Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Abilene Paradox

Soup Bones?

Today, a different kind of root, not the kind you find in gardens, occupied this writer's time.   I was scheduled for a root canal on the left side, but the endodontist quickly determined the badly cracked tooth couldn't be saved.  "Back to your dentist," said he, "for extraction."  As we shook hands goodbye, he added, "Maybe I'll see you again someday."  Convinced that this endodontist wasn't looking for work, I said, "I may be back soon to see you about a tooth on the other side." "What's that about?" said he.  I explained that the area above a molar was sensitive when I touched it with my tongue, more so after eating.  "Should I look at it?" he said.  "Sure."

Several probes and x-rays later, we agreed to shift the scheduled root canal to the other side and the doctor was back in business.  To see what he did, minus the peg, check out this video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cs0RIh3hPAM.  An hour later he said, "Don't forget to call your dentist and schedule a crown," as we shook hands again.

Before I spun a goat milk ice cream fruit smoothie for lunch, I left a message for my dentist, asking to schedule the crown, and before I finished drinking the smoothie, my phone rang.  "Can you come at 3?  We just had a big cancellation."  "Sure."  Off I went.

I arrived at my dentist's office partially numb, assuming he wouldn't work on both sides of my mouth the same day.  When he asked, "Which should I do first?" I thought he meant which tooth today.  After a few minutes of hemming and hawing, I figured out he was willing to do both procedures today if I were game.  As usual, I preferred to get as much as possible over with instead of sleeping (or not sleeping) on it.

This reminds me of the Abilene Paradox, the tendency of humans to have as much trouble managing their agreements as their disagreements.  "What on earth are you talking about?" says Virginia.  Without realizing we agree on something, we do something else because we're willing to go along with the group.  In this case, I figured the dentist wouldn't do something he was perfectly willing to do (both procedures at one appointment) and if we hadn't kept talking, he might have assumed I didn't want to have them done during the same visit.  See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_iGdiYO7gI and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abilene_paradox.

An hour and a half later, I said goodbye, numb on the left, renumbed on the right, and $2,000 poorer for the day.   By the way, those aren't soup bones in the picture up above.  That's my tooth.


  1. What hurt the most, having a tooth pulled, the root canal or paying $2,000.00?

  2. i'd say it was a triple whammy! it all sounds painful!!!

    hope you stay numb until ALL the pain goes away. :)


  3. Actually, nothing hurt except some needle pricks. Thanks.