While on my way to a dental appointment not long ago, I passed several medical cannabis stores within a mile of one another on Rt. 1 in Thomaston. What was shocking were the empty parking spaces in front of each. I originally expected a smaller version of Woodstock ’69 when they opened, but they looked like any other retail store on a weekday.

The parking lot of the dentist’s office, on the other hand, was nearly full.

On this day, cavity clients beat out cannabis customers.

Normally I couldn’t make any connection between dentists and pot. However, I now have one.

The story goes like this. An attractive and whip-smart woman I met made the mistake of going out to lunch with me decades ago. I was just out of the military as a medic, a divorced father of one, back in college, and missing a tooth; I held my breath until she said yes.

I met her at a summer stock theatre during intermission, where she hosted a showing of her artwork. Later, we bumped into one another at the bank.

At just that moment, the bank teller told me I had $20 left in my bank account.

“Hey, how about lunch?” I asked, hoping my last $20 would cover the meal.

Over three-decker club sandwiches and a cheap beer, we established we were from different orbits. She came from an upper middle-class family, I from a much lower one. She had a degree in art history. I hoped to get mine in nursing. We were both divorced; she was childless, and me with a young son. She was born in Maine, I in Virginia.

She had a good-natured, hippy-like attitude, unfamiliar territory to me. She wore long dresses, bulky shoes, and had a smoky scent. I sported a humorously meek red mustache, and my post-military hair–do resembled that of Bozo the Clown. I don’t know what I smelled like – probably really old Old Spice. Her teeth were white and perfectly aligned with a beautiful smile; my smile always muted because of a missing incisor.

I thought, “This could be good.”

I invited her over to my apartment for dinner a couple of weeks after meeting at the bank. As soon as we walked into the kitchen, she so sweetly asked what I was doing with a tall marijuana plant on the kitchen table. I smirked because I knew the earthy smell of the plant my three roommates put on the table a month previous was something different.

God, I thought. You’d think hippies would know such things.

“It isn’t a marijuana plant,” I said. “Here.” I took a white plastic stick from the moist dirt in the pot, which was labeled American Love Plant, and showed it to her.

Seconds passed as she studied the stick.

“Let me understand this,” she said. “You were a medic in the army for four years, and you don’t know what a pot plant looks like? That’s what this American Love Plant is. Your roommates tricked you.”

The overcooked chicken divan was nice (a little too much cinnamon?), but I felt awkward – my lack of sophistication had shown through. I imagined she reported to her friends afterward how the date went, perhaps making the impression of an L with her finger and thumb on her forehead.

I am as ignorant today of pot as I was decades ago; I still think of gummies as kid’s vitamins. My college roommates knew me back then as a clueless dope (pun not intended). Nothing has changed as far as they are concerned.

You may rightfully be wondering what all this has to do with dentists.
Decades ago, after an army dentist pulled out my infected tooth, he didn’t bother to replace it. He said, “Hey, it’s not my job.” While it wasn’t one of my front ones, if I smiled too broadly, you could see the dark upper space set back.

Not a huge deal, I thought, until I found out that my hippie girlfriend’s father was a dentist. Introducing me to her parents at a Thanksgiving dinner didn’t seem to bother her one bit, but I am sure once I smiled after meeting them, her dad must have had a minor stroke.

“God, at least she could date someone with all of his teeth!” I imagined the good dentist had whispered to her mom,

Her mother would have replied, “Don’t worry, dear. He won’t last.”

I did last. My Maine hippie girlfriend became my spouse, and her parents became my in-laws. I’ve had forty-five years of non-cannabis bliss, and an excellent dental bridge.

I could even chew gummies if I wanted to, but not the local Rt. 1 cannabis kind.

Mike Skinner is a writer who lives in Tenants Harbor. Skinner was a medic in the U.S. Army, a hospital executive, and a college educator. He is the author of “My Life as a Non-Valedictorian,” available through Maine Authors Publishing, local bookstores, and Amazon and Kindle.