Some mornings unfold better than expected. Your patients are interesting people you’d prefer to chat with. They think that they have difficult problems but I know (I’m not telling them) that they have simple routine problems. They think I am a great dentist: I feel like a great dentist. We are running a few minutes late but the next patient can wait. Jessica has a new joke:
An old lady goes to the dentist. She walks into the surgery and greets the dentist. He greets her and then puts on a pair of rubber gloves. She stares at his hands. He says, “These gloves come from overseas. I’ll tell you how they make them. They boil up a huge vat of latex. The workers come along and stick their hands into the molten latex. They then take their hands out of the vat and wave them around until the latex dries. They then peel the gloves off and pack them in boxes.”
The old lady says nothing. No response apart from a blank look. The dentist sighs and commences drilling. Half way through filling the tooth, the lady suddenly bursts out laughing.
The dentist stops drilling and asks, “What’s so funny?”
She says,” I’ve just realised how they make condoms.”
We laugh out loud and are abruptly interrupted by Beryl ushering in a new patient. We both suddenly stop laughing, and guiltily glance towards each other and then simultaneously greet the patient. The patient speaks first with a firm admonishing “Good morning”
She is forty four years old, five foot two, weighs 75 kgs, wears stockings, her hair is big, an unnatural ochre colour, soft, fluffy and contains product that helps retain it’s shape, eyebrows darkened, the usual lipstick (it won’t come off ), wears prescription glasses with no frame, works for the Department of Health as a manager dealing with clients who have rights and responsibilities and can at times be fractious, deals with staff ‘you just have to treat them right’, carries some of her work in a brief case which rests upon her abdomen, has just applied for a new position in a different part of the same department, not on more money but the experience would look good on her CV, legs crossed at the ankles with knees slightly apart, wearing a skirt and top with matching jacket embellished with a silver brooch of an animal (could be a tiger).
She seats herself without looking at the chair or wiggling backwards, then looks around the room, glances over her left shoulder at the bench tops and stares at Beryl who is placing some clean instruments in the drawers, continues her visual tour of the room, stares through me to the bench (and the pile of cards hereon), looks at the computer screen attached to the dental chair.
And then she says (more talking to herself than anybody else),” I think I’m in the wrong place. I’d better go.”
And then she pauses (now that she has our attention) and waits very deliberately and says, “Sorry.”
By the time she has said this, she has levered herself from the chair and is moving irreversibly. She has tightened her grip on her briefcase and is looking past the door, not looking at anybody or anything and not waiting for us to say anything. Just going. And now she has gone and the room is empty.
Jessica and I look at the cavernous space in the middle of the room.
Jessica shrugs her eyebrows and sarcastically says,” Do I clean the chair?”
I don’t care. I’m going to have a cup of tea and I reply by using that word, that word that signals the end of the conversation, that word that pretends I don’t care, that word that is taking over the world, the word affecting insouciance, the word that means don’t stress me out, that word that irritates me whenever I hear it, the word I use subconsciously fifty times a day, “Whatever.”
This blog is the fictional story of a dentist. The dentist works with Jessica and Beryl in a town a lot like Hobart. The blog tells the story of what these people get up to and the work that they do. If you feel that you recognize yourself in one of the stories please remember it is fictional and the characters and stories are all fictional. Though all the stories are based on my time as a dentist in Hobart and are based on things which actually did happen.