recreational dentistry.
© 1996 Jamie Zawinski <>

Apparently, Laura used to have quite a thing for Nitrous Oxide. She just loved the stuff, which caused her to one day post a long rambling tract about how this drug could reveal to you both the secrets of the universe, and the proper way to peel an onion.

Of course, that was back in the day. She's a much more respectable person now, with her name plastered across the front cover of most of the books in the ``so what's this internet thing anyway?'' section of your local bookstore.

Yet, as everyone knows, old Usenet posts never die, least of all ones about drug philosophy, so to this day she still gets mail from tripped-out deadhead spacemen who present her with drooling paeans along the lines of, ``your message about Nitrous Oxide changed my life. Will you be my guru?''

(No doubt a lot of these people are also interested in some advice on the right way to do silly tricks with HTML tables. I'm sure she'd be delighted to explain it to you personally, why don't you drop her a line?)

[ goooo roooo ]

So when I mentioned to Laura that I was going to the dentist for a long-overdue checkup, she encouraged me to get my dentist to hook me up with her source of past inspiration. ``Just keep telling them that you can't feel it yet, until all you're able to say is gaaaaahhhh,'' she suggested.

``Oh,'' she added, ``listening to Front 242 on nitrous is like suddenly realizing the whole point. Its like it was meant to be heard on nitrous. Its amazing.''

She also rambled on for a while about ``hearing the helicopters,'' which is odd, since as far as I know she's not actually a strung-out Viet Nam vet.

The dentist I went to, it turns out, seemed to have the philosophy that a trip to their office should be as relaxing (and even recreational) as possible, unlike most other dentists I've been to, who seem to follow the ``pain is a deterrent'' philosophy.

Besides the gas machine, another of the toys present in the office was a tiny head-mounted television: it was a one-inch screen that hung down from a visor that completely covered your eyes (a ``virtual reality'' prop, if you will.) And the office also had a wide selection of videos: fractals, swooping aerial tours of the national parks, that sort of thing.

I lay there in the chair with a video unit strapped over my eyes, a tubed mask over my nose, headphones over my ears, and latex-gloved hands feeling around in my mouth with shiny barbed instruments. Yet while my dentist scraped away at my teeth with her miniature implements of torture, I was more or less completely oblivious, because I was watching the hallucinogenic Disney classic ``Fantasia'' while floating on a buzzing cloud of N2O. I was almost completely isolated from reality.

It's very hard to grin with someone else's hand in your mouth, but once those mops started multiplying and carrying buckets of water back and forth, it was really just the funniest damned thing! Every now and then I would hear, or rather feel, a particularly noxious scrape that vibrated my entire skull, but rather than being disturbing, it just made me think, ``wow, without the gas, I wouldn't be having any fun at all, but... ha ha ha, wow, look at that!''

Sadly, I did not. I might have, but I couldn't tell, because the various humming dental machines in the office had a not-entirely-un-helicopter-like aspect to them.

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