January 29, 2020

The Magic Number is 11

• By John F. Chisholm •

I can only schedule 11 a.m. dental appointments.

It’s true.  I’m not lying.  Eleven in the morning is it.

Initially, I wasn’t impressed.  If you’re like me, you prefer early morning appointments.  That way there’s something left of the day when your visit is over.  There’s still time to get something else done.  With a million things to do on every given day, that’s a big help.

Before I go further with this story, I’ve got to say that I’m not down on my dentist or his staff.  They’re great people.  I joke around with the girls behind the counter and trade off-color humor with my dentist.  That’s not easy when you’re flat on your back, mouth open wide and tongue sticking out while saying, “Ah-h-h-h!”  Never mind.  Somehow, humor wins.  We manage.  In addition, I’ve got to say that my dentist knows some wonderful jokes.  (Mine aren’t so good.   I blame the delivery.)  The point is that he has a great sense of humor.

But, back to the issue.  I received my latest reminder card last Wednesday.  There it was, black on white cardboard, “Dear Mr. Chisholm, This is to remind you that you have a dental appointment scheduled for Tuesday, November 19th at 11:00 AM.”

I determined at once to get around it.  “11 a.m..  Ha!  Nine is more like it.”  I dialed my dentist’s office to see what was up.  The phone number was right there on the card.  When Melanie answered the phone,  I put the question to her at once.  “Hey Melanie, this is John.  What’s up with this late-morning appointment stuff?  Can’t we schedule something earlier?”

There was a pregnant pause.  I pictured Melanie, her unruly, dark and frizzy hair tugged into a ponytail ― somehow.  Her turtlenecks are usually covered by a dental hygienist’s lab-top. Those are normally patterned prints of smiling, animated molars waving toothbrushes at you.  (I don’t know who comes up with that stuff.)  There’s always a pen stuck behind her ear.  I waited.  The phone hummed.  The silence deafened.

I emphasized my point, “There must be earlier times available.”

You’ve got to give her credit.  She womaned right up to it, coming straight out with the truth.  “Not for you, there’s not.”

That woke me up.  It wasn’t as though I was in a daze earlier.  “What!”

“Let me explain,” Melanie began.  “Do you remember coming out of your last appointment?  You were clutching your jaw and groaning in pain.”

“Yeah,” I admitted, laughing.  “That was a 9 a.m. appointment.  I limped, dragging one leg for good measure.  Talk about nerve damage!  You guys sure were rough on me that day.”

The phone remained quiet for another long moment.  I grew defensive.  “You were laughing,” I interjected.  “In fact, the entire staff was laughing.  As I recall, it was one of my better performances.”

“It was funny,” Melanie admitted.  “But it turns out that Dr. Beatty remembers it, too.  Vividly.  He didn’t laugh so hard.  You emptied our waiting room.”

I thought about that.  “Oh,” I finally managed.  “So the eleven o’clock appointment,” I began.

“Means that our waiting room is already empty for lunch by the time you leave,” Melanie finished.  She paused politely, waiting to hear if I had anything to add.  When I couldn’t come up with a response she added, “See you at eleven” and hung up.

So it’s true.

But it’s my own fault.

I can only schedule 11 a.m. dental appointments.