Thursday, September 25, 2014

Grinning And Baring - Thursday

I’m outside the dentist’s surgery before 8.00am. So early in fact, that I don’t need to pay parking charges for the first ten minutes. That ticket I received when that filling took longer than expected still grates a few years down the line. The irritation lasted longer than the filling, as it happens.

Driver gouging rate for parking on the streets - both I and the office pay rates for - paid, parking ticket displayed on the dashboard, I walk to the surgery door then nearly smash my face against the glass. The door is locked.

‘Oh for f**ks sake.’ I exclaim, louder than I meant to.
A passing woman on a bicycle looks back at me with disdain and a pretty young student type, ignores me and carries on talking to an unseen friend on a hidden mobile phone. She must have one of those concealed microphone and ear piece combos - or she’s another nutter. Tough call.

I rattle the door again, anger swelling as I pull the appointment slip from my wallet and double check I have the right time, day, month and year. You have to book a long way in advance if you want an NHS dentist, and woe betide you if you miss an appointment. You’ll be moved on faster than a single mother on the council waiting list.

A scruffy man in jeans and a grubby t-shirt joins me. I feel out of place in suit and tie and momentarily wonder if he’s about to mug me. If he hits me in the face, as the door just tried to, I’ll be in the right place for reconstructive surgery. Although that will probably be non-essential cosmetic treatment and only available privately. Same dentist, just better mood music at four times the price.

‘They not open yet?’ Asks the man gruffly, stating the sodding obvious.
A cascade of sarcasm aches, like a dying tooth, to flow the man’s way, but sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut.
‘Eight o’clock.’ I tell him sagely, pointing at the opening hours which escaped my notice earlier.
‘It is eight o’clock.’ Counters the man, tapping at a cheap digital watch like a hen at a seed bowl.
Great, bad enough I’m about to be probed by a surgical steel implement and told I don’t floss often enough, now some chav with no dress sense wants a pre-breakfast argument. 

‘All bloody foreigners you know.’ Continues the man. pointing past the opening hours to a set of plaques showing the dentists currently practicing. I don’t recognise the woman I had a year ago, but they all seem to have an excess of Z’s andY’s in their names and to have qualified somewhere in eastern Europe.

‘Taking our jobs this lot.’ Adds the man with a yellowy snarl. The choices for a pithy retort are endless. I don’t like casual racism, particularly when it is so spectacularly misplaced. Fortunately the door mechanism rattles as a key is inserted from the inside and we both gain entry.

The receptionist looks bored already and scans my name in to the computer.
‘That’ll be £18.50 before you go in.’ She says challengingly. What’s this? I’ve always paid after the treatment. I’m tempted to argue, but I find it’s best not to upset an organisation that can inflict pain so readily

‘Any new medicines taking?’ Asks the dentist in halting English. She’s not the same woman I had last time - on maternity leave it transpires. God, that must have been a dark night. I answer in the negative and the prodding and tutting begins.

‘Grind together.’ instructs the dentist. Causing  momentary confusion until I realise it’s an instruction, not a request.
‘You have stressful job, no?’ Enquires the woman from behind her surgical mask. Yes, actually. I deal with idiots, liars and time-wasters most days, I want to say. But I just nod. I read somewhere dentists have one of the highest levels of depression and suicide. No sign of estate agents - yet.

‘Have you ever considered wearing a mouth guard?’ Asks the dentist, as I feel more expense coming.

In the end, I just take the hit and keep smiling.


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