Was this the last one? I went to the surgery door and called his name.
He looked up at once. And his eyes twinkled at me. And he smiled as if he had been in last week!
He walked in arms swinging by his sides as if it was too easy. Tall, thin and vaguely familiar. But he wasn’t on my books at all. He couldn’t be. He was a walk-in as far as I was concerned.
I didn’t know him from elsewhere in this town. Today was just my second day. I still was remembering more important matters. Such as which room was mine, the name of the receptionists, where the autoclave was, in case my assistant forgot to bring in the instrument tray. Which saving my anxiety, she did.
But this guy! He swings into the chair like a test pilot promoted to astronaut! And I think to myself, is he another one too? Another professional? If he is he’s pretty confident in what we all do!
Unlike me. I make a bad patient. And I’m even worse, now that I lecture. And worst of all, provide expert advice when things go badly. If it was me, I’d be jelly.
And I ask,”What can I do for you?”
He says, “Just a check-up, ma’am.”
And I laugh, and ask, “ma’am. No one says that anymore!”
He says as unbidden, he swallows, swishes and spits, “The school librarian made us say it.“
And while he’s drawling, he puts on a posh accent, “Don’t call wimmen Miss, Ms, Mrs unless you know if they’re married or not. And she said never call them Madame. And never said why. Reckoned I worked out that one! But our French teacher wouldn’t answer to anything else! Reckoned ma’am is the least worst thing to say. Yeah. no. It’s okay most times except when I say it to the really young girls. They hate it. They scowl at me and swear under their breath while they’re texting!!”
Between us the ice is broken. And it seems familiar somehow. I laugh, and ask, “What do you do?”
He said leaning back and opening wide, still talking like a Northern Texan, “Professional bludger. Tell people stuff they don’t need.Write documents no one ever reads. Better get started, eh?”
And that’s the giveaway. He’s from the deep north of Queensland like me. Even with his mouth wide open, he still makes each word twice as long like a native. And that “eh!” That’s a deadset giveaway right there! And then I laugh to myself. Sometimes I still lapse back, I think. Just because I shifted states. Another lapse now too.
Meantime, the work begins. I peer into his mouth with my mirror and sickle probe. I check and call the numbers and state to my assistant who scribbles dutifully. He’s as patient as Job. Except a lot more silent!
I say, “There’s a small hole in your back molar. We could leave it for another appointment. Or we could whiz through it now. It will only take another half hour.”
It didn’t matter, I thought. He was my last patient for the day and I was running half an hour early. My husband still had his lectures tonight so time didn’t matter.
He nods me through.
Drill, chip, wash, clamp, check, double check, tighten the clamp, fill, let set, wash and clean. It’s like doing dentistry on the Dalai Lama, I suppose. He’s so composed and relaxed. Simple and straightforward. By the book, I thought, the textbook. Which made a refreshing change from the day I had.
And then a memory returns to me. “Didn’t I do a root canal on you?”
He just laughs, “Yep you sure did, wasn’t the once-off either, took a couple of goes, if I rightly reckon.”
And I remember, he didn’t flinch an inch that time either. That’s why I know him but he’s not on my books.
I say, “You would have been my easiest patient.”
As the filling sets, he laughs and tells me why (out of the corner of his mouth of course).
“It was easy,” he says, “I had the full metal jacket as a kid, a couple of teeth removed, wired up, that mouth guard thing and braces. Thought it would never end. Always knew this would!”
You never really wanted to go out there. You’re outnumbered for one thing. You know that any false move in front of them will be the last and final one. You’re thinking that the light is too bright, your voice will be too soft, your tread too heavy, your stance too awkward. You’re really scared to death, deep down. You don’t know why what starts you on those first steps out there. You shuffle tentatively at first. Then you’re puzzled as to why you then confidently stride forth. It’s as if you’re already a success. Like you’ve already been applauded and called back for more. And then you meet.
You’re all alone, just you and them. You never expected them to listen, even for a moment. You start as you always do. You focus on relaxing yourself. Or you’re trying to look relaxed. Or acting as if you already are. But now you don’t have time to be confused. You’re already speaking. And listening to your tone, your rhythm, your timbre and your breath. For it’s as if to your great relief, at the very last moment, someone far more confident than you’ll ever be has stood in for you. And saved you. And for that you silently give great thanks.
But you were waiting for the whisper, the voice too loud, just enough that will silence you and your words forever. But it never speaks. It is struck silent by the silence. It never speaks because there’s nothing for it to say. Yet you say it just the way you’ve said it before. And in the reality, it’s better than you’ve ever heard. You never think the pause for breath, which seemed in practice so short and now is an everlasting chasm of time, is perfect comic timing. You make the joke that you’ve heard far too many times before. You know they’ve heard it for the first time. As now do you.
Perhaps I should have bought the game and computer too!
It began with Nicole Matejic. She was reminiscing about her old Apple personal computer experiences. In passing she mentioned the children’s game Just Grandma and Me (based on a popular children’s book).
