It’s Right There…Somewhere

Finally. A purely ridiculous event to share with you.

If you happen to follow my posts on Instagram, you know that I was away for a month in my beloved  Provincetown–the very outermost tip of Cape Cod, home to artists, writers, fishing fleets, and lovers of wild moors, dunes and sea. I go there to work by myself a couple of times a year. This time my project was to take care of the revisions I’d received from my editor on The Language of Kin, publishing July 11. I thought those would take about half the time and I’d be able to go back to work on the next manuscript. Wrong. (Who knew I’d inserted so many errors into my nice “clean” manuscript? Or that I’d have so much opportunity to say, “Oh, she’s right…that’s actually not so clear.” Etc.)

But it was moving along. I was going through the manuscript a third time, still finding things I wasn’t fully satisfied with when it happened, and, at the moment, I wasn’t even biting into some thick sticky sandwich, in which case it would have maybe made sense. No, I was righteously eating a green salad while working at my laptop. Wouldn’t you think I’d have gotten some cosmic points for that? Apparently not. Suddenly, I was chewing a pebble. I found it with my tongue, pulled it out, and stared at it.

No way. I’d broken a tooth? Oh my god. A whole tooth? My tongue did a frantic search of my mouth. No! Sure that my tongue was lying or just really disoriented,  I raced to the bathroom mirror.

No! No! Please no!


I’d hardly remembered that front tooth tooth was a crown. Well, formerly a crown, now a sort of oblong small white pebble in my hand. Frantic, I started calling my Provincetown friends. Who went to what dentist? “What? You go to Boston?” I don’t have a car, and that’s over two hours away. Three different friends had the same local dentist–just retired. The one other in-town dentist’s receptionist said, “No new patients including emergencies,” and did not respond to begging or pleading. A new dentist was opening in Provincetown, though, the next week. A kind and warm and helpful manager offered an appointment for the first day they’d have their town permit. He had one question for me: do you have the crown that came off? Me: Yes! absolutely. Manager: Great. Simple. Go up to the pharmacy and buy some temporary dental cement. Stick it back on and Dr. McDermott will fix it up reliably, like permanently, next week when you come in. I had a new best friend.

To go out in public (walk to pharmacy and buy cement) I practiced talking without lisping while keeping my lips partly closed. I was terrible at both. Smiling was out of the question. Bet you’d love to see a picture, right? Not a chance.

Then I had one of my dangerously brilliant ideas. Before I go buy the cement, I should figure out how this thing fits on and practice, so I don’t put the cement on it and then have the stuff dry while I mess up getting the tooth on. Makes sense, right? Of course. So I did that.

It was a bitch to get on. I figured out the front from the back after hopelessly confusing myself with a magnifying mirror, but then getting it on was really really hard. Finally, yes! It looked exactly the way it had before. Okay! It fit so tightly that my tongue couldn’t dislodge it, and I talked (out loud to myself, the rantings of a lunatic) and it was fine. Tried to wiggle it. Didn’t budge an iota. Tried to get it off, and I couldn’t. I wondered if I even needed cement, but decided I had to be safe.

So, the obvious thing to do was to walk up to the store, buy the cement, come home, somehow get the thing off, and temporarily cement it back until the local dentist had at it.  I went out the back door of my second floor apartment. Bruce, the maintenance man was just riding his bike down the gravel driveway at the same time, and my dear friend and next door neighbor, Donna, was leaving her apartment–across the driveway–on her way to her studio. I went down the first step of the external spiral staircase and called hi to both of them. Big mistake.

Out pops my tooth. Dumbfounded, I watch it fly down to the two-inch thick gravel driveway, bounce lightly once in front of Donna and Bruce, and rise to execute a swan dive into the pebbles. Donna, the person I’d called first to find a dentist, realizes exactly what had happened and starts yelling, “Her tooth, her tooth!” while Bruce thinks we’ve seriously lost our minds as I’m suddenly flying down the stairs yelling, “Don’t move, ith down by the thairs!” A minute later, three of us are on our hands and knees, moving gravel stone by stone. Nothing. Bruce sets up search grids with sticks, and I resort to reenacting the tooth dive from the top of the stairs by spitting tiny pebbles out of my mouth one at a time, but no pebbles care enough about my distress to land in vaguely consistent areas. My downstairs neighbor comes walking down the drive with her dog. Then there are four of us sprawled out moving gravel. I climb the stairs to spit out more tiny white pebbles. You probably never knew how many little pieces of gravel are dead ringers for a tooth, did you? You don’t want to.

