentleman, is why dancing like nobody’s watching has some drawbacks.

I am a clumsy sort. Moreover, I am awfully forgetful and, more than once, I have burned my carpet with an unattended curling iron. I have a tendency to let the life things slide too. For example, the light in my garage is currently burnt out. I need to call maintenance, but haven’t found time this week, so if I get home after dark, I simply paw my way through the darkness to do the door, hoping not to stumble or come across a bug along the way.

I try not to take these risks though, because when things do go awry, it is scary sometimes to have no one to rely on. I’ll be honest. The other day, I had a full on meltdown as a result of a piece of gum.

I was peacefully sitting on the couch, piddling around on the laptop, chewing on a piece of gum.  The piece was wedged on the right side of my mouth and I only occasionally chomped down on it.  As I slowly chewed, I jolted upright as I bit down on something incredibly hard.

I immediately spit out my gum into my hand to figure out what was going on. As I looked closely, I realized what I was looking at were two largish shards of tooth.

I repeat, tooth.

I frantically ran my tongue over every tooth until I found the broken one.  I was shocked and a little confused to discover the tooth didn’t hurt to the touch.  The calm, rational Jess concluded this was probably a filling that popped out. Panicked, afraid to be found alone dead in her apartment Jess concluded her teeth might be so far gone that the root is dead and this is just the beginning. All the teeth could go at any moment.  

As someone who has been obsessed with good dental hygiene since childhood to the point she had a crush on Hermey, I can assure you there is nothing more frightening to me than the thought of losing teeth. Whenever I even have a simple cavity, I am incredibly disappointed and frustrated. I brush. I floss. I rinse with fluoride. In other words, I don’t want to lose my chompers.

So, it is around this time that blind panic sets in. What do you do when you chip a tooth? It was after 11pm and I didn’t think any of my friends would know the answer. I assumed my mom was asleep in Memphis, where it was nearing 2am. So I Googled. The internet told me I needed dental cement and that it could be found at any pharmacy.

I grabbed my keys and headed for the door. "Keep it together,” I whispered to myself as I started the car. This calm didn’t last long.

If you live in Henderson, Nevada, you perhaps know that, while many things in Las Vegas are open 24 hours, pharmacies in this neck of the woods are not one of those things. After three closed pharmacies, an increasingly panicked me headed for the nearest grocery store. The Vons was open, however, the pharmacy was closed for cleaning.

I had held it together through all of this. But staring at the dental aisle with a cone and a flimsy rope holding me back, I had reached my breaking point. My lip began to quiver and I reached for my mom. I cast my mom’s needs aside and called her in the middle of the night like a pathetic child.

“MotheriwaschewinggumandthenmyfuckingtoothjustfelloutandilookedontheinternetforhelpandIneeddentalcementbuteverywhereisclosedandthegrocerystorehatesmeandohmyGodallofmyteetharegoingtofallout. Do. You. Hear. Me? FALL! OUT!”

My mom, who is both a saint and a night owl, was thankfully still awake. She had no suggestions, but she did talk me off the ledge as I proceeded to Wal Mart.

“Jessica, I bet you will be okay until the morning without this dental cement. Just don’t eat or drink anything.”

“The internet says cement, Mom. I’m finding the damn cement.”

Then, Dolores pointed out something very salient.

“Well, be sure you aren’t allergic to this stuff before you buy it.”

Even though I am obsessed with dental hygiene, part of the reason I tend to get cavities more often than I like is because I have an allergy that makes it pretty difficult to keep my teeth clean. I’m allergic to mint. Seriously allergic. Not puff up and die need an epi-pen, but searing burning pain that will last for a couple of days kind of allergic. I can’t even put mint on my skin. I’ll get what looks like a second degree sunburn.

Take a look around your bathroom. Tell me which of your dental supplies isn’t minty. Throw in the fact that cinnamon flavored stuff burns my mouth too and you are left with a gal who stockpiles Tom’s Natural toothpaste by the cabinet and buys children’s bubble gum flavored fluoride.

Dolores was right too. After 45 minutes of searching, I found the dental cement at Wal Mart. I also found out every version of it contained mint. I returned home despondent and exhausted.

This is the downside of living alone. These moments of panic where you think your teeth might all be falling out (for those concerned, it was just a filling the dentist replaced the next morning).  When something goes wrong, you are confronted head on that you are the only one who can solve your problems.

But there are good things about being by yourself. You dance around your living room. The DVR is your domain. And no one is there to pass judgment on you when you trip and choke on a piece of cheese or become convinced you will wake up a toothless hag or want to rock out to Kelly Clarkson in your pajamas. It has it’s dangers, yes, but it is a safe place, it is your place. And, even if it is face-down in a pile of cheese, I can say with certainty I would rather be found dead here than anywhere else.


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