This week I sat patiently in the waiting area of my dentist’s clinic for my name to be called.
“Tim?” a soft-voice from around the corner broke the silence of the quiet room. I poked my head out and the dental assistant again said, “Tim” but now in more of an affirmative tone as our eyes met. I stood up and followed the dental assistant down the corridor… but instead of taking the usual right-hand turn, we kept walking straight and into a new dental room. The dentist was waiting for us, but not my dentist. She introduced herself and said,
“Hi Tim, how have you been?”.
Auto-pilot kicked into gear and I quickly replied, “I’ve been well, thank you. How have you been?”. After exchanging pleasantries I asked, “I am so sorry, I thought I was seeing Dr. N today?”
To which the dentist, a little taken back, replied kindly, “No, you’re seeing me today. Did the receptionists not tell you?”
“No, they didn’t,” I replied with a puzzled toned. “But, I guess it is okay, it is only a checkup” I added. A confused look came upon the faces of both the dentist and her assistant.
“Tim, you’re not here for a check-up, you’re having some major work done today”. Now all three of us stood awkwardly… as perplexed as one another.
The dentist turned and quickly logged into the computer behind her to check the schedule. Major dental works had been booked in for Tim at this time, and I had indeed confirmed that I was Tim, but was I him? Then the penny dropped. I was not that Tim, and I was not meant to be in this room at all. There was another Tim also patiently waiting at the dentist clinic that day. I turned, and like a late passenger on a plane, made a somewhat shameful walk back down the corridor and resumed my seat in the waiting area.
A few moments later another dental assistant came to the waiting area and called out
For the briefest of moments, I questioned the validity of my name. I believe that if you listened carefully enough at that very moment you would have heard Lionel Ritchie’s desperate plea echo through the waiting area “Hello, is it me you’re looking for?”. I stood up, and to be doubly sure, I said,
Changing my perspective about the dentist
There was a time when I avoided going to the dentist. Every time I went it was bad news. So subconsciously I wonder whether I had got to a point of avoidance or an attitude of “I’ll go when I have a problem”. But it was this very approach that ensured that when I went I was going to get bad news and reinforce my behaviour. I was creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In more recent years, I have started going to the dentist every six months. Guess what? My visits aren’t for major works anymore, they’re quick and relatively painless. I’ve been able to move from reactive management to pro-active management and I’m far better off for it. Similarly, I wonder how many other dentist-like situations I have put off because of my desire to avoid inconvenience, discomfort or pain. Sadly, I often pay a far greater cost for my avoidance later on. So my parting encouragement to you today is that we don’t have to wait for major dental surgery, or to hit rock-bottom, to ask for help or to make a positive change. The regular visit doesn’t only help reduce the likelihood of a ‘big event’, but it also means we know when we’re in the wrong room and talking to the wrong people.
Finally, dear readers, if you’re ever at the dentist, always confirm your last name!