You’d be surprised to hear the sorts of things people talk about when they’re nervous. Some of them go all tight-lipped and silent, others seem to think that, because you’re sitting behind a desk, you somehow can’t hear them and they discuss the most bizarre things. I mean I’m never listening, but you can’t help hearing can you?
Usually it’s because they’re nervous. No-one enjoys having the insides of their face prodded and pulled and scraped and scrutinised do they? And there’s always that fear that they’ll need something done. So they babble. I could write a novel with all the stories I’ve overheard in this job.
Like this one chap, came in with his lad who must’ve been about ten. He was so pale he was practically green. Now I’d seen this lad every six months since he was about five and he was always good as gold. Name was Lee and come to think of it, I’d seen his Dad in here every six months since he was more or less the same age as well.
They signed their names in the book and sat down just over there to wait. The Dad wouldn’t shut up.
“Now you need to be a brave boy, Lee. I don’t want any tears because you’re too big for that now. I remember once I had to have a filling. Know what a filling is? It’s when they drill right into your tooth and then fill it back up with metal. You get them if you have too many of those sweets you’re always eating. But before they drill you they stick this big needle into your gums.”
The kid’s eyes went wide and he stared at his Dad.
“Only the numbing stuff didn’t work did it? And then he came at me with his enormous drill and his pliers and I didn’t make one sound.”
“Do they really use drills in your mouth, Dad?”
“You bet they do. And sometimes he gets the scraper out…”
By this point Lee was shaking. I could see that he was terrified. The worst bit was that his Dad could see it too - and he was enjoying it.
Then I remembered something.
“Lee Davies? There’s a form here I need you to fill in for me. No need for you to come Mr Davies, just Lee.”
Lee walked over to the reception desk, ashen faced. As he leaned in I whispered in his ear.
“Now I’ve been a receptionist here for a very long time and I remember the time your Dad had his filling. Let me tell you - not only did he cry like a baby, but he was so scared he wet himself and had to come out into the packed waiting room with his jeans all wet and stained yellow.”
The kid gave a shocked giggle.
“There’s nothing to be afraid of, I promise, and if your Dad says anything different, you tell him to come see me and I’ll remind him of a few things, alright?”
Lee didn’t say anything, just went and sat down again by his Dad. But when the assistant called him he went off with a little smile at the corner of his mouth.