I was feeling fairly miserable. Pretty sorry for myself. Decidedly self-pitying, with a horrible toothache as I drove home after a failed attempt to see the dentist for reasons outside everyone’s control.
Let me be frank about this: I am not good with dentists, ever since Doctor Vaid in London EC4 decided the best way to remove my impacted wisdom tooth was to cut it in half, and then decided after two hours of drilling that he couldn’t do it. Dr Vaid’s failure to remove the offending tooth didn’t diminish his capacity to charge money though, and so he cost this callow youth a month’s wages for the privilege of doing nothing at all while I accidentally ate my jaw for the next four hours.
It wasn’t until, a few years later, that I was about to leave London for good and had my InterRail ticket booked, that the impacted wisdom tooth decided like Vesuvius to re-erupt, three days before embarking on the ferry. It is not fun having your jaw bone extended by a growing tooth.
Eventually, I tottered through the door of a well-known London hospital dental department and bumped into a junior doctor I happened to know.
To whom I will always be grateful.
What happened to you? she said, staring at my grey sweating face.
Carol, will you please just take this fucking thing out?
I waited. They did X-rays. They poked and prodded. Eventually they said No, there isn’t an anaesthetist. No can do.
Anaesthetist? I said. I don’t care if you knock it out with a lump hammer.
All right, they said. Sign this.
And so it came about that a very fine man indeed, whose name I sadly forget, but whose tribal scars are forever etched on my memory, removed the remains of Dr Vaid’s failed attempt at dentistry. And so it came about that after a couple of days eating only soup, I somehow found myself on the hovercraft from Ramsgate to Calais.
Oh, don’t get me started with dentists. I hate them. I fear them. And yet I know I can never live without them.
The latest thing is a bad toothache and I know, I simply know, that it will not turn out well, but as I later found out, everything is in context. I spent the weekend in pain rather than go to a stranger because we all have our special dentists, don’t we? There are few relationships more intimate than the one between us and the Keeper of Pain. You trust him not to hurt you and he trusts you not to bounce that cheque. Besides, how many thieving charlatans have we all met in our lives? Utter crooks who find ten more fillings you never knew you needed.
No. I’ll stick with the pain for a trustworthy dentist but unfortunately I screwed up completely today, failing to realise my guy goes home at one o’clock on Mondays.
Fuck, fuck, fuck.
On the way home, cursing my bad luck, I passed a junction a microsecond after a stolen car zoomed out, with screeching tyres. I saw it through the side window and then it skidded behind me, missing me by perhaps three or four inches. I saw it in the mirror, heeled over on two wheels as the driver failed to take the right-hand turn. I saw it hit the kerb, ride up on the grass, power through a couple of street signs and accelerate again off the grass onto the road to threaten the lives of more law-abiding people.
My first thought was, These car-thieves will probably be defended as disadvantaged, socially-marginalised victims.
My second thought was Fuck them.
My third thought was, Hey, you were worried about a toothache. A second sooner at the junction and you’d be dead.
My fourth thought was, That’s true.
My fifth though was, Why am I using that to justify the behaviour of utter skobes?
My sixth though was, Fuck them.
I still only have a toothache. I’m still not dead, but it’s no thanks to them.
Fuck them. I didn’t force them to live like that.
But at least I’m still alive, and that puts my toothache in context, though I would very much like to inflict toothache on my near-killers.