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Friday, October 21, 2016


i remember the day i was scared of dentists

only just recently i girded up my loins and found me a dentist.
i don't like dentists. i am scared of dentists. it is not a phobia – it is a real fear. sometimes all we have to fear is fear itself and realising that i took the plunge and set up an appointment with the dentist. three sessions later i am still alive. i still don't like dentists and i have to confess i am still a little afraid of them.

it got me wondering where the fear came from.
it could have been my school days dentist (the last time i went – really i can't complain that all i needed in 35 years or so was two fillings and a clean), now to her credit mrs gutzman was a good dentist who took as much care of me, with as much patience as humanly possible. i was not an easy patient. i was not one of those kids who could sit in the waiting room know that they were going to have a filling or an extraction and be all calm and smiley about it. no sir. i was not that sort of patient at all.
in truth i was like that even before i met and was dealt with by mrs. gutzman.

it goes back to a day when my dad was off to the dentist. for some odd reason he took me a long – cheeky chappie all in short trousers scuffed shoes and scabby knees. these were the days when dentists operated out of front rooms with flock wallpaper and people smoked all the time and everywhere.
the waiting room was red – while i was far too young to know about these sorts of things – it could have doubled as the reception area of a high class bawdy house, who knows maybe it did. there were cabinets to look at – filled with dentist stuff a mix of the interesting and macabre. just a tad unsettling.
dad was there to get a tooth removed. as bad as my teeth are his were worse playing up to that stereotype of the english having bad teeth. that is what happens when your diet involves a lot of cigs and booze. we were waiting. unlike me dad was punctual, if not early. in this the apple did fall far from the tree.
he was nervous. even i noticed that. i am a boy, i look up to my parents. i pick up on his nerves and worry.
the nurse comes in all very much carry on style (another fine english tradition that has gone away) and asks if he is who he is supposed to be. there is no one else in the waiting room. he, gentleman that he is, takes his fag out of his mouth and says yes. she replies that the dentist is ready to see him once he has finished smoking. she smiles at him, smiles at me, leaves.
dad fishes in his pocket, takes out a packet of senior service and proceeds to light them all. he gives me a wink. it is a joke. we are cheeky chappies together. i giggle. in the back of my mind i know there is something wrong – dad is scared.

in that way that professions have a secret language in order to exclude everyone else they also have secret lines of communication. that can be the only explanation for what happened later.
the dentist took the delay in good grace. dealt with dad. we went home. dad a little subdued.
years later and a different dentist dad had to get a set of false teeth, obviously keeping a dentist waiting is a heinous crime never to be forgotten or forgiven and so through the secret information network there was a bad mark against my dad – because that can be the only reason for why he ended up with a set of gnashers that made him look like a demented ken dodd.

so dear reader there in that moment my fear of dentists started and has never left me. it is a fear i have been happy to pass on to others – people who have been happy to go to the dentist after listening to me going on about all the things i think can go wrong are suddenly stricken with a niggle, a worry, a concern. a fear worm.

it is true that after my last experience i may not compare each visit to the dentist as an audition for a remake of the marathon man (a comment that once fell very flat with mrs. gutzman – for the life of me i can't work out why) i am still not going to be rushing there with arms open wide and a song in my heart.

still nice to know that old dogs can learn new tricks.

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