This is True

The Third Time’s the Charm

Samuel Saraiva of Silver Spring, Md., went to a dentist to have a tooth pulled. She pulled the wrong tooth, he said. Back on a second visit, another wrong tooth was pulled. When on the third visit Saraiva was told one of his teeth was too big, and the dentist pulled it, filed it down, and stuck it back in with Krazy Glue, Saraiva went to the Board of Dental Examiners to complain. The board told the man that his dentist, Maria Soto, was not a licensed dentist. Soto is being held on charges of practicing dentistry without a license. (UPI) ...Fool you once, shame on her. Fool you twice, shame on you. Fool you three times, we really have to conclude you’re some sort of idiot.


Publication Date: 18 May 1997

This story is in True's book collection, Volume 3.

On 9 June 2006 I received this letter, which is published unedited:

In reference to the article published on May 18, 1997 Volume 3, available online when searched as Samuel Saraiva on Google I would like to clarify that: First, The information published is incorrect because only one tooth was pulled out by the dentists mistake. Secondly, it does not make sense and it is not just to penalize me given that I was the victim in this case. It is common sense that one needs to be professionally licensed in order to qualify an individual as an idiot and this is done through exams; not speculation so that you don t commit the same error as the dentist who worked un-licensed. Your publication can provide excellent informative material without the necessity to attack the morals of others. I believe that you are in a position to understand my words and indignation, especially if you search Google with my complete name Samuel Sales Saraiva and read my biography&to commit a mistake is human but it is divine to fix one when reason indicates.

Thank very much and I appreciate your offer to publish my letter on the page.
—Samuel Saraiva


Randy Cassingham replies:

It is interesting that someone would wait nine years to complain about an article, but so be it.

In nine years, no one else has complained that the story does "not make sense." As far as the article being "incorrect," I rechecked the source article to confirm my summary is true to the original. The original reads: "Patient Samuel Saraiva, in an affidavit filed in Montgomery County District Court, says on his first visit, Soto extracted the wrong tooth. On a second visit, she pulled another tooth. But on the third visit, Soto allegedly told her patient one of his teeth was too big. So she pulled it, filed it down and glued it back in his mouth." (UPI, 28 April 1997) I leave it up to the reader to decide whether my summary is fair. I did indeed make an assumption that the second tooth was pulled in error since he went back for a third time, and perhaps that is an error of interpretation; it's hard to tell for sure.

Mr. Saraiva seems to think that "idiocy" is something that must be diagnosed by a professional after examination. In its medical sense, perhaps that's true. In a colloquial sense, "some sort of idiot" sounds pretty reasonable under the circumstances. This has nothing to do with his "morals" and everything to do with his common sense in trusting a dentist who so clearly seems incompetent. When one does as Mr. Saraiva requests and searches for his biography, which reveals that his mother is a dentist, it seems to validate my stated opinion, which is quite obviously made tongue in cheek, about the wisdom of returning to the same dentist twice more after she has committed what he himself considers significant malpractice.