I got lost looking for any entrance onto the hospital campus, but was guided by a lady construction worker who easily understood that a visit the hospital for any reason is probably shitty and stressful. She defintitely goes on the list of secret strangers who, for some reason, habitually express care for me. So, every time she saw me she called me by some term of endearment (honey, sugar, baby, sweetheart... whatever) and smiled. This happened about 4 times, and each time I was grateful (bowl?). No, not grateful bowl. When I finally penetrated the fortress of health's iron bars, I saw a giant plume of white smoke coming from the roof of a building in the heart of the hospital's grounds. This building was behind another building (also on the SFGH area), which had a giant billboard posted on it that read "THIS IS A SMOKE-FREE CAMPUS." I just thought I would tell you.
After some popping-in-and-out of various buildings and rooms that had indicators of help or information in them (crowds of bleeding, or panting, or sleeping people, an information desk, chairs... just to name a few) I entered Building 80, pulled a number, and waited to be called. The room was really beautiful, painted milk-yellow and brown and cream with a ton of windows and a view of the garden outside. It was nothing like hanging out at the food stamps office, which, of 100 points (if I had them and could give them), easily gave this public service visit an automatic 65. Unfortunately, I began to feel very distressed during my wait, especially after the initial check-in where a cranky 20something asked me brief questions about why I was making my visit. She was in a hurry, I know, but her interruptions of my explanations of my condition made me fearful that this would be another mainstream medicine mistake and I would certainly leave crying, with no antibiotics, certainly no painkillers, maybe no dignity.
While I waited the surprisingly brief two and a half hours it took for a doctor to see me, the waiting room television played Cameron Diaz movie and after Cameron Diaz movie. I came in at the tail-end of My Best Friend's Wedding (I know you already know the plot to this movie, so I won't bother.) but luckily I didn't miss a minute of In Her Shoes (a jarring tale about depressing woman-hate between two sisters that ends in marriage and should have had Sandra Bulloch cast as all the female roles.). I was granted a brief reprieve from this hell only by my wandering attention to Sensory Integration Disorder assigned readings and an unofficially mandatory participation in a "Chlamydia Kiosk" that UCSF had put there for women (ages 18 - 25 (just like me!)). It was supposed to be informative, but wasn't, and ended up making me feel like an unpaid laborer. I guess they figured we'd be too bored in the waiting room of SFGH Urgent Care to not consent.
Just as my third movie was about to start, my name was called and I entered a small exam room, which was equally as brightly lit by natural light as the waiting room, and sat down to wait some more. The doctor came in and asked me what was up with my stinking disgusting horrible body, and I answered slowly, because at this point, the swelling and pain in my face had made it agonizing to speak clearly. She heard me out, my swelling, my tooth, my pain, etc etc. I'm sure she thought I would never shut up. However, she was polite, despite my lack of manners. I kept talking over her and interrupting her because I automatically expected her to not listen to me at all. After I was done with my spoken memo about my self-diagnosis and what I thought I needed to treat it (infected wisdom tooth and gums/jaw, treated with heavy antibiotics and painkillers and eventual oral surgery), she stuck a light in my mouth and said,
"Your tooth looks fine."
Then she pinched and poked the super hard and sore part of my face and added,
"Your salivary gland is blocked. Suck on a lemon and it should go down."
Apparently the lemon dissolves the rotten food-rock that has dammed up my spittle, causing a relatively large and considerably painful reservoir in my face.
Just for fun, I'll show you these pictures of salivary glands in a face. My problem area in the submandibular gland.
She still agreed to write a script for Tylenol 3 (what, am I 12 years old? Gimme the heavy-duty stuff, lady!) and a round of penicillin, "just in case." Obviously, I'm stoked that I don't need emergency oral surgery and that I can treat myself with groceries, but I still feel embarrassed by how un-fatal this condition is. Now I'm at home, sucking on lemons and massaging the trapped saliva out of my gland.