And the next thing I remember is my daughter perched on a stool playing that game forever…
Our company owned one Apple, a soothing relief to support as it ran Adobe Pagemaker, a desktop publisher (DTP), one of the few pieces of software that made me look good. So began my fascination with DTP but that is many blogs away! My workmate too was an Apple evangelist. Which left me wavering.
To resolve my dilemma, I decided to check the PCs and Apples out. That particular Saturday afternoon, my wife and new son needed sleep. So I took my opportunity. I thought I could take my three year old daughter, do my research, and bore her with tech stuff till she falls asleep on the drive home. That was the well thought out, yet to be well executed plan.
The last shop was an Apple shopfront near Woden in Canberra. I park the car, open the back door and unstrap my daughter. It’s late Saturday afternoon and she should be showing the first signs of fatigue. Not now, not ever as it turned out. We sidle into the shop hand-in-hand and I ask the tech guy about the merits of the Apple! Of course he told me in detail. But I say, there aren’t enough Mac applications versus PC.
He can’t counter my point. We both look down and see that her ladyship isn’t too interested in these finer technical details. He says how’s about trying out a few children’s games. Sounds fine and fair enough to me.
I sit her on a stool while the tech guy runs up Just Grandma and Me. This shouldn’t take too long, I think. But in the moment, I was worried.
Not at how precarious her perch was. She wasn’t moving so it didn’t matter. No. It was that dreadful moment when two eyes turn towards me and ask, “Daddy how do you work this?” That moment would have to wait until she was running Windows Millennium on her laptop!
But that didn’t happen at all. For now the mouse was gliding over the game scenes like thread through silk. Each click on each character brought joyous laughter at each unique antic. And then she would click through to the next part of an interesting and engaging story.
Wait a minute! I have to back up and take stock now. For I’m not watching this from afar anymore. I had been taken in too. Yes there was the easy technology. But the story within the game had fascinated me (as good stories still do…)
But her ladyship didn’t care for such thoughts of philosophical grandeur. She was signed up for life. As I was just about to find out.
For it was now closing time. And time to go home. No. No. No. Yes (Me!). All right I’m lodging an official protest. And an official request. For the game and a Mac.
I bought a PC. Windows 3.1 and Dos 3.22 powered by a 386 hamster wheel topped by 2 mega dabs of Ram.I used it to play Tetris and log in to work via terminal emulator and attached modem. ZZzz….
I relented again. I bought the PC version of Just Grandma and Me. It was probably more to assuage my guilt as the original protest had been withdrawn or forgotten. But somehow it didn’t have that beyond cardboard cutout charm of the original…check out the interactive YouTube version!
At last! Another opportunity to catch up on the backlog of outstanding work.
A teleconference! I dialed in, entered the meeting identification, my pin and spoke my name.
Then I placed my phone in hands-off mode and muted myself.
I knew I was safe because:
As people signed into the teleconference, I started to listen absently. As it continued, my attention wandered even more. Meanwhile people were dropping in and out. This meeting I thought was starting to resemble Tripp & Tyler’s A Conference Call In Real Life.
But once the momentum resumed, I every so often stopped what I was doing and jot down a few notes. I thought to myself this was a very unfocused conversation indeed. Perhaps a facilitator or mediator might help. Besides nearly everyone else was on a higher level than me. And as I discounted that idea chaos struck.
My phone began to blare hold music. I looked carefully at the console. No. None of the lights were flashing. I still was on mute and still connected to the conference.
As the participants realised what had happened, a dull and boring meeting had become a hunt for a culprit. Much like school roll call, one by one we re announced ourselves over the continuing hold music. I took two attempts as I had unmuted and then muted myself.
One person failed to respond. He had received another phone call mid conference. And in answering that call had placed the current call (us) on hold. He had to be contacted as soon as possible to continue the conference and save our sanity.
One of the participants suggested calling him. Which sounded contradictory until he added the words “on his mobile.” The meeting collectively held its breath (as best you can over Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries) and waited for the call to put through. No. He wasn’t answering his mobile either.
Which meant a physical intervention was required. Somebody must find this person and physically remove him from his phone. We waited a few minutes until this was organised.
“Are you near his desk? “Can you see him?” “Can you catch his attention?”
No to all questions.
“Can you go to his office and speak with him?”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
Once more we collectively held our breath (Ride of the Valkyries is a long piece of music) and waited. Upon his return the hold music still continued. The culprit was in his office on the phone and couldn’t be disturbed (in another teleconference).
This teleconference will be postponed until a later date and time…
I got the phone call about five minutes before the meeting was due to start. Someone important needed a laptop set up for a presentation. Knowing the type of laptop and the meeting room setup, I knew it would be easy, just plug the laptop in and the screen would show itself in seconds.
I knew the important personage’s department had two spare laptops. I also knew the right person to speak to. I also knew this person would be in the meeting in five minutes also.
