I don’t know about you, but nothing scares me more than going to the dentist.
Now, before the dental demographic of my enormous readership gets all huffy and outraged and writes into 8DAYS cancelling their subscription, let me just say that this is not personal. I know what an invaluable public service all you dentists provide to the world.
I mean, if it weren’t for dentists, Hollywood movie stars would all have rotting, disfigured mouths. Going to the movies would be like watching an Orc fight scene in ‘The Lord of the Rings’. And really, isn’t half of Tom Cruise’s appeal his smile? So, I get it. Dentists rock.
But...here’s the thing. The second I walk into Dr Chan’s little dental surgery in Tanglin Shopping Centre, all my nerves are on edge. First, there’s that weird ozone-y, anti-septic smell that, if I didn’t know any better, is the scent that hits you just before a mass alien invasion. Or at the very least, a major end-of-the-world tornado.
And then, the whining, drilling sound starts screeching, rising in intensity till it’s almost in the range that only dogs can hear.
This is when I usually turn right around and head back out the door.
“You are such a baby!” Amanda said the other day when she told me she had an appointment for her half-yearly check-up, and I told her about my odontophobia.
“That’s because you have perfect teeth to start with,” Saffy piped up. “I’m totally with Jason on this one! Dentists are scary. Like clowns.”
I turned to Saffy. “You’re scared of clowns?”
Saffy’s legendary bosom inflated. “Oh, totally!” she told me. “My worst nightmare is being stuck in an elevator with Bozo!”
“Mine is falling into a coffin full of snakes,” I said.
Amanda stared at us. “Are you for real?” she said eventually.
Saffy shrugged. “What? It could happen! Didn’t you read about that guy who was walking past a hotel and a sofa fell right on top of him? Tore half his face off. My point is,” she said, noticing Amanda’s look, “anything can happen.”
“It’s a dental appointment!” Amanda said, rolling her pretty eyes.
Which, as Saffy later pointed out over a bowl of ice kachang at Chomp Chomp, is just the sort of thing someone who doesn’t have a single filling would say. “It’s like when Lady Gaga said you have to stop compromising your values and find your authentic self and say no.”
“What a ridiculous thing to say!” I said.
“Tell it!” Saffy huffed.
“Issit?” Sharyn piped up, peering around her mound of luridly coloured shaved ice. “Why, ah?”
Saffy drew herself up, pleased at the captive audience. “Well, people only ever say rubbish like that when they’re really, really rich. When they’re starting out in their careers, they’re all poor and, like, they’re living on a friend’s couch…”
“Or in a car,” I said.
Saffy nodded as she dug out a spoonful of atap chee. “Or in a car. They’ve not had a paycheck in, like, six months, so they’re desperate. They’ll do anything. Pose nude for Playboy, sell Tupperware, make car commercials. Anything to pay the rent. You never ever hear them say, ‘Oh, but this is my passion! I’m doing what I love! Money’s not everything!’”
“Oh yah!” Sharyn said. “I ever hear Oprah say that once. Dat time, ah, I hear and I say, ‘Wah, this woman, siow, one!’ Where got money is not everything? You don’t want, give me, lor! I quickly pay my mortgage!”
“Exactly!” Saffy said turning pink as she warmed up to her theme. “But once they’ve made it big and they have a bazillion dollars in their bank account, suddenly, it’s all about being true to their purpose in life! Well, lemme tell you something, my purpose in life is to never having to worry how I’m going to pay my rent!”
Later that evening, when Amanda came back from her appointment with Dr Chan, she flashed us a radiant smile. “Oh, I do love that man!” she said. “He just did a quick scaling and said I had perfect gums! I was done in, like twenty minutes. The only thing is, he’s raised his charges to $150!”
Saffy coughed into her tea. “How much? Oh my God, that’s how much it costs to get your teeth cleaned?”
“Why, how much do you pay?” Amanda asked.
Saffy paused. “I can’t remember…I’ve not had my teeth cleaned in two years. But $150 for twenty minutes work! That’s amazing. How much must he make in a day?”
I couldn’t help but wonder, had Dr Chan found his passion? Or was he too busy looking at his bank statement and laughing? I know I would.