Friday, July 23, 2010

"Massage at the Garage"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

Early to rise and to the garage gets a man an oil change and a massage.

That new version of the old rhyme has been motoring through my mind since I found out firsthand (both hands, actually) that if your car needs work by a mechanic, your body might as well get a workout by a masseuse while you wait.

“It helps relieve stress when you get the bill,” explained Rich Heins, a service adviser at Mid-Island Hyundai in Centereach, N.Y. The dealership recently began giving free massages to customers who might stall, overheat or possibly even backfire as they contemplate the repairs being done on their vehicles.

“Are you going to put me on a lift?” I asked.

“No,” said Heins, “but we will put you in a massage chair.”

The stimulus program, he added, rubs customers the right way.

“And a lot of them could use it,” Heins said, noting that one guy needed repairs for a problem that could have gotten him rubbed out.

“He said that whenever his car went over a bump, it died,” Heins recalled. “So we looked at the car and found two bullet holes in it. One bullet hit the door handle and the other hit the harness and frayed the wiring, which caused the car to die whenever it went over a bump.”

“It’s a good thing the bullets didn’t cause the owner to die,” I said.

“I don’t know if he was in the car at the time of the shooting,” Heins continued, “but when I called and told him about the bullet holes, he said, ‘Oh, yeah, I know about them.’ Like it was an everyday occurrence.”

“Still,” I said, “that can make a guy tense. He must have needed a massage.”

“Do you have any bullet holes in your car?” Heins asked.

“No,” I replied. “But I need a massage anyway.”

I got one from Sarah Chen, a registered masseuse who was waiting for me in the lounge. I was her first customer of the day.

“You are going to enjoy this,” Sarah said.

She wasn’t kidding. After I had positioned myself so I was leaning forward in the massage chair, with my face sticking through a round opening in the headrest, Sarah began to work her magic on my neck, shoulders, arms and back. I was putty (and a fair amount of flab) in her hands.

She explained Chinese pressure points, which she knows all about, not only because she is a thorough professional, but because she is from China. She also is very nice.

“Am I hurting you?” she asked as she used her fingers, palms and elbows to loosen my muscles, which I keep in tiptop shape through a rigorous exercise program that generally involves walking to the refrigerator for beer.

“Mmmm,” I responded happily. “Not at all.”

“You’re very tight in the neck,” Sarah said.

“That’s because I’m a pain in the neck,” I explained.

Sarah then massaged my head, noting that I have hard hair and a soft skull.

“I always thought it was the other way around,” I said.

Speaking of my head, Sarah said that rubbing a pressure point on my left hand, next to the index finger, can stimulate my brain.

“If I’m feeling stupid, which happens every day, I can rub that spot and feel smarter?” I asked.

“Yes,” Sarah replied with a giggle.

The 20-minute session was one of the most sensational and sensuous experiences of my life. I felt great from my head to my toes, even though Sarah didn’t massage my feet. A good thing, too, because she probably would have passed out.

“Sarah was wonderful,” I told Heins when he gave me the bill, which came to $101 for an oil change, a state inspection, an air filter replacement and a left rear marker light replacement.

“I don’t feel any stress,” I said.

“That’s why we do this,” Heins said. “Bring your car in for regular maintenance. And get a massage every 3,000 miles.”

Copyright 2010 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, July 9, 2010

"The Invisible Man"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

When it comes to dentistry, I know the drill: You sit in a chair, open wide and brace yourself as the tooth doctor tries to get to the root of the problem.

Fortunately, drilling hasn’t been needed to solve my current dental dilemma. But braces have been, although you won’t see them when I open wide to reveal the oral equivalent of Mammoth Cave because these braces are invisible.

For this painless treatment and the promise of a nicer smile, I have to thank Dr. Ben Murray, my orthodontic oracle, who recently graduated from the dental program at Stony Brook University on Long Island, N.Y.

In Murray’s three years as a resident at Stony Brook, I was one of his most challenging cases, even more challenging than the case of beer I am sure he needed (but would never actually consume) each time he saw me.

That’s because two of my teeth, one on the top and one on the bottom, have shifted, which is amazing since I can’t shift for myself. The one on top, a lateral incisor, has been especially troublesome because the other teeth have had to be moved back so there will be room to rotate the incisor to its original position, which is not shortstop but, if you are scoring at home, right field.

“It’s on the right side,” said Murray, who had to construct, attach and constantly adjust a separate set of braces. “This,” he explained, “will distalize the maxillary arch in the right buccal segment and correct the Class 2 malocclusion.”

He took the words right out of my mouth. At least he wore gloves.

In the year and a half since the braces were put on, Murray used wires, pins and screwdrivers but not, thank God, jackhammers or dynamite.

And none of it hurt a bit, thanks to the able assistance of able assistants Celeste DeGeorge and Grace Ratigan, who helped Murray work tooth and nail to straighten out the situation. I don’t think any of them broke a nail, but I did break a tooth when I got my invisible braces. They are different from the ones on top, a more traditional kind that are mostly hidden by my cheek.

The invisible braces, known by the brand name Invisalign, were not worn by Claude Rains, who played the Invisible Man, because they weren’t invented yet. They look like mouth guards used by football players. The difference is that they are clear, which makes them -- you guessed it -- invisible.

They are designed from impressions made of a patient’s teeth, so they fit snugly. Unfortunately, as I snapped on my first set, the crooked tooth on the bottom broke, so I had to go to my regular dentist, Dr. Salvatore Trentalancia, who has a practice in Stamford, to get the tooth bonded, James bonded.

“He did a fantastic job,” Murray said of Dr. T, who goes by that nickname because it is tough to say “Trentalancia” while your mouth is open wide. Dr. T got able assistance from assistant Jo-Ann Rachinsky and hygienist Amy Manzano.

During my final visit with Murray, a 2007 University of Connecticut graduate who landed a job with a practice north of Boston, he said he discussed my case with a class of dental students.

“It was very interesting to them,” Murray said.

“Maybe you’ll win the Nobel Prize,” I suggested.

“You never know,” replied Murray, adding that I have been “a very good patient” who has “taken our torture pretty well.”

It has hardly been torture, but it’s hardly over, either, because Murray left me in the capable hands of Dr. Michael Sheinis, a second-year resident who said, “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Sheinis, a brave man to be taking on my case, will soon remove the traditional braces from my right upper teeth and replace them with Invisalign to match the invisible braces on the bottom. Both sets will cover all my teeth.

In less than a year, I’ll have a Hollywood smile. In the meantime, just call me the Invisible Man.

Copyright 2010 by Jerry Zezima