I raced down the fire escape and barged through the double doors. I just got the administrative manager as he was leaving for the meeting.
“So and so needs a laptop for the meeting.”
“Both have been booked out. So and so couldn’t organize a shipwreck.”
My thought was the Cunard line couldn’t either with the Titanic ( It wasn’t Cunard, it was the White Star Line). I kept my silence for a change and thought furiously. Who else did I know has a spare laptop?
Plan B? One of the other departments had account managers. They occasionally went out and visited clients and left their laptops behind. So I took it upon myself to liberate one of their laptops. I informed his colleagues as to the reason why.
Once I had the laptop, I had to set it up. This particular laptop had to be setup slightly differently : a process that would take time. I raced into the meeting room and connected the laptop. As I entered everyone looked up. All the staff for the meeting were there. But not the manager. He had disappeared. And I needed him to login and make sure things work. I logged in. And it worked for me.
My next mission was to find him. I checked all the offices on that floor. I went back upstairs and checked. I finally returned downstairs and told his staff. He still had not reappeared. So I left it and went back to the conflicting priorities that had beset me beforehand. I thought all was well. It wasn’t as I was to find out.
A few days later, I was greeted by an external consultant. After I asked her how she was, she told me truthfully. Then she asked me to extract some files from a media device. As I did she told me her story. I was extracting the presentation the important personage was supposed to have given several days ago. Obviously, he failed to do so.
I wonder what he said about me when he couldn’t do the presentation…
I always thought that it’s not what you know, but who you know. In this case, that almost worked for me. But this time it was when you found out.
Now as a trainer, I always set up as early as possible. This is why.
In truth, I take little interest in the activities of Islamic State. They simply are another group that uses any religion to justify any violence. And yet another group who commit violence in the main against their fellow believers.
So I find myself agape and aghast at News Limited’s unmitigated obsession with them. Every single day, either on the News.com.au web site or the front pages of the Daily Telegraph or Herald-Sun or Courier Mail, there is a yet another story on Islamic State.
In truth, it’s enough to make one hearken after the good old fashioned days of so-called bum and tit journalism. I even have wistful wishes for those strange and odd stories about penises and vaginas which used to adorn the News.com.au web site. Even a few lines about one of the Kardashians/Wests/Jenners would do.
But all of those hopes were dashed after the recent ABC Q and A controversy. This time News decided to take the high moral ground (which in a sea of beheadings, drownings, burnings, Kardashians, penises and vaginas is quite hard to find) and declared (using their usual badly written headlines and poorly photo-shopped clip art) that the Australian Broadcasting Commission support Islamic State. But any reading would show that (as I tweeted), “Its News Limited who generates free publicity for Islamic State not the ABC:)”
Shouldn’t we all be worried about the potential radicalisation of Australia’s largest media outlet?
It was the printer just over the partition from me. I had taken it on myself to try and fix it. But I was not a desktop support person any more. I had:
Nothing prepared me for the drive off the freeway from Bandararainke International Airport into the streets of Colombo.
We were met at our hotel by a bus. It was not on time but that didn’t matter! We then negotiated some minor traffic and entered a freeway. I started to relax. I thought: a couple of hours of Western-style cruising and sight-seeing in comfort. But it was not to be.
Twenty or so kilometres, we left the four-lane motorway and entered Colombo.
Then the fun began. We went from normal traffic to a scene of almost complete confusion in seconds.
Cars, buses, trucks and three-wheeled tuk-tuks moving forward in a churning mass. Traffic appearing and disappearing, from left to right and back again. Cars entering the road from left and right, their drivers’ eyes firmly fixed on the road ahead. They did not see or weren’t aware of our bus lurching towards them. Trucks slowly inching their way forward as the traffic parted before them like herds of sheep.
Pedestrians both individuals or groups either sprinting at speed or striding across the road fas if it were a daily slow stroll. Bicycles, motorbikes and those dreaded tuk-tuks on the road, off the road and/or touching our bus. Horns being sounded seemingly at random. The driver of our bus conversing with his companion and the traffic all at once.
It seemed at first, to my untrained eyes, like a scene of mass panic or complete confusion. But somehow it worked. No-one was hurt. No cars, trucks and tuk-tuks were injured in the making of this movie. Not even a scratch.
It helped that I felt reasonably safe in a bus. I suppose I was more fascinated than scared. So I didn’t get involved.
And the return to Colombo was even easier. It was Sri Lanka New Year’s Eve, so the traffic was extremely light even when we entered the city. Nearly no cars, motorbikes, bicycles only extra tuk-tuks who were trying to out-do each other.
But I felt myself starting to become annoyed. Normally as a passenger, I don’t offer any comment. If I do it’s rare. Today I found myselfwalking that evil path towards Road Rage.
But I caught myself this time. I offered one comment. Then I started laughing. My thought was, “What difference would my road rage make here?” Nothing!
But then I had a better thought.
Or even tuk-tuk races. Now I’d like to see that.
Road Rage! Cured.