As I wrote yesterday, there I sat in what I assumed was the dentist's waiting room, along with one other patient. I must have arrived at 11 or shortly thereafter for my 11:30 appointment. We sat in silence, turning the pages of old magazines.
At about 12:15 a woman dressed in a white uniform burst into the room, with a big smile and an upbeat tone of voice. She came directly to me, shook my hand and said « Bonjour monsieur... vous êtes ? » I introduced myself and said I had the 11:30 appointment. « Malheureusement, nous avons beaucoup de retard ce matin. Comme d'habitude... », she told me.
In other words, she said they were running very late that morning. "As usual," she added, as she looked knowingly at the other man in the waiting room. Then she burst into song — an old Claude François ballad called, precisely, Comme d'habitude — it's the song Frank Sinatra took and had put into English as "I Did It My Way." She exchanged a few words with the other patient and then turned and left the room, saying she'd be back to take one of us in to see the dentist as soon as she could.
At that point, I started to have my doubts about the whole situation. I asked the other man, who was about my age, when his appointment had been scheduled for. Ten o'clock, he said — he'd been sitting there for nearly three hours. He went on to say that he had had his first appointment two weeks earlier. That time, he arrived for a 4 p.m. rendez-vous and waited for more than four hours.
At 8 p.m., the dentist's assistant had come into the waiting room and told him he might as well go home. The dentist wouldn't be able to see him after all. The man made another appointment for the following week, arrived before 4 for his appointment, and then waited until 8 p.m. That time, the dentist did see him and do whatever he needed done to his teeth. He's a very good dentist, the man said, but he's slow.
The whole time the man talked to me, he held his hand cupped in front of his mouth. It was clear that he was embarrassed for me to see the state of his teeth. It sure didn't make it easy to hear or understand what he was saying, but I got the idea. Then he proceeded to tell me that he was there to have two teeth extracted that day, and that he assumed it would take the dentist a while to do the job — if he ever got in to see the dentist.
I sat there for another 5 or 10 minutes, wondering what to do. I didn't want to wait for the dentist, or even for the assistant to come back to the waiting room. It was 12:30 and I wanted my lunch. I looked at the other patient and asked him if he would mind telling the assistant, when she came to get him for his session, that I couldn't wait and that I had no urgent need to see the dentist. I asked the man to tell her I would call and make an appointment for later. (I never did.)
As I left, a car sat next to mine in the parking lot with the passenger-side window rolled down. A man sitting behind the steering wheel called out: "It's about time! Did he finally finish?" Then he saw and heard me. "Sorry," he said. "I thought you were my wife. She's been in the dentist's chair for a few hours now." I hit the road, direction la maison.
To be continued...