I feel ashamed.
A total loss of control.
How can people do this to other people? Whither decency? Whither self-respect?
Maybe I’m over-reacting. You decide. I’m way too distraught.
Recently, the dentist I’d been seeing for twenty years decided to retire. And as dentists do, Dr. K – it’s really another letter, I’m protecting his identity with a fictitious last initial, though I’m not sure he deserves it – my dentist, Dr., let’s say, K, sold his practice to another dentist.
This is not unusual. “Practice selling” is an accepted procedure in the dental profession. In ways which I’ll mention shortly, this seems extremely strange. But maybe I’m just jealous. When I retired from writing for television, there was nothing I could sell.
“Would you like to buy my brain?”
“Don’t you need it?”
“Oh, yeah, I forgot. Never mind.”
When dentists sell their practices, partly what they’re selling is their inventory – the chair, the drill, the x-ray machine, the “spit sink”, the bibs, the big light, the “air hose”, the drawers full of pointy things they poke into your gums…
Dentists have a lot of paraphernalia. And that paraphernalia’s obviously worth something. Not to my retiring dentist. What is he going to do with a Cavitron machine? UPS guy brings a parcel to his house:
RETIRED DENTIST: “Hey, you got a minute? Come on in, I’ll blast some plaque off your teeth.”
They’re retired. They don’t do that anymore. But new dentists, they’re just getting started. And why buy a new Cavitron machine when you can pick up a used one that’s already broken in?
I fully understand that element of selling your practice. You’re selling your equipment. The weird part is that’s not all you’re selling. The retiring dentist is selling something else, something that’s considerably more valuable.
They’re selling their patients.
Now think about this. Dental patients, who voluntarily came to one dentist, are being sold, without their being considered or consulted in any way, to a total stranger.
Am I the only one who finds this bizarre?
My dentist sold his practice to another dentist, and part of what he sold to that dentist
That just seems wrong.
You can’t sell people to other people.
That’s slavery, isn’t it?
“You’ve been sold.”
“Without my permission?”
“I don’t need your permission.”
That sounds like slavery to me.
I know this doesn’t come close to the really horrible version of slavery, but the process – being randomly transferred from one owner to another – is still very upsetting. I can imagine Seinfeld’s “Kramer”, under such circumstances, whimpering,
“I’ve been sold, Jerry.”
I’ve been sold.
I wonder what’s involved in this sale? How is the negotiation transacted? Do they sell us in bulk? Or do they haggle over our individual value:
“Pomerantz. Clenches his jaw. But he always pays on time. I’ll take a thousand.”
“All right! But I hope he bites your finger!”
The unacceptability of transferring ownership of human beings obscures an almost equally troubling issue. Dentists aren’t interchangeable. Just because the new dentist will be working in the same office doesn’t mean that nothing has changed. Everything’s changed.
It’s an entirely different dentist!
What if I don’t like the new dentist? What do I have to do, buy my freedom? Say I can’t afford to. The treatment is unbearable, but I lack the resources to buy my way out. What do I do then? Run away, and seek asylum from a different dentist?
Can I do that? I mean, legally? The other dentist paid for me. I’m essentially their property.
I’m not sure if the Dred Scott case was ever overturned. Maybe freeing the slaves made it a non-issue. But if Dred Scott’s still on the books, as a runway patient, they may be legally obligated to bring me back.
Maybe I should calm down, huh? Who knows? This new dentist may be better than the old one. More compassionate, gentler care, extra free floss. The transfer of ownership might turn out to be a godsend. There could be a noticeable upgrade in my treatment.
The thing is, my new dentist is no spring chicken. In a few years, she could decide to retire. You know what that means.
They’re gonna sell me again.