Pent Up Demand

FencelineLAKE MACBRIDE— While the dental hygienist was scaling, I noticed an odd shape on the upside down computer screen above my head. Leviathan? No. Ink blot? No. It was an image of a jaw bone and the hygienist was recording gingival margins as she poked and scraped with the tool. The screen is used to record information, view X-ray panels, and who knows what else. What I know is getting regular dental checks is one of the few remaining luxuries in life, and when at the dentist’s office, I pay attention to everything that’s going on.

Within earshot, another patient was defending Obamacare, saying the popular conception, that the law was a bad deal, was wrong. All of his children were now covered with health insurance thanks to the law, including one with preexisting conditions. He was grateful and appreciative, and spreading the good news.

For small talk, I chose my warehouse work where I was scheduled for a shift that afternoon. I had my work uniform on so discussion came naturally with the same hygienist I’ve had for a number of years. While we don’t know each other, we chat. She lives in the same town as the warehouse, so we had that in common.

When I changed health and dental insurance policies after implementation of the Affordable Care Act, I cancelled our dental policy because dollars covered were less than the cost of premiums. We have been paying directly for dental care since, and while there is a cost, it’s not that expensive with a successful dental practice.

When people don’t have enough money, dental care is one of the first things to go, especially if there are no symptoms. Right behind that is preventive maintenance on automobiles. That’s where my day of relieving pent up demand to take care of things began.

Motor oil has a useful life beyond the 3,000 miles shops write on the windshield sticker for the next change. My last oil change was in March, so even with my extended interval, service was past due. Partly, the challenge was making time, but partly, I knew from the last inspection some work would be needed, and was avoiding it. I inspect my own tires from time to time, and without a gauge, I could tell the tread depth was well below 4/32nds of an inch, and winter is coming.

The dealer had noted an axle going bad in March, and the local technician confirmed it and gave me a $700 estimate for four tires, a replacement axle and some other necessary repairs. The local labor rate is far below the $100+ per hour charged at the dealership, so it is good business to buy locally.

I declined the offer on the tires knowing my next stop was Cedar Rapids for the dental appointment. I had some time to kill. We have used the same tire dealer for most of the 20 years since we moved back to Iowa. I arrived and he had many options, including one priced much lower than our local repair shop. I bought four tires which were changed in about 20 minutes.

One thing led to another on a day designed to meet existential needs. I stopped at the hardware store and bought a couple of wooden toilet seats. I stopped to eat at a sandwich shop in North Liberty, spending the six dollars in my wallet on an Italian-style sub. I accessed the app for my hair salon and saw there was no waiting. I checked in and drove there to cut the shaggy ponytail beginning to grow in an effort to look my best at the presentation scheduled in ten days. There is a different stylist each time, so no relationship. We talked about my warehouse work.

From there I drove to the warehouse where I spent the shift chatting with scores of people. Afterward, I bought two loaves of bread, a gallon of milk and a bag of tortilla chips, all for $10.51, and headed home.

In the darkness of the drive home through the lakes, I thought about the mash-up that was the fourteen-hour day and about how, except for the Obamacare comments, there was no political talk whatsoever. That is bad news for the candidates in the 2014 midterms. Lack of buzz means lower voter turnout.

Delayed existential errands were checked off a mental list, however, the pent up demand was not for that. What we crave is human contact. In sustaining a life, we need it that way, and appreciate each day of living. Sometimes pent up demand takes care of itself.

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