# # The Necessary Year - Day 59: The $1,278.00 Jawbreaker

Brother, I Can See Your Skull.

Brother, I Can See Your Skull. - The Coreyshead Blog

The Necessary Year – Day 59: The $1,278.00 Jawbreaker


(this post is part of an aborted 1 year experiment in material abstinence I called The Necessary Year)


I used to watch a PBS show called Connections, hosted by James Burke, in which they would follow a trail of interconnected events from past to present, necessity to invention, obscurity to ubiquity, explaining things like how the chastity belt lead to the modern miracle of aerosol cheese.

I loved the show and, though I retained none of the information it imparted, I still reflect on the general concept from time to time; the gestalt of cause and effect, like a butterfly’s wing causing a hurricane.

It is a fascinating way to ruminate over circumstance and, that being so, one can always find examples in their own life over which to ponder, for instance:

Because of TNY and the lowered activity of my newish job, I have made a concerted effort to eat less, going from two eggs, toast, three slices bacon, and juice in the morning down to just one egg, one bacon (or sometimes just two eggs, no bacon) and juice.

Most days, this reduced breakfast suits me just fine but, after moving furniture and boxes night after night, it does not. Even my mid-morning banana cannot quell the hunger that chews away at me come 11:00 am.

Last Friday was just such a day. I tried to ignore the hunger but finally broke down when I remembered that my boss had given me a handful of hard candy months back.

I typically do not eat hard candy, preferring things like taffy or chocolates to suckers and the like. I’m not patient enough for hard candy and have long imagined that the constant sucking (you boys in the back: is there something funny you’d like to share with the rest of us?) said candies require have the net effect of giving your teeth a prolonged sugar bath while something like a chocolate bar, while not exactly sugar-free, is down the hatch and gone in a far shorter period of time (especially if you gulp it in broken chunks like a crazed reptile as I do).

When my boss handed me these candies, I thanked her kindly and, after picking out the candies I liked, slipped the remainder into my desk drawer with no intention of ever eating them. Maybe I’d dole them slowly out to my daughter on those rare occasions that she is forced to sit at her dad’s work for any length of time.

Enter my hunger, last Friday.

On that morning, I open my desk drawer and there they are: four jawbreakers. I look at them for a moment and then – crinkle/pop – in my mouth goes the first one. Boy is it a hard sucker, too. Gnaw as I might, I do little more than scratch the surface of the candy.

Working away happily at my job and the candy, my idiot brain convinced I will get some surcease from the sugary but otherwise tasteless ball in my face, I suck on the jawbreaker awhile then try chewing again. Now I am denting and scraping its candy armor. My teeth wrestle the candy, seeking a deadly purchase.

Crack! The jawbreaker cracks in half with a skull-shaking concussion and I chew down on the dissolving halves. The resulting spit and sugar slurry makes me feel as if I am eating static.

This doesn’t deter me, however. The next two jawbreakers crack in half quite easily, so easily it almost isn’t any fun. I make short work of them, my stomach heating up.

I pop the last one in my mouth and pop it daintily in my cheek, deciding to savor it, but first I must dislodge a remnant of the last from my molars.

I dig my tongue into the offending area and what I discover gives me a cold stab in the pit of my belly. That’s not a piece of candy stuck between my teeth, that feels like a piece of my tooth is … gone.

Oh, shit.

I spit out the remaining jawbreaker (oh, how aptly those little bastards are named) and dash off to the john to inspect my teeth. Sure enough, the backside of the thin ridge of one of my molars, once wrapped around a filling, is gone; cracked all of the way down below the gumline on the tooth. The missing shard(s?) in my belly.

How did I not feel that?!?

There is no pain but I am scared, now. What if the filling falls out? Will I be able to get a dentist to look at me? Will it begin to hurt before I can get in to see a dentist? Can I frigging afford this, right now?

I’m suddenly quite angry at myself not only for eating the jawbreakers but also for insisting on chewing the damned things. At the age of 40 a man should no better. Grrrrr, what an idiot I am!

I get on the phone and call my dentist -who is closed on this particular day, of course. I reach his emergency service which tells me that the dentist will be able to see me Monday afternoon.

The weekend passes with plenty of distractions yet ever does my tongue snake its way back to the new facet, probing and worrying it; becoming familiar with its sharp edges and strange depth; testing to see if it has suddenly become overly sensitive to touch or temperature. But for all of my worry and obsession, it provides only psychological, not physical, pain.

When Monday afternoon finally rolls rolls around, I find myself embarrassed explaining that I’ve not only broken my tooth with a jawbreaker but that I am unsure if I can afford treatment.

After the x-ray is taken I am given the verdict: a partial or full crown is needed, requiring two visits and at least $1,200.00.

My heart sinks. This is what I was fearing. The cost of moving is exorbitant, when you add up getting services turned on, shuttling belongings, and replacing the necessities left behind. I have less than $100 in my account and payday is not only a number of days off but, considering my present situation, woefully inadequate for the proposed charge.

As the secretary issues me a $78 bill for the visit, it goes through my mind that this is no longer a practice or an experiment. It is no longer just a form of edutainment. This is how it is, now. My life. Reality. I can no longer afford books, music, movies, toys, beer, cookies, or any of the “unnecessary” items I took for granted for so long. Hell, I can’t even afford necessary ones like dental care!

So what does this mean? Is TNY over?

For a while I thought so. The original idea – spoiled man plays at being frugal – certainly. Though I still qualify as spoiled, I am no longer playing at being frugal: I have to learn to be or I am sunk. Maybe TNY can be a focus on learning to conserve those dollars wisely?

In any case, the situation is entirely different from what I envisioned when I began TNY. Certainly I understood this as a possibility but there is a great difference between the concept of a possibility and the unrelenting grin of reality.

Hang on, here we go!

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply