It felt like i was getting a call from my girlfriend.

– Hi! It’s your dental office. You have an appointment tomorrow at six?

– Oh … um. Right.

(i’d never be able to make my staff Christmas party, and i’d picked up something for the gift exchange and everything.)

– Can we uh … i mean, is it possible to do this another time?

– What? So you can’t make it to your appointment? You have something BETTER to do?

– Well uh … it’s not that of course … i mean, i’d really like to …

– (smoulder)

– … what i mean to say is that … i know you have cancellation policies and all, but could you just …

– Just what?

– Just … reschedule me? Maybe? If it’s not too much trouble? … please?

– (sigh)

… agonizing pause ….

Alirght. How’s tomorrow at three?

(Absoulutely awful. It was in the middle of the workday and i had a lot to finish before the break.)

– Perfect! i’ll be there. Thanks.

The dental office is a weird beast. i don’t know any other profession that uses guilt to get you to buy their services like the dentist. They’re always like “Ooooh … your gums are awful bleedy here … you wanna make sure you floss … don’t you want to keep your own teeth into your own age? You don’t want us to have to do a root canal some day, do you?” It’s bizarre. No other profession, not even those sonofamonkey GP’s.

The GP’s know where their money comes from, and they’re grateful. They milk it. Those idiots will write you a prescription for anything as long as it gets them on the golf course by five.

– Doctor, it hurts when i do this.

– Then don’t do that. … oh, and let me write you a prescription for it.

They’re not always saying “Oooh … you’ve got the sniffles! That’s how you ended up here. Now i have to write you a prescription. You gotta be more careful. Oooh … looks like you have really bad cancer developing here … you don’t want to have to go through radiation treatment, do you?” Those dudes don’t care. You’re in, you’re out, and there’s no question about the transaction that took place. You get what you need, they get paid, and there doesn’t have to be any lingering guilt or shame.

Not so the dentist. Why aren’t these people happy that my teeth are dirty? Any other professional would be thrilled to see me walk into their establishment desperately needing what they provide. Like if i walked into a pants store with no pants on, and said “Gosh, i really need a pair of pants,” as if the pants salesman’s gonna say “Ooooh … you gotta take care to wear more pants next time. i’ll sell you a pair of pants this time, but i don’t want to see you coming in here needing pants again, okay? Can you do that for me?” Condescending dolts. i should be able to cram down an aching mouthful of toffee three minutes before i hit the dentist’s chair, and they should be praising the heavens. Hooray! His mouth is soooooo dirty! My kids will eat well tonight!!

But no. They seem like the only service providers in the world who aren’t happy to see you. You know what, dentists? What if the world took your outrageous advice and flossed every day? What if we brushed like sweaty animals and never ate a single square of toffee in our lives? We’d walk into your office, you’d look into our mouths, and you’d see nothing to do. Absolutely nothing. Then you’d pedal home to your roofless shack strung up under the bridge, slap another bludgeoned rat on the table and ask one of your fourteen children to debone it. Then you’d feel remorse, dentists – remorse and shame for being so ungrateful when solid business constantly streamed through your door, and all you did was chide your customers like they were misbehaved toddlers. Yuo’d feel remorse and shame and – dare i say it? – a whole lotta guilt. Guilt, dentist style.