This anecdote cost me £415 so it better be fucking worth it. I took the day off on Thursday for two things I intensely dislike, the dentist and the barber.
With the dentist it’s not so much me that has the problem with it, it’s my wallet. Actually that’s not true it’s both of us. I was “blessed” with not one but two hereditary/genetic conditions which meant my teeth were at a heavy disadvantage from day one – dodgy genes basically, and I don’t mean that ripped pair I actually used to wear to work where, if you were behind me on the stairs or an escalator, you could basically see my business. I’ve had to spend a serious amount of cash money over the past years just keeping my fragile little chompers in a healthy state, and it is indeed a great miracle and due to hard work (and more cash money) that I’ve never had to have one taken out.
I trust my local practice in London, I think it originally stems from the fact the owner of the practice was my first dentist here, and he has somewhat wonky teeth. He could have fixed that and had the most perfect fake smile (without the immense cash outlay the rest of us would need), but he didn’t. He has them healthy and natural and slightly wonky, I liked that. It reassured me. When I was first tempted to ask “how much for a fake perfect smile” I knew the answer would be “fuck off McCann, me and you have got some work to do here before we can even consider pouring bleach and porcelain in your gob”. The emphasis has always been on doing what’s right long-term and not what I immediately wanted, because let’s face it I am a child who doesn’t know shit about what’s best for myself and I would happily pay for a quick fix, in the belief it won’t matter if it all fucks up in ten years time because I’ll be dead by then, my life having been claimed by some freak and hilariously-anecdotal accident. But they won’t let me, which is a good thing.
I’ve always been nervous in dentists, I think most people are, it’s natural, but I’ve been particularly freaked out since the time there was an “incident” with my anaesthetic jab. “Apparently” he just hit a certain nerve, but it actually felt like he’d stabbed the needle right through the middle of my tongue; like seriously, that’s exactly how it felt. I had to go outside for ten minutes to calm down. And cry a bit.
The owner went on a sabbatical or something, and I got a new dentist, Greek guy, really nice. After my first time with Nikos a couple of years back he commented on the fact I was shaking during the procedure; I’d have thought that was quite common, he was essentially ‘mining’ my jaw. I explained I was terrified of dentists, not him specifically, he was really nice, I wasn’t scared of him as a person, rather I was scared of having sharp, rapidly rotating electrical devices technically inside my body.
I left out the fact I’d had 6 shots of vodka before I left the house.
Before I get onto Thursday … and Friday and this morning because I have been three times in three days, have a watch of this if you haven’t seen it already. One of my all-time favourite movie scenes, from Little Shop of Horrors (1987) with Steve Martin as the sadistic singing dentist:
After my check-up, it turned out I needed two temporary fillings replaced that were put in last year after my watermelon-related accident. I’m sure we’ve all had one of these. I was gleefully eating a watermelon one morning and I bit down on a seed at exactly the wrong time, it practically split one of my back teeth in half. And they say fruit is supposed to be good for you. It was my most comedic accident since I fractured my rib playing frisbee. People are still talking about my rather frank out-of-office e-mail which was on for the next couple of days.
I’d be back in again on Saturday (Saturday, my fucking weekend!) at 2.30. Yeap, two-thirty – the Chinaman must have cancelled…
I left after giving the hot receptionist a tonne of money (she really should be sleeping with me for the amount I’ve paid her over the years…) and went back to Tooting with the intention of getting a long-overdue haircut. My policy with hair is I get it cut really short, then when it gets unmanageably long I go and get it cut again. There is no styling or consistency.
My colleague Franco coined a fabulous theory about my hair. He says when I’ve just had it cut I look about ten years younger than when I am a scruffy bedraggled mop-haired mess. He says freshly cut I look about 28, 5 or 6 weeks in I look about my actual age, and I’m pushing 40 by the time I get round to having it cut. I think that’s about right.
I hate waiting in the barbers (my brother has an actual phobia about hairdressers which is why he shaved all his hair off – true story), and it’s on my way home from work, so when it’s time I walk past each evening and whenever it reasonably empty I pop in. Sometimes this just doesn’t happen though. Tooting seems to have an abundance of hair. There is a barbers opposite my barbers, and a barbers next door to that. Three barbers right next to each other. Just one more and we’d have a barber shop quartet…
Despite this they are always rammed, and if I get to the point where my hair is causing me trouble, I need to take a day off and go when it’s quiet during the day. When I mean trouble I mean either 1) I can see my fringe, or more so 2) I can see the sides of my hair and keep turning round startled because I think someone is behind me.
