'Open Wide!' - the sequel
Yesterday afternoon was enlivened by more root canal work.
The dentist does this without anaesthetic which means that when I feel pain I am required to alert him by emitting a small noise - a restrained, low-pitched, butch kind of sound which denotes 'this excruciating pain doesn't bother a well-hard bloke like me at all but I thought you might like to be in the feedback loop to help you identify which nerves are still alive and currrently going into spasm.'
I suspect the reason he doesn't give me anaesthetic is that he read the blog post I wrote in August about his white clogs and his starring role in the fictitious dental musical 'Open Wide!' This is a completely absurd notion of course, especially as little Borac's grasp of English is very shaky, but when you're on your back with 500 watts shining in your face and an Eastern European sadist is sticking pins in your gums you can become a bit paranoid.
Root canal work has become a common expression for one of life's worst experiences. As in:
'Did you watch the Tory Party Conference?'
'No, I'd rather have root canal work.'
But for me the term always conjures up childhood memories of rooting about in an old canal in my wellingtons and putting tadpoles in a jam jar.
This pleasing Christopher Robin scene is probably highly misleading.
I was disrupting the local ecology, the water was stagnant and stinking, there were probably paedophiles lurking under the railway arch, the Cuban Missile Crisis was about to cause nuclear armageddon, that tall Polish boy Jerzy would punch me in the stomach as I walked home, the tadpoles would die, my mother would have cooked tripe and onions and I'd go to bed hungry.
Compared to this, going to the dentist was better than winning a Crackerjack pencil and pen or a year's supply of Sherbet Dips.
I even wrote an essay about the joys of dentistry which was presented to my delighted dentist. Young, handsome and charismatic, my childhood dentist always whistled while he worked. Sometimes he also sang, like a small town Sinatra. He radiated happiness, love for his fellow man and the sheer joy of being alive and drilling teeth in Middle England.
It was many years later that his patients discovered that this captivating joie de vivre owed much to the fact that more cocaine was going into his arm than into the gums of his patients.
It was an early Life Lesson: that anyone that happy is either on something or mentally deranged.
Yesterday an elderly lady and her daughter sat next to me in the waiting room. I'm not sure if the old lady had the beginnings of Altzheimers or whether, like many old people, she thought that real life was like television and you could talk about people without them hearing you. Anyway, she squinted at the receptionist and then said loudly:"I don't like her top!"
We all turned and registered the fact that the top had indeed seen better days and had perhaps been washed at too high a temperature for it was hanging off the receptionist's shoulders revealing her bra straps.
A few minutes later the old lady exclaimed: "That poor girl's having trouble with her drawers! That's no joke when you're busy."
This time we all looked across more surreptitiously and with some trepidation, pretending we were looking at the clock. It was with some relief that we saw that one of the drawers of the filing cabinet had jammed.
Having exhausted the entertainment potential of 'I'm A Receptionist, Get Me Out Of Here!' the old lady picked up a copy of The Times. The headline was 'PRISON SENTENCES TO BE SLASHED.'
The old lady's moustache bristled in the pale winter sunshine streaming through the window. As she became hot under the collar of her polyester blouse, the smell of mothballs became over-powering and I started to sneeze.
Then she lit rip in loud and tremulous tones: "That's shocking! It's disgraceful! It won't be safe to go out. All the rogues and vagabonds will be walking the streets!"
Rogues and vagabonds! I was suddenly transported back to a Dickensian world of Fagin and footpads.
And through some process of word association, as I walked into the surgery to offer up my root canal for Borac to do his worst, I found myself humming:
'Gypsys, tramps, and thieves
We'd hear it from the people of the town
They'd call us Gypsys, tramps, and thieves
But every night all the men would come around
And lay their money down.'
"Are you on any medication?" asked Borac, as dentists do.
I wish, I thought.