GUEST COLUMN:
How the dentist moved his chair
By Dr. Michael Wahl

       As a young dentist, I relocated my family to Colorado Springs about 20 years ago to start our practice. Operating on a tight budget, we had money for only one dental chair. As the months went on and our practice grew, our one massive gold-colored dental chair became the center of our practice. The chair was where our patients sat while we worked on their teeth. Our relationships with them grew stronger each time they sat in our chair. Standing beside the chair he once hand-trucked 14 blocks
up Colorado Avenue, dentist Michael Wahl displays the form he used. 
Westside Pioneer photo
       Suddenly and without warning, our landlord sold the building. We had to move our practice within a few short weeks. Fortunately, we located a new office that was also on Colorado Avenue (one of the busiest roads in the city), 14 blocks up the street from where our old office had been. We had just one day to move the entire office.
       Normally, Colorado has pleasant and mild summers. But the day of the move it was already blisteringly hot and unbearably humid when I awoke at 5:30 a.m. Despite the heat, we had a “burning desire” for the move to go smoothly . We had 34 patients scheduled the next day at the new office, and they were counting on us to be there for them.
       Our 350-pound dental chair was not only the most important but also the heaviest and most unwieldy item to move. We had hired a dental equipment company to take care of transporting the chair. By the afternoon, the massive chair was the last piece left to be moved. I paced back and forth across the almost-empty office as I anxiously awaited the arrival of the dental equipment company.
       When the company manager arrived, it was already 3 p.m. “It sure is sweltering out there,” he said. “Heard on the radio it's 95° in the shade! Well, let's get going. Where's that chair, Doc?”
       With relief that the move would soon be over, I was finally able to sit down and complete some paperwork while I listened to the banging hammers and screwdrivers busy at work, preparing the chair to be moved. In a few minutes, the manager reappeared.
       “Well, Doc, it's all done. We'll be on our way now. We'll send you a bill next week..”
       Glaring at him I said, “What do you mean you're done? That chair has to be moved to the new office.”
       “Sorry, Doc, he said. “I only disconnect and connect the puppy. It's your responsibility to move it.”
       “WHAT?” I shouted. “I assumed disconnecting the chair and moving it was part of the deal.”
       The manager said, “Nope. Too much liability. We were getting hurt moving those heavy things. Stopped doing it about two months ago.”
       My body felt heavier than the chair. I felt my face turn red. My heart was pounding like a marathon runner's. I followed him out the door with a last plea for help, but all he said was, “Gotta get going, Doc. Gotta keep going, can't stop. Lots of people counting on us, you know.”
       I sank on my knees in the hallway and put my head in my hands. His words echoed in my ears. “Got to keep going, can't stop!' What should I do? Lifting up my head, I spotted a small 2-by-2-foot dolly with four tiny wheels that was sitting under a rubber tree.
       I popped up, grabbed the dolly and ran into the operatory where the chair sat. I positioned the miniature dolly under the huge chair. With my arms wrapped around the chair, I counted to three and heaved it onto the dolly. It fell over in a heap but luckily one corner stayed on. With sweat pouring off my brow and one sweaty leg stabilizing the dolly, I gave it all my strength. “UGGH - up, up,” I grunted, and the rest of the chair went up on the dolly.
       The wheelchair ramp was a blessing for this 350-pound handicap of mine. I hobbled backward down the ramp, inch by inch, praying the chair would not fall or run over me. Finally, on the sidewalk. I breathed a sigh of relief as more sweat raced down my back and the sun beat down on me and my burden.
       Aiming the chair westward toward the new office, I began to chant, “Can't stop, gotta keep going,” and began the long trek up the avenue.
       The first five blocks were a challenge as the chair rattled back and forth on the tiny dolly. As a kid I remembered calling the little grooves in the sidewalk, “cherrybumps.” Today, however, they were more like “watermelonbumps “ Each time I went over one, I dreaded a fender-bender with the sidewalk.
       In the fifth block, there it went: “KABOOM.” The chair landed flat on its back. My heart sank. I wiped more sweat from my face with my shirt. As I looked out to the avenue, I saw passersby and drivers scratching their heads and looking confused. One elderly woman called out from her porch, “Hey, Doc, are you a traveling dentist? Wheel that chair into my house. I could use some new dentures!”
       Smiling sarcastically at her, I muttered, “Can't stop, gotta keep going.” Somehow I managed to ease the chair back on the dolly. Fearing another major catastrophe, I pushed the dolly down a driveway apron to avoid another bump.
       I ended up in the middle of the avenue. With the chair on the tiny dolly, I concentrated on the solid yellow lines on the road as I tried to ignore the blaring horns of the cars whizzing by me. Onlookers gawked and stared, and one spectator yelled out, “Hey, Doc, where are you driving that chair?”
       By the time I reached 20th Street, which was right across from my new office, my ripped shirt and ragged shorts were saturated with grease and sweat. Every ounce of energy in me was gone. I felt dizzy and nauseated and my heart pounded in my head. Traffic sounds got louder and louder and I felt faint.
       I collapsed on my knees in front of Bethany Church of Christ. “Can't stop, gotta keep going,” I whispered as I raised my eyes to the church.
       A moment later, a voice bounded off the church doors. “Hey Doc, are you okay? Do you need some help? And where's my favorite dental chair going? We need that chair to keep these pearly whites of mine in tip-top shape.”
       I opened my eyes. There was a patient of mine, Mr. Otto. He grinned at me and said, “Let me help you.” Looking up at Mr. Otto and then over to the beautiful church, I took a deep breath and whispered, “Thank you.”
       Together we wheeled the chair across the street to my new office. My wife, who had been waiting for the moving truck to come with the chair, looked at my torn and soiled shirt. “If I didn't know any better,” she exclaimed, “I'd say you moved that chair by yourself. Is that true?” She stood staring at me, her hands on her hips, demanding an answer.
       I paused and walked over to the front window of the office. My eyes were drawn to the belfry of the Romanesque church, standing majestically in front of Pikes Peak. As if from a distance, I heard myself reply, “Can't stop - gotta keep going.”

Editor’s note: Some years later, Wahl relocated his office – with far less difficulty – to its current location, West One Family Dental, 1104 W. Colorado Ave.