Yes, we spent a whole lot of time looking. No, never did find it. Yes, tried every day, and no, it doesn’t work to fashion your own temporary crown out of gum. Yes, days later, the kind Provincetown dentist made me a temporary one I managed not to wreck until I was back home and my regular dentist made a new permanent one. (Yes. $$$)

Finally, I’m lucky and I’m very grateful. Way way worse things that can’t be fixed happen all the time. Those people need our care, right? I’m telling you about this so you can laugh with me, and be grateful that we still have things to laugh about.

Thanks so much for reading. Does anyone out there have an episode that was ridiculous or embarrassing you’re willing to share in the comments? Long-time ago or recent, doesn’t matter!

19 Responses to It’s Right There…Somewhere

  1. You didn’t have to ask, dear Lynne; as soon as I read the part about the crown popping out into the pebbles, I knew I’d have to share my Junior High School experience. For you it was a crown, for me — what are the odds? — it was an orthodontic retainer. Mine was the kind with wires for the teeth, attached to a skiny piece of pink plastic molded to the contour of my upper palate. Like your crown, my retainer was $$$, and it was brand new that late Autumn afternoon when I was raking the rainbow leaves under the maple tree on our Hickory Lane front lawn. I’m sure you can guess where this is going, so I won’t prolong the suspense. Just as the sun was starting to go down, my retainer popped out of my mouth into the big pile of raked leaves. Trust me, a needle in a haystack has nothing on a wafer-thin plastic retainer in a leaf pile — especially just as the shades of night are falling. There was nothing for me to do except of course panic, and run to get my mother from inside the house. The lawn was getting darker by the minute, but we were lucky, by some miracle recovering the retainer before everything became pitch black. All of which is simply by way of saying, Lynne: you have all my sympathy. And I’m sure if Mom were still here, you’d have all of hers, too.

    • Oh wow, Finding that must have been pretty miraculous. And your retainer was brand new…naturally, right? I remember hearing from my daughter’s orthodontist and most kids lost a retainer or three by accidentally dumping it into the garbage when they dump off the contents of their lunch tray in the school cafeteria. (After that, I believe we packed her lunch every day.)

  2. OMG! What a nightmare. This happened to a woman I worked with, who was portraying Zora Neale Hurston. It happened the day before she was to go on stage but she was able to find a dentist in Columbus who reattached it.

    As one of my wise friends always said, “It’s not what you worry about that gets you; it’s what you never see coming.”

    Love you–Deb

    • Oh, that’s definitely worse! And you just made me think about how this could have happened when I was on a book tour…yikes!
      The friend of yours who talked about “what you never see coming,” is so right! Thanks for reminding me, I think! I wish we could steal you from South Carolina and have you performing again with Ohio Chautauqua–your characters are always so brilliantly portrayed.

      • I too can certainly relate to the “never see it coming” precept. I never recognized how closely my plastic retainer resembed a leaf until it landed in a big pile of them.

  3. This made me LOL. Oh, Lynne. This needs to make it into a book! I have a story. Hilarious, however embarrassing. I was way up in the middle of nowhere (Goshen) when I suddenly had to pee really bad. While my family waited in the car, I ran into a garden store, used their bathroom, and just so I didn’t feel like a jerk using them for their bathroom, I went to the front counter to ask the nurseryman there a question about something or other that I actually did want to know but don’t remember anymore.
    The guy was giving me funny looks, but he was polite and answered my question. I figured he was on to me, using his store only for the bathroom. Outside I go, relieved as I was, only to have my family shouting something from inside the car. They were laughing, pointing BEHIND me. I turned to find a looooooong toilet-paper tail floating from the waistband of my jeans like a bridal train. It was epic.

    • Oh no! Every woman’s nightmare, and you’ve lived to tell the tale. (Or should I say tail?) That’s both hilarious and embarrassing–a perfect story. And Terri, for sure it belongs in one of your novels. I’d not thought of using the lost crown story in the future…honestly, yours is better. If you don’t use it, I may beg you for it. Thank you so much for sharing!

