COLUMN: August 1, 2013

I SAT in the dentist’s waiting room and looked around for something to pass the time.

But apart from some leaflets and posters around the place explaining the importance of looking after one’s teeth – a massive “I told you so, Myrtle” to everybody sitting there – there was nothing to read.

So all I could do was sit there and think about what was about to happen. This was not very much – it was only the dental hygienist for a small repair on a chipped molar and a scale and polish. Nothing at all to worry about…

Gary, stop now.

My name was called, and the dental hygienist, a pleasant young woman, asked me to sit in the dentist’s chair. I noticed a sign as I sat down which said the surgery was open until 8pm. My previous dental appointment had been at 8am. I got a B in my maths GCSE, so I quickly worked out that was a 12-hour day.

I didn’t much fancy the thought of people who put drills in other people’s mouths working 12-hour days. There must be a shift system in place, I thought, so I…

Gary, seriously, stop this now…

I’m sorry, who is this?

I’m one of the voices which tells you what to think about things.

What, are you Twitter?

No. You know how you’ve got a conscience which stops you from doing bad things?

Kind of …

Well, I’m like that, but I’m the one which stops you from doing stupid things.

Right. So if that’s true, where have you been for 41 years, matey? You are the worst “stopping people from doing stupid things” voice ever.

You never listen to me.

Why now? What stupid thing am I about to do?

You’re going to tell the readers what you said to the dental hygienist. It’s a very, very bad idea.

Well, I know it was a stupid thing to say, but I’ve got a deadline, and it’s not as if I’ve got much of a reputation to trash.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Sorry, readers… So I made a bit of chit-chat with the hygienist about how good the air conditioning was, and how I could lie there all day.

And then, with the potentially 12-hour shifts of the surgery in mind, I turned to the dental hygienist and I asked her, “What time do you finish work?”

She looked at me in horror. I didn’t count, but possibly three seconds of silence occurred. That doesn’t sound much, but try counting them.

“I finish at five and then I go home to my baby, which WE’VE just had,” she said. Then she pushed some instruments into my mouth and I couldn’t explain. And the moment was lost.

Gary, you don’t ask a woman what time she finishes work.

I know!

Not even if she’s a taxi driver.

I know! Do you write the posters in dentists’ waiting rooms? Yes, but if I write a column about it, I can sort of explain that I wasn’t flirting and everything will be all right.

Oh, God, it’s not going to be all right, is it? I just look as if I’m justifying myself after the event so she doesn’t “accidentally” smack me in the mouth with something metal the next time I see her.

Yes, Gary, at best you look like an idiot. At worst you look like a lecherous and mendacious flirt. And now everybody knows about it.

I wasn’t flirting! I am so bad at flirting I am even terrible at not flirting, apparently. Where were you before I opened my mouth, Mister Wise-after-the-event?

I told you, you never listen to me. If you listened to me, you wouldn’t have a column in which you explain every week in detail how incapable you are.

Aha! I knew there was a good reason.

On the other hand, if you listened to me you would be rich and successful.

Swings and roundabouts, isn’t it?

Yes, Gary, except the swings are massive and made of gold, and the roundabouts are tiny and made of manure, and you never get to go on the swings.

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