I’m sitting in Reception, waiting for my turn. There’s a couple sitting further down the row of chairs. Something the guy says makes the woman laugh, and honestly, it was all I could do to keep a straight face. It was like the baying of hounds, or maybe the sound of a crazed honking goose: heehehawwwnk, snort, heehehawwwnk, snort. Then the guy joins in with a long undulating roll of high and low HAHhahHAHhahs.
OMG, I was biting my tongue off trying not to laugh. The receptionist didn’t have as much control, and after sharing a look with me, she starts laughing, too. Her laugh sounded like Minnie Mouse had sucked the helium out of a balloon, before spewing a string of gun shots: hahahahahahaha, breath, hahahahahaha, in a pitch only Minnie could pull off.
I totally lost the plot at that point. I’ve got Helium Girl on one side and The Hound of the Baskervilles baying on the other, and there was no hope that I could hold it in. I burst out laughing, and the couple who’ve started this whole thing--clueless of their part in this mayhem--join in with more heehehawwwnking and HAHhahHAHhahing, which sets off Helium Girl who is nearly falling out of her chair. I go off again, no containing any of this madness…just as the dentist comes out from the back.
It was like the principal in high school giving us The Look—and yes, that’s a look I know from personal experience. He glares at the receptionist, I guess for her lack of professionalism, though her peculiar laugh might have been part of it, too, then he raises a brow at me, like I should know better, but that just sets me off all over again. The Baskervilles are trying to be quiet—they’re young and no doubt in awe of The Dentist—but when I start up, so do they; and the receptionist has now covered her mouth, which means when she loses the battle with a stifled guffaw, snot shoots out her nose, and gods help me, I fell over sideways in my chair and laughed until I was so breathless, I’m pretty sure I was seeing black spots.
Mortified, she grabs a tissue from the box on the counter and quickly blows her nose, her cheeks a fiery red. I still can’t breathe, so am no help at all to the poor girl. By now the hygienist, dental assistant, and the office manager are all standing with the dentist, staring at the four of us like we’ve just escaped from Bedlam.
After a deep breath, I get up, take a Kleenex from the same box on the counter, wipe my tears, blow my nose, then calmly go back to my chair.
The dentist says to me, “What's going on here?”
I can’t tell him. The couple are sitting right there and don’t know the role they played in all this, nor does the receptionist. What can I say? That I just listened to the most bizarre series of laughs that I’ve ever heard in my life? No. I can’t tell him what really happened.
“You had to be there,” I shrug.
I get a few disbelieving looks before everyone goes back to work. Once we’re alone again, I say to my fellow Bedlamites, “Man, there’s just nothing in the world like a good laugh, is there?”
We smile at each other, then my name is called, and the brief, shared moment of hilarity is over, though that laugh carried me through the day; I felt lighter, more relaxed, liberated.
There is so much truth in this: Laughter is the best medicine, no matter what it sounds like.