861: Wisdom Teeth

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Wisdom Teeth
I heard the general anesthesia drugs can cause amnesia, so when I woke up mid-extraction I started taking notes on my hand so I'd remember things later. I managed 'AWAKE BUT EVERYTHING OK' before the dental assistant managed to find and confiscate all my pens.
Title text: I heard the general anesthesia drugs can cause amnesia, so when I woke up mid-extraction I started taking notes on my hand so I'd remember things later. I managed 'AWAKE BUT EVERYTHING OK' before the dental assistant managed to find and confiscate all my pens.


Wisdom teeth, as many people are no doubt painfully aware, are the third set of molars found in humans. Because human jaws are smaller than other ape jaws, most of us don't have room for a third set of molars, and the teeth become impacted so they grow straight into the other teeth, requiring a painful, debilitating procedure to remove them.

Because recovering from dental surgery often entails a period of rest following the operation and the use of prescription painkillers (which have a tendency to make a person go a little loopy)[actual citation needed], Cueball prepares to play Minecraft the entire time. Minecraft is a PC game known for its addictive qualities; the game itself primarily revolves around a three-dimensional world in which the goal of the player is centered on the aspects of structural creation using blocks found in the environment and the creation of different materials for use in building these structures. Despite its addictive nature, the game doesn't provide the player with a goal, so most people take to building lots of nifty stuff, such as large cities, computers made from the game's built-in redstone (electricity) mechanics, massive scale replicas of Earth, etc.

Cueball's conversation with Megan indicates that he has previously decided against playing Minecraft precisely due to its addictive gameplay and lack of internal goal, deeming it unproductive. However, 'productivity' is not something that Cueball believes he can achieve post-extraction, and so Cueball decides that addictive gameplay and lack of internal goal "sounds like the perfect distraction".

Unfortunately for Megan (and any other users of her server), Cueball, while intoxicated with painkillers, has instead opted to flatten an entire continent and sort it into layers (by type of block, presumably). While there's no real indication of how big the continent is, as Minecraft worlds are randomly generated, sea level in Minecraft is at Y level 64, which means he sorted at least 65 layers of a continent large enough to be sufficiently developed, so it is clear that this task would take a lot of time. Collecting a block in Minecraft takes a certain minimum amount of time, depending on the block type, so even if he did everything as fast as he possibly could, there's still a substantial lower bound.

Ironically, in the second panel Megan says she'll set Cueball up on her server, which indicates she probably uses a whitelist to secure the server from griefers who might destroy structures created by others, not expecting that Cueball would do exactly that. The last panel simply illustrates that painkillers tend to make one loopy.

The title text refers to people waking up during surgery. Because anesthesia requires a lot of careful calibration and dosage - there's a reason anesthesiologists are paid hundreds of dollars an hour to be there, after all - it's possible to sometimes get it wrong, resulting in the patient waking up in the middle of the surgery. The three most important parts of anesthetics used for surgery are an analgesic (blocks pain), a sedative (puts you to sleep), and a paralytic (keeps you from moving). The worst-case scenario that most people hear about is when the analgesic and sedative are under-dosed, but the paralytic is correct, leaving the person awake, able to feel pain, but unable to alert the surgeons that anything is wrong. As a result, some countries and medical institutions have passed laws requiring surgeons to monitor brain activity so that these problems can be quickly remedied. The situation the title text is describing, with both the sedative and paralytic wearing out (leaving the person able to write notes), would be quite unlikely. As for confiscating all the pens, it was probably just to keep the patient from disturbing the procedure while the anesthesiologist corrected the dosage.

Sorting a Minecraft world into layers like this would be a near impossible task, especially in the version of Minecraft (Beta 1.2) that was current when this comic was released, which did not even include the enchantment system that allowed for tools that could mine exceptionally fast, meaning that even the sheer time to mine out such a large area would be astronomical, not even considering the time to replace the blocks in proper layers, or to gather resources for the many tools you would need. In later versions of Minecraft, it is possible to naturally generate worlds that resemble the world in this comic using the "superflat" world generation mode, but this was not a feature in Minecraft when this comic was released.


