Well, the talk is that my oldest will be getting braces soon. She needs them. Her mother and father both went through it so it was pretty much expected. She also has an overbite which will need to be corrected. Back to this in a minute or two.
Have you ever had a person in your life that seemed to drop out of the blue, but affected you in an interesting way? Henry Rollins did. In his essay Iron, he speaks of Mr. Pepperman, who took pity on a scrawny, dorky kid, and taught Rollins how to lift weights. This gave Rollins a sense of accomplishment. It is a great essay and very motivational. I carry a copy of Iron in my briefcase and read it when I need a swift kick in the pants. Whenever I am sore or tired and don’t feel like going to the gym or running or biking or whatever training I need, I read Iron, strap it on, and get to work.
My orthodontist when I was a kid was Louis Andria. I went for a total of around four years or so before he could get my mouth full of mush corrected. It was quite a project. I told some interesting stories about Dr. Andria at the dinner table last night. As I did, I realized that there will probably never be another one like him.
I grew up in Rockford, Illinois. At the time, Dr. Andria was considered to be one of the top ten orthodontists in the US. Pretty impressive for being in a po-dunk town an hour and a half west of the big city of Chicago. But you could tell from his office that he was in very high demand.
He had approximately ten chairs and would glide from chair to chair and do his work on the kids. I should say almost all kids – even my mom got her teeth corrected by him later in her life. Not many adults in there, though.
When you came into the office you had to check in at the front, where his wife usually worked. Then you would have to try to pry yourself into the waiting room, which was typically packed with the rest of the family members of the kid getting worked on. Many times people had to sit on the floor, it was so packed. I guess the picture I am trying to paint is that this guy had a HUGE business, probably had the biggest market share of any orthodontist in the history of the world. Who knows how far people would drive to see him.
There were always cat posters and pictures on the wall. My favorite was a drawing of a cat with this poem underneath:
Love to eat them mousies,
Mousies what I love to eat.
Bite they little heads off.
Nibble on they tiny feet.
The pace in the patient area was fast and furious. Andria expected the best out of everyone in his place and his assistants NEEDED to have their stuff together at all times.
To round out the atmosphere, he played the heaviest metal station of the time in Rockford, Y95, on the radio. At least it seemed heavy to me back then.
Dr. Andria always, always, always expected the best out of you. If you had braces you were expected NOT to ruin his work. NO gum, caramels, hard candy; anything that would destroy the work was strictly verboten. Here is the best part – if you came into the office with gum in your braces he would FINE YOU. That’s right, I believe it was $25 per infraction right on to your bill that your parents had to pay. Better yet, he would yell it right from the chair to his wife all the way up front so the entire office could hear it – “JOHNNY EVANS NEEDS TO HAVE AN EXTRA $25 PUT ON HIS BILL FOR CHEWING GUM! THANK YOU!” It was classic. I highly doubt that this would ever happen today in our all too correct PC world of coddling everyone.
It sort of reminds me of the way that judges used to be. Well, Billy, you can go to prison or join the army. Up to you. This country is hurting because there aren’t more people who will simply stand their ground and not accept nor coddle failure.
I assume the technique of the fine was to try to get the parents to extract this money from their kids, or at least realize that their kid screwing up was making them go to the office more often. Needless to say I never even thought about messing up my work by chewing gum or using any of the other offending substances.
At times it was really torture in there – my teeth were seriously messed up and I dreaded the appointments where I would have my archways adjusted. The archway was a wire that connected all the braces together. When Dr. Andria tightened that thing it seemed like murder. I wouldn’t cry, but tears would come down my cheeks. I remember one time I could actually feel my teeth move in my skull. Ouch. I usually couldn’t eat too much solid food for a few days after that. But if Dr. Andria saw a tear, he would just punch me in the gut and tell me what a tough guy I was. He always did stuff like that to the kids – punching the guys, tickling the girls and such to make them feel like they had done a good job. I think that the techniques he used were psychological as well as physical to get his deal done. On the other hand, he just could have been a nice guy.
In the end, when I read the Rollins essay about Mr. Pepperman, I was reminded of Dr. Andria. A very unique guy – there will probably never be another one like him. I fully expect that when I go to appointments with my daughter that the environment will be much different than the one I dealt with 30 years ago.
When I was done with the braces and they came off, I really felt a sense of accomplishment, believe it or not. Four years of pain will do that for you. Dr. Andria had done his job, just like Mr. Pepperman had.
I googled Dr. Andria, assuming he may be dead, but am happy to report that he retired from private practice in 1997 and is now a professor of Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics at the University of South Carolina. If you are sending your kid to an orthodontist that he trained and/or educated, that kid will be in good hands.
If you ever read this, Dr. Andria, consider me a satisfied patient.
Cross posted at LITGM.