When I accepted the office manager position at a small, start-up dental practice in 1997, my only thought was, “This will be a cake walk. No stress, no worries, phone it in and head for the beach.” After years on Wall Street, I just wanted a calm, adventure-free job. That assumption on my part was wrong on sooooo many levels! So many insane things happened in that practice, it could have easily been turned into a long-running sitcom.
The petite, adorable, and oh so stylish female dentist I was working for wasn’t from Eastern North Carolina, and would need to build her patient base slowly and by word of mouth. Like most new practices, it was decided to accept Medicaid patients in order to help do this. It was a win-win for both the community and a fledgling practice. The first week the doors were open we spent a lot of time learning our new software and waiting for the phone to ring. One day it did. Would we accept a family with several children with bombed out teeth in need of immediate treatment? Darling, if you had a pulse, a toothache, and a Medicaid card, it was your lucky day! COME ON DOWN.
And come they did. This family practically lived at our office for about a month, and I DO mean lived. Lord knows what their living conditions were like at home, but apparently they viewed the daily trips to the dentist as an opportunity to have running water and a flushing toilet. Their dilapidated old van would pull up, doors flung open, and out they poured. They brought not just the child to be treated that day, but their mothers, fathers, in-laws, cousins, babysitters with boyfriends, and dogs. “Hot damn Etta Mae, we’re headin to the toof doc; it’s a party!” They were perpetually filthy and barefoot and apparently used our tiny patient bathroom in an attempt to tidy up, among other things.
Each relative would go into the bathroom for extended periods of time, and when they finally left our office, there would be no paper towels or toilet tissue left, and the toilet was always stuffed up and overflowing. Obviously, we soon dubbed them ‘The Potty Poopers’.
Since there were only three of us in the practice, it often fell to me to clean up behind The Poopers; I became the Rear Admiral of the Plunger, and soon came to dread their visits. But one day they pushed things too far. When the doors of their ark were flung open and everyone poured out, what should bring up the rear but a damned white goat, being led on a short rope.
I have no idea what The Poopers’ plans for this red-eyed devil were. Drink some fresh running water from the tiny sink, or from the toilet perhaps? Give it a bath using 87 of our C-fold towels? Allow it to graze on our fake ficus tree? Maybe the goat was to be bartered to cover the family copay? Weeks of being pissed off about my unwanted Rear Admiral position boiled over; I had had enough of this red neck Noah’s Ark and challenged them at the door into the reception area. “You can’t bring that animal in here; it’s unsanitary”. They weren’t thrilled about this turn of events, but finally compromised and tied old Billy up to our sign post out front.
We were soon provided the opportunity to dismiss the entire family from the practice due to various misdeeds, none of which involved the goat. I’m sure there was some serious celebratory drinking going on the night that dismissal letter was sent out!
Now, for some more “Texas Toast”. It was the day after my most embarrassing moments with the gorgeous Jack Scalia and the pickaninny hair do. Boy arrived for his six week vacation and first visit to Europe. As long as romance was left out of the equation, Boy was a perfectly good companion. He had an acerbic wit and a caustic tongue and not a half bad sense of humor. While I was working during the days, he amused himself with the architecture and history of Milan and the surrounding countryside. Nights were quiet dinners enjoying the incredible restaurants and discos. It was at one of these dinners the first week he was there that we finally had a long overdue heart-to-heart, probably prompted by one glass or four too many of Chianti.
For the first time since meeting in high school, Boy admitted he was ‘probably’ gay. Apparently it all started when an older gentleman mentored him in high school. This ‘gentleman’ was a pillar of the community (aren’t they always?) and had an indoor pool constructed in his living room that he used as bait to lure in his prey. Boy thought that dating me might just cure him of his ‘problem’. Apparently not, since, at the University of Texas, Boy had a lengthy affair with one of his professors, which the wife took great exception to, ultimately filing for divorce. A very famous architect (yes, you would ALL know this name, except possibly Etta Mae and Billy Goat) came down to do a stint as a visiting professor, and you guessed it! Affair number three. Then, meeting the Prancing Sheilas was the straw that broke the gay camel’s back. Top that off with his introduction to the West Village scene and our relationship was dead and buried.
So, where there’s tit, or in Boy’s case NOT, there had to be tat. Boy wanted me to confirm that he wasn’t being paranoid about Alberto, and that we had indeed been carrying on a long-term affair. After much clearing of the air and dirty laundry, I think we were both vastly relieved to have this behind us. I told Boy that we were officially over, but he could remain as a roommate until he found a new place, which I prayed would be sooner rather than later. He wasn’t to question my comings and goings, or social life in any way, and vice versa.
Almost every weekend Boy was in Italy, we would hop a train and explore Venice, Florence, Siena, or Rome. My last days in Italy passed peacefully and uneventfully, but I had great trepidation about returning to New York. How would I be received by Wilhelmina? Would the awful Parisian flame-out be offset by the success of Milan, or would I have the smell of a loser child wafting off me? Summer was coming, and only time would tell.