[Megan is seen side-on, with her right arm raised & bent at the elbow to hold a partly-visible cellphone up to her ear. Cueball appears in a small inset panel halfway up the left side of Megan's panel, holding a cell phone against his cheek.]
Cueball: Hey! Know how you've been bugging me to play Minecraft for the past year? I'm game.
Megan, on phone: But you said you didn't want to "get hooked and spend days on end moving virtual cubes around while sitting motionless." What changed?
[In the second panel, Cueball is sitting in front of a coffee table as seen from his right side, with thin lines representing a stack of magazines on top of the table & a small potted plant with four leaves on the other side.]
Cueball, on phone: I'm having my wisdom teeth out, and I'll be useless and doped up on painkillers for the next few days, so that actually sounds like the perfect distraction.
Megan, on phone: Oh. I'll set you up on our server!
[A caption box on top of the third panel reads:]
72 hours later...:
[Megan is sitting at a desk, her phone again raised to her right ear. She is looking at a LCD monitor standing on top of her desk, while her left hand is on the keyboard shelf.]
Megan, on phone: Hey — starting to feel better? Enjoying the game? Let's see what you've... What the hell? Where IS everything?
[View of a Minecraft screen showing a vast empty expanse of land. In Cueball's hotbar is, from left to right, an stone pickaxe, sword, and shovel, seven feathers, 42 torches, a non-enchanted bow, a blank space, 64 blocks of stone and a clock. He has full health and 15 armor points.]
Megan, offscreen: ...You made the entire continent perfectly flat?
Cueball, offscreen: And sorted it into layers.
Megan, offscreen: ...
Cueball, offscreen: I feel good about things. This is a good game.
[Cueball is sitting on the floor at his laptop, bleeding from the mouth, surrounded by bloody wadded-up tissues and holding a bottle of medication.]
Megan, on phone: ...What exactly is in the painkillers they gave you?
Cueball, woozy: I can't read the label because I'm a hologram.

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Why should all three parts of the anesthetic have to wear off? It seems like Randall would probably not write "Everything ok" if he could feel the procedure. 02:10, 5 March 2013 (UTC)

^ Agreed, it is most likely the anæsthetic and paralytic wore off, leaving the analgesic. So, he was awake, but "Everything [was] ok", because he was not feeling pain. 15:39, 14 September 2014 (UTC)

I Gotta get my wisdom teeth removed asap! ~~JFreund

Could this be a reference to superflat mode? 22:31, 14 June 2014 (UTC)

^ No, this was during beta 1.2 when there were no modes. ~iFinity

Related? http://www.explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php?title=846 21:22, 18 June 2014 (UTC)

I think that the guy was crazy but if this was before super flat, it could have possibly have been a model used in the mode. -- Otis (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The phrase "Due to the inhibitory effects of painkillers" is flat-out wrong (pun intended). Opioids don't cause that kind of behaviour, and even if they did in some people, this wouldn't be due to their inhibitory effects on pain (they in fact exert a stimulatory effect on the mu-opioid receptor and more or less an happy and easy-going, while sleepy, state of mind). This is more a reflection of the personality of Cueball being exposed by his drunken-like state, if anything. I edited the sentence by replacing this with "While intoxicated with painkillers" ~~ A concerned M.D.

Could the title text be a reference to Memento? --Nick818 (talk) 21:59, 13 December 2016 (UTC)

In Minecraft: Playstation 4 version, there is a option to do a flat world like that in comic. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

In actuality, no Minecraft map is infinite- just obscenely big. This probably could not be done in the appropriate time span given, but it could eventually be done. {Sauron, the Dark Lord}

We're just gonna ignore the thing about being a hologram, huh? 18:44, 11 December 2020 (UTC)mezimm

Looks just like a superflat world; also LOOK AT ANCIENT MINECRAFT :OO THE ARMOUR BAR IS IN PLACE OF THE HUNGER BAR :OOO Beanie (talk) 10:30, 29 April 2021 (UTC)

Sea level is at Y 62! (talk) 10:21, 1 December 2022 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)