Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Desperately Seeking Dentists

Hooray! I'm back! I'm doing some new stories! Now everyone has given up, on this website and stopped reading! Inspired by the fact that Dr Alban is a real doctor (well a dentist!) here's a nice story about dentists! Hooray (again!).

Desperately Seeking Dentists

Claire has been my best friend since I turned around and asked for help in completing a tough level of Granny's Garden on the BBC Micro in 1987. If I had turned to my left, and asked Jennifer Danielle Wiley how to get out of my predicament, my life would have completely different, and on such odd twists and turns does life hang. I can still remember it being quite exciting the first time she stayed at my house, and we stayed up until, oh, at least 10:30, having a nice old chat about things. And one thing I've always, always known about Claire is her lifelong loathing of dentists.

I'm not sure what it's like now, but back in the 1980s, it was very important that all schools had a dental van, and regular visits from a crazy mascot who encouraged you to brush. Our school had both, and our mascot was an early incarnation of the Giddy Goanna look, who would regularly try and get us to a dance movement which ended with "BRUSH BRUSH...SMILE". Naturally, no self respecting 9 year old would be seen dead doing such a thing, so it was usually just the bennys who did it, and I betrayed my inner benny nature with a pout and a shake of the head whenever early Giddy looked in my direction. Our dental van was usually parked to the left hand side of the monkey bars, which meant it cut an imposing figure. One of the girls in our class, the lesser spotted Patricia Ellis (who we never saw, ever, due to long bouts with illness and poorness - oddly, when we did see her, it was usually just to say something quite profound, and then she'd be gone again) told us several kids went in there and came back without teeth. Naturally, we took in this piece of wisdom, and then called Patricia Ellis a massive DUHBRAIN, but Claire, she took it to heart, and spent most of her lunchtime fretting about getting a call up to the caravan of death.

The worst time to get your teeth checked was just after summer. Not only was it annoying to have to give up a potential fun activity that was normally out in the sunshine for ten minutes in the dark of the dental van, but (and certainly in my house) summer was always the time for sweets. It was always time to muck around, have a play, and then run to the shops for some sort of sugary treat. The local store seemed like Willy Wonka's at times, and it was a great shame when one day it vanished, and turned into a juice bar. Not that some nice juice isn't fun, but a generation of kids missed out on eating sweets that had sat in a glass jar for 4 years plus, and that's a great shame, as risk is always a big part of childhood.

She got the call up just before music on a Wednesday, and it meant she missed footy maths and a nap provided everything went smoothly. What happened next is a matter between Claire, Flip the Dentist, and God (and possibly the Giddy Goanna mascot). After about an hour, Claire emerged, and for whatever reason I was by the monkey bars on my own (I think because I was student of the week, and got an extra 20 minutes of lunch, (an idiotic concept since everyone else was inside, so you just loitered around the playground bored on your own).

"How did it go Claire!" I said, expecting a big, best friend kind of response.

"CRAP!" she said, since Claire doesn't swear, and that's as far as she would ever push it. I did the supportive best friend thing and pulled a spaz face, and shook my head.

"It's not THAT BAD you big goose!" I said (in spite of my sugary treat loving, my teeth and gums were perfect, so I barely missed one sum in maths), but she beckoned me closer with one finger and whispered slowly "she HATED me! She didn't give me sunglasses!"

Sunglasses were part of the fun dental experience, the reasoning being that when you were staring into the massive bright light in the roof, it would be hip and trendy if you wore a pair of giant novelty sunglasses. In Claire's version of events, the dentist had to be talked into giving her sunglasses, and would have left her there blinded but for her desperate pleas. Then, she motioned to the stamp on her hand, a cheerful turtle giving a thumbs up.

"What, you don't like turtles?" I said, bemused that anyone could hate the slowest of all species.

"She whacked my hand REALLY HARD when she put it on! I'm telling you Y, she didn't like me at ALL!"

Claire sat on the ground, her faith in the dental profession crumbling like the bark Dull Dave used to throw in the woodchipper. She looked at me slowly and said "could you ask her what I did wrong?" She then stared at my chunky bangles like she wanted to steal them and have them for herself, so I wasn't really sure just how long Claire's sense of moral outrage would last, but I accepted that as a best friend, sometimes I had to do things that I didn't really want to.

I was bemused at the idea of having to go and use my social skills to go and ask Flip the Dentist why she was so mean, but Claire was insistent, and so I knocked gently on the caravan door, and peeked my head inside. It was totally dark and foreboding, and when I think back, perhaps even smoky. Flip the dentist was at the back of the caravan, and I peered through the gloom, I couldn't help noticing she was in some kind of distress.

"Sorry," she said, turning around to notice me, "I don't think I've got any other kids booked today."

"You're right tiges, my mistake, but are you OK?" I said. Flip and I had bonded over our shared love of fancy big chunky bangles, and so I did feel some concern that she seemed so uncharacteristically unsure of herself.

"No, not really, it's always a problem when kids bite you" she said, holding up one finger that was cut and bleeding. I smiled gently and nodded, and left it at that. I knew instictively then as I now know the problems that come with getting Claire to do anything she doesn't want to, never mind putting her in a chair and checking her teeth. I knew that Claire would have wriggled, moaned and stropped her way through the entire thing, and the poor woman never would known what hit her.

"Did you tell her off?" said Claire hopefully, when I got back into class.

"Oh yeah, big time!" I said, smiling broadly.

"Good for you! I hope one day, I can have your confidence to stand up for myself" she said, nodding. And one day, she did. But that, as they say, is a story for another time.


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