What the two procedures have in common is they require being stuck in a sensitive location with a needle. And they can't make it an innocent-looking needle, either, with pastel-colored flower designs on it or something. No, it has to look like the Giant Sinister Mephistophelian Needle of Doom, all cold, metallic, and sterile, like some twisted experimental device developed by NASA during the Nixon administration.
But we must love the needle, because it contains the magic anesthesia that makes it possible for those who practice medicine to First, Do No Harm, and Second, purchase a spare Jeep Grand Cherokee. So, yes, the needle is on my Christmas Card list.
After the needle, the procedures are very different. The vasectomy involves a mild tugging sensation, accompanied by the brief smell of burning flesh. For 20 minutes, the surgeon will try to keep your mind (or perhaps his mind) off the fact that he is slicing and smoldering your extremely personal organs by chatting about the Red Sox or the weather or whatever else comes up.
Afterward, the doctor orders you to store a bag of frozen peas in your underwear and to have people wait on you for a few days. Every guy’s dream weekend!
The tooth extraction, conversely, involves violent jarring pressure and unpleasant crackling and other peculiar noises within your mouth. It takes less time, but because you have to hang your jaw open for longer than it takes to read the latest Harry Potter novel, the whole thing seems to last forever.
You will still be required to chat about the Red Sox, and you might even find yourself compelled to agree that Manny Ramirez is definitely, “Ghonghhha eeyyy oooouuuah.”
When I went to have a wisdom tooth out last week, there were complications. Let’s just say -- for the sake of avoiding a terribly graphic description -- the tooth in question was unusually well-attached to my skull, resulting in large portions of bone being ripped out through the roof of my mouth.
Observing this, my oral surgeon said, “Hm, we do see this from time to time.”
This is a dentist’s way of expressing animated surprise and alarm. When a dentist pounds his thumb with a hammer, as he jumps around, wincing and violently shaking his hand, he says, “Hm, we do see this from time to time.”
Anyway, as the surgeon was sewing me up (Another needle! Hooray!), he temporarily stowed some of the excess thread between two of my front teeth. Even as my nerves shook me and I felt myself wanting to pass out, I had to observe the irony, since I probably could have avoided the whole predicament with more consistent and vigorous flossing.
Instead, I’m now on Vicodin, which gradually turns me into a dizzy, drowsy drug addict, and antibiotics, which kill everything in my body smaller than my kidneys.
So, given the choice between repeating the vasectomy or repeating a tooth extraction, I would opt for the vasectomy, hands down.
So to speak.