Doom Generation

Week of April 10, 2002

Although Marathon Man was celluloid fiction, the image of Sir Laurence Olivier as a sadistic Nazi death-camp doctor giving Dustin Hoffman a "dental exam" didn't exactly evoke confidence in the dental profession. A visit to which professional person gives you the jitters?

"A lawyer," says third-generation ironworker Fred Brown. "Doctors don't bother me and cops don't scare me, but lawyers -- lawyers always cost money, and there's rarely good news." Brown left his blowtorch at the job site and is playing bookseller, filling in for Big Sleep Books' Ed King, who's off snowboarding in the Rockies.

Elani Myers, aromatherapist and puppeteer with the Peppy Puppet Troupe, says insurance agents give her hives: "It stems from a bad experience when I was young and naïve. I had a situation -- it wasn't my fault, OK? -- and had to get SR22 insurance, and I really felt taken advantage of. So I feel like, in a karmic expression, when I'm older I will be protected from unscrupulous insurance agents. Oh, did I mention I hate insurance? It's big business. It's dirty."

Tina L. Prince, getting her java fix at Maryland Plaza's Coffee Cartel, says that for her it's a psychiatrist: "After three years, I still feel like I'm under a microscope or something. It is stressful, some of the questions they ask: 'Can you count from --3 to 1?' Or, 'If you're out walking and you see a gun in the park, what do you do with that gun?' I say, 'I'm not afraid of a gun. I'd take it to the police station.' They say: 'Oh, that's a good answer.' But I guess it does help, and I have some issues to iron out."

"The dentist," says Nancy Renkins, a receptionist at Technisonic Studios. "Why? Because I don't like my teeth poked and prodded. I don't like needles. I don't like pain of any sort, especially in my mouth. I go! Please print that -- I just don't like to go."

John McDonald, a strapping carpenter on break in South St. Louis, offers, "The thought of a dentist in your mouth can cause your blood pressure to shoot up. They hit a nerve, it feels like a lightning bolt shooting through your face." But as bad as that is, he says, "a judge makes me even more nervous, 'cause I've seen guys go into court and then the judge is having a bad day and they get hung out to dry for sure. You might not see them for a month or two. Hopefully their wife took care of them the night before."

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