It was a gloriously sunny day when I set off for the dentist despite it being the beginning of March … chilly though. The practice wasn’t far from where I live. I arrived early as I always do. My appointment time was at 2 pm and I was pleased that I had nearly twenty minutes to read my book. I was so completely absorbed that I hardly noticed the time until my dentist, Natasha, came dashing through the side door of the surgery and headed for the treatment room. It was then that I noticed she had no mask on. I’ve never seen her without it before as she hasn’t been my dentist for very long. It suddenly struck me how pretty she was, what a beautiful smile she had and how she looked at least ten years younger than I thought her to be. I wanted to tell her this; compliment her, but then I considered that it was, perhaps, a little too personal to express this to a professional and one I hadn’t known for very long.
A couple of minutes past my appointment time, the dental nurse, Charlie, put her head around the door and called me in. I made my way across the busy waiting room and lined myself up with the treatment room door. The doorway is very narrow as the building was once an old house and not built for wheelchairs, especially a large electric one like mine.
And so, as usual, I started to unpack the pannier at my side and the full-to-the-brim carrier bag hanging off of my wheelchair arm. We have this ‘performance’ every time I go there! I could feel the eyes of the other patients in the waiting room all glued to my back and I wasn’t sure whether they were thinking, “she’ll never get through that gap” or, “for goodness’ sake, get a move on!” I proceeded to unload my red metal reusable water bottle, an empty Tupperware box that housed yesterday’s sandwiches, a frozen Marks and Spencer’s Thai Green Curry for my dinner that night, a large head of broccoli, a litre bottle of fresh orange juice and my blue reusable coffee mug complete with a wodge of newspaper to keep the coffee hot on my journeys. The mug had the lukewarm remains of the coffee I’d bought in town but I decided against finishing it to avoid opening wide and blasting coffee breath in the dentist’s direction!
After a couple of minutes, the dental nurse had piled all my worldly goods onto a chair in the treatment room and I inched my way, bit-by-bit, through the tight doorway. I was aware that everyone was watching me unpack everything and wondered whether they’d been curious as to what was coming next. Having finally unloaded everything but the kitchen sink, I was almost expecting a round of applause from the unimpressed patients in the waiting room. “Not much chance of that,” I thought to myself.
Finally, I entered the room and was helped into the chair. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the instruments of torture all sterilised, gleaming metal and waiting to attack me! My stomach lurched spectacularly. This wasn’t going to be a pleasant experience. It never is. It’s almost unheard of for me to escape the eager clutches of my otherwise lovely dentist without needing probing and prodding and worst still, injecting with nasty tasting anaesthetic. Three numb minutes later, just as the drill was heading in my direction, I asked the dentist, as I stared at the ceiling if she’d ever considered putting posters up there to direct the attention of the unfortunate patient from what was happening. She said something about health and safety so I guessed the answer was no. I tightly shut my eyes as if, in doing so, I could pretend I was at the cinema, the theatre, the beach or the fair – anywhere my imagination could take me – anything would be preferable to where I was right then.
Thirty-five minutes later with three amalgam fillings, a scale and polish and one shiny new crown, I was then allowed to sit upright in the chair. I swished my mouth out with pink mouthwash and spat it into the bowl. I was then helped back into my wheelchair and was eager to get out. Charlie handed me my belongings, bit by bit again, after I’d squeezed back through the narrow door and I repacked everything. As I did so, I noticed there were bits of stray broccoli on the seat of the chair and a puddle where my frozen meal had started to defrost! I muttered a hasty apology, then thought I ought to make a quick exit … I went up to the reception desk to pay the bill and waited while my bank card went through the sickening and painful process of coming out exactly £282.80 lighter!! The receptionist looked at me and smiled. As she did so a big, sloppy dribble ran very obviously down my still numb chin and into the neck of my jumper! Oh, the embarrassment …