With dentist first thing and lots of holiday to use up, I decided to have the day off and get my haircut no matter what. Luckily on the way back from the dentist there was just one other person in there, the guy in the chair; perfect, the minimum amount of time spent fidgeting like a little child before my hair would be cut. I got in, said hello to Anton, or AN ON as his vandalised sign used to say; these kids should at least go the whole way and change BARBERS to BA BE S. I sat down and Anton kicked in with his pointlessly officious ways – he went into his drawer and fetched his little pile of cut-out cardboard circles with numbers written on them – designed to stop the CARNAGE of people not knowing who is ‘next’. He handed me one. 4. 4? I was the only other person there? Oh well.
The man in the chair was one of these people who goes to a barbers for a £4 haircut and expects the barber to be a mind-reader and a perfectionist. Every time the mirror came out he wanted something changed or tweaked. Then he wanted his eyebrows done. I have a word for these people. That word is “twats”. You are in a barbers, when the barber pulls out the mirror and asks if you’re happy with it, whatever it looks like you are supposed to say “yes thank you”, give the man his £4 and fuck off. Before I got contact lenses this was my only choice, since when the barber brought out the mirror, I couldn’t actually see what he was showing me. “Yes thank you.”
Finally it was my turn, after some cleaning up and chores he had to do which seemed only to have been timed that way to infuriate me. I sat in the chair and gave him my order, but just before he started my phone rang. It was the dentists. I answered, perhaps they had overcharged me and wanted me to go back and get some money. I gestured to Anton I’d be just a second. The hot receptionist wanted to know if I’d be interested in changing my 2.30 on Saturday to a 9.30. Firstly, 9.30 is not as funny as 2.30 because 9.30 is NOT the time the Chinaman goes to the dentist. I’d been waiting 9 fucking years for another 2.30 appointment. Secondly, the only time I have ever been out of bed at 9.30 on a Saturday was one time I woke up thinking it was a Friday. Nonetheless I couldn’t really give her either of these excuses, as ultimately one day I would like to find out if she receives other things as confidently as she receives customers, so I agreed on 9.30.
She continued, “OK Mr McCann, that’s confirmed as 9.30 on Sa…”
Anton just put the razor to the side of my head where I had the phone. No warning at all, no “come on I’ve got other customers, there’s a guy over there with a bit of cardboard that says 17”, no he just started shaving the side of my head. I just had to hang up. My first thought was, I better call her back later because what must she have thought? “Oh Mr McCann might not make it on Saturday after all, I think he’s just been sawed in two.”
I tucked away my phone, sighed, faced front and prayed there would be no smalltalk.
There was smalltalk. Some shite about football and some incredible insights – “sometimes Scotland have a good team, and sometimes they don’t”, and “sometimes the team that plays best wins, but sometimes that doesn’t happen.” Genius. Eventually he reacted to my complete lack of response by stopping talking.
He didn’t even bother showing me the mirror at the end, he seemed a bit fed up.
Friday morning I was back seeing the orthodontist as I’d harassed Nikos once more about cosmetic work and he was starting to cave in now the watermelon incident was being fully resolved. The orthodontist was on maternity but was in once or twice a month and just so happened to be in the next day which was Friday. I notified work I’d be in late and kept my appointment card safe in case I was understandably challenged with suspicion of the “little fucker just wants a lie in” variety. Then came the shocker. She could do the stuff I wanted but first I needed braces.
Braces. I’m 30-fucking-4.
She outlined the costs on the back of a leaflet. Silly girl I thought, she’s been on maternity so long she’s forgotten how to put in decimal points. No, there were no decimal points. Total cost, nearly £6000. What are these fucking things made of, unicorn horns? Oh well that’s the first year of your new baby paid for I guess.
On the plus side, I imagined my oral health would take a sharp increase, as I wouldn’t be able to afford food anymore so I wouldn’t be able to eat anything. She asked me if I had any questions, I really wanted to ask “why are you not called an orthodentist?”
Saturday morning at 9.30 I’m back with Nikos for a couple of fillings, shattered as I always am on a Saturday (which is the reason I am never awake in the morning at the weekend). He started his work, with a particularly painful injection and some lecturing about how I had to keep my tongue out of the way and how I was so tense I was laying there like I was in the electric chair. At least I’d get a nice dinner before that.
I tried to relax as he started drilling. Tried to take my mind off it, tried to think of other things. The hot receptionist, our wonderful life together, booking appointments for dates, paying her £50 upfront in case I didn’t show up, nice happy administrative thoughts…
I fucking fell asleep.
I fell asleep, albeit briefly, while someone was drilling in my mouth. I am officially the Mayor of LazyBastardTown. Luckily it was so brief I didn’t wake up screaming wondering where I was. So there’s my tip for surviving three days of relentless early morning dentistry. Try to get a nice nap.