Fast as the Lone Ranger’s silver bullet …

Published 1:01 am Wednesday, February 10, 2016

My family knows the signs. Suddenly I groan, jump up, and start rubbing my leg or twisting a foot.

As I leaned back in the chair waiting for the dentist to check me after the hygienist finished cleaning my teeth, the thought hit me: “I hope I don’t get a cramp.”

As painful and unpleasant as they sometimes are, I can handle needles and even the grinding at the dentist chair. However, when an all too familiar tightening jerks into my toes as I sit in a dental chair, I know I am in for more misery.

It is almost certain that the tightening will develop into a cramp. That alone causes me to grip the armrests and hold on for dear life. First, I fight it mentally; begging those beginning stages of cramps to please, please go away. Then I try twisting my foot a little, hoping it helps me relax. Neither is effective. By then, I know my toes are about to draw up into little claws.

Nothing like that happened on my latest dental visit, but I allowed thoughts of a not so pleasant one from the past to creep in. A technician had settled me in a comfortable position in the chair and fastened the bib. I was pretty well locked in when my toes began drawing up on my right foot. Embarrassed and a bit panicky, I had no alternative. I told her I just had to get up.

I pounced out of the chair as swift as the Lone Ranger’s silver bullet. Off came my shoe. I pushed my toes hard against the floor. “Think positive,” I told myself, resisting hopping around like a mad woman. Instead, I reached down and kneaded my fingers across the top of my foot. It was useless. I massaged the toes hard, all the time holding back groans I would have released at home privately. Ah, finally blessed relief. My toes slipped back to normal. The pain vanished. I took my place in the chair again with caution.

Negative thoughts still bounced around in my head. What if another cramp creeps back as my dentist drills away in my mouth? Or when my mouth is stuffed with cotton and I have been told to keep it shut tight? I convinced myself to stop thinking like that. Had not the dentist told me to raise my hand if I needed to tell him something? And wouldn’t he interpret a groan or grunt as a call for help? If he knows “un” means “yes” and “Un-uh” means “no” when he works in my mouth, he can surely figure out sounds or wild gyrations meaning “Stop! I have to get up now. Right now.”

Concentrating hard on those reassurances, I forced myself to think of something pleasant. You know, like time spent on a gorgeous Gulf of Mexico beach with waves rolling in and a salt breeze caressing me. Next time, I will try that one and see what happens.

Nina Keenam is retired from the newspaper business. Her column appears on Saturdays.