jfk airport, downtown la jolla, the midway at the kentucky state fair, and any street corner in gatlinburg, tennessee are guaranteed to provide more people watching opportunities than a wal-mart in any one of 'the lower 48', at 9 o'clock on a saturday night.
the yankee dental conference in boston has now made it into the top ten, displacing the american art therapy association's annual artsy fartsy-fest of hand crafted ostrich egg earings, swoopy skirts, navajo scarves, open toed leather sandals and freud. my former, orally fixated, chalk pastel wielding colleagues cannot hold a burnt umber crayon to a convention centre packed with dental experts and their assorted paraprofessionals.
sir richard attenborough would have 6 weeks worth of BBC programming just focused on identifying the various species roaming the flourescent lit savannah. the "doctor" is quickly spotted in both manifestations; "designer-suit-and-tie" or "middle-aged-pot-belly-and-leather-jacket". the "hygienist" and "assistant" are unable to camouflage themselves due to a distinctive coach purse tail feather. administrative professionals, like the doctors, fall into two subtypes, one is actually not too dissimilar to the "hygienist" (subtract a decade and a high school diploma) versus the "middle aged matriarch in a muu-muu". thankfully, colour coded ID badges remove the guess work on anything too ambiguous. the remaining space is heavily populated with sales people sporting both "anne" and "calvin", hawking their blinged out forceps (extracting a wisdom tooth could never be so 'studio 51'), x-ray equipment and cabinetry systems more costly than bmw's latest leather lined offering. the sounds of the temperature controlled market are replete, not with "cheap rolex, best price, nice quality", but pleas to "never let a patient leave your chair without a hot towel" (note: they smell exactly like the ones handed out on planes right around the time airlines started to do away with peanuts).
the plaque and periodontally obsessed are also able to choose from purple impression trays versus a more whimsical lime green, dental chairs that can do reflexology during a root canal, and gloves that meet both the universal precaution standard and accessorize with this season's scrub colours. and should choices be so overwhelming as to send vendees into a weakened state, trolleys of free doughnuts are wheeled by every three minutes in order to facilitate the decision making process. in fact, conference attendees typically sport more freebie bags than the guy sleeping under the overpass near balboa park.
fortunately there are extracurricular distractions provided for those (spouses) not terribly interested in third molars and gingivitis; all day tours of neiman-marcus, tai chi, and booths brimming with jewelry, purses, pashminas and fur coats- presumably to co-ordinate with marital gold card.