  4. OMG! A P-T memory you will NEVER forget! So sorry you had to go through that not so “thilly” ordeal. Grateful you had friends providing moral support and gravel searching expertise. Loved seeing that special spiral staircase. Hugs, Susan

    • I know, right? See the true excitement I bring to P-town? And as you can see in the pic of the gravel, in some areas we moved enough of it piece by piece until we got down to the dirt. How many times did one of them hold up a tiny white pebble and yell, “Wait, is this it?” (Too many, and it never was!)

  5. Sadly there are far too many moments of embarrassment putting me in my place one way or another, and funny more often in the aftermath. How to choose? I was a young Episcopal priest in my first parish on my first solo Christmas Eve in New Hampshire, the snow falling appealing all about, and the little church crowded with folks, some that I was seeing for the first time. The sermon seemed to have gone well, some smiles at appropriate times and no tomatoes or holly stakes tossed my way. Welcomes to all, sharing the Peace, the sound of little children cheering everyone. Then came the gorgeous Great Thanksgiving, the magic words of communion/communal transformation, all read with feeling from the altar book with all the appropriate magic hand gestures and bows and even a bell ringing now and then. Very grand. BUT — I was still some at heart an old Baptist, further undone by a hefty dose of Quakers in college, and there was part of me that wanted to step away from The Book of Common Prayer, that grand conglomeration of beautiful words and enchantments. Now came The Lord’s Prayer, and that I could handle on my own, so I turned to the congregation with considerable feeling and said, just as the Prayer Book stipulated, “And now, as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to say” — at which point I went completely blank. Unfortunately, the congregation being Episcopalians it did not leap into the gap to begin the prayer. Nope — all looked up at me in great anticipation to lead them further into the Christmas mystery and I’d got….nothing. Quietly I shuffled back around the altar, found my place in the Altar book and found the formerly so familiar words, “Our Father….” — and then we were off together again. But that was a long moment of silence which I like to remember as my Quaker moment.

    • Wow, Michael. This is so funny! Absolutely understandable because don’t we often get through the hard parts and then screw up when we think we’re home free? I can imagine how you must have felt at the time, blocking on the easiest part to remember. You are so generous to share such a fully human moment. I suspect we all have moments like that, when we in retrospect can’t believe how we stepped into a mistake. Mine are legion and I try to get over dwelling on chagrin instead of laughing when I remember some, but I’m not good at that. I love your thinking of it as your Quaker moment. As your Haverford colleagues would say (after an hour of silence), “Yes! Quakers! May we live on and our numbers increase.”

  6. Long morning of errands, then the urge to pee, can I get home in time, it is doubtful. Where is the closest store where I know where the bathroom is, and where it is close to the entrance? Ah, Sprouts, over there. I park and dash in, get to the ladies room door, and, swear words, it is locked and one needs a combination to get in. With legs tightly pressed together, I find the nearest employee, a cute young man. Please, may I have the combination for the restroom? I use the restroom and go back to the car, search purse for keys and notice my phone is missing. Oh drat, did my phone drop out on the bathroom floor? Or did I leave it at home? I’d better check. Back to Sprouts, back to the bathroom, more swear words, how could I have already forgotten the combination number? Back to cute young sales clerk to get combination again, back to the restroom, no phone on the floor, walk out of store and back to the car. As I sit down, I hear a slight crinkle, huh?……. lots of swear words, all in caps……. clinging to me is the paper toilet seat cover!
    It will be a while before I take my 81 year old self back to Sprouts. I don’t care how much eye candy they have.

    • Oh no, Karen! That is so funny! Every woman’s nightmare scenario. Now Sprout’s is thinking, “Whatever happened to that loyal customer? Seems a lot of our women customers don’t come in anymore.” They’re paying some consultant a huge fee to figure out why. But…the consultant is male, and never thinks to hang out near the bathroom on the off chance that there might be a problem there. A woman consultant would know that at least half their women customers come into the store initially looking for the bathroom, and then buy something on the way out.

  7. I have a front and center tooth crown that suddenly fell out, swimming in Mexico. I walked into the dentist office in Villa Granja and he had a TREADLE dentist drill contraption that looked like a torture machine, so I walked out. For three weeks I walked around like a toothless hockey player, and come to think of it, my crown made of porcelain is still at the bottom of the sea in Mexico because porcelain lasts then thousand years.

    • I LOVE this story! Thank you so much for sharing it–definitely makes me feel less alone. My precious front crown is still among the pebbles on the Provincetown driveway…couldn’t stop myself from looking for it when I was back again even though–what would I do with it now?

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