The Waiting Room

The people in this waiting room are just like any others ... except one.

The dentist is being slow. As always.

Grumpy businessmen sit in their chairs, tapping their shiny shoes on the floor impatiently, reading newspapers with frowns creasing their foreheads. Bored babies babble on the floor, playing with the cheap plastic toys in the corner while their mothers shoot them stern looks. An austere receptionist sits at the desk like a robot, answering calls with the uniformity of a clone.

Every now and then, a member of staff comes through.

"Mr Johnson? We're ready for you now."

"Mrs Shears? We're ready for you now."

"Miss Baker? We're ready for you now."

Once in a while, the doorbell would ring. Or the telephone. Little else breaks the silence. Even the children seem quelled by the adults' discomfort.

Most people say that actually having the dentist crawl around inside your mouth - while you attempt to hold your breath so she doesn't get a whiff of last night's curry - is the worst thing about going to the dentist.

But for me, the waiting room is the worst part. The atmosphere couldn't be cut with a knife. Anyone who attempts to talk to anyone else is immediately shot down with steely looks.

And isn't it typical that you generally have to remain in this social slump for hours on end, as most medical practices ran behind schedule these days? Sod's law.

And when you pick up a magazine to try and alleviate your tedium, a nosy woman opposite you will begin to read the front cover. Or a grumpy businessman next to you will tut so quietly only you can hear him, because the corner of your magazine happens to be covering the exact point in the article he is reading in his paper.

And when you finally give up the magazine as a bad job and place it back on the table, you are forced to either watch the rest of the waiters (who will, again, shoot you steely looks) or closely examine a table leg for five minutes, which never does anything particularly interesting.

And when your name is finally called, everyone scrutinises you appraisingly from behind the various publications which you know they are just as bored of reading as you were.

Stony silences exist everywhere in our society. Buses at night; churches; public toilets; queuing at a petrol station for stamps; even pretentious restaurants with over-dressed waiters who will scowl disapprovingly at the slightest sound of a raised voice. But the waiting room is the worst. The epitome of social agony.

And what's more, we play along with it. No-one wants to be the one to break the mould.

Bung a TV in there, that's what I say. Or a radio. Or just some music. Something to crack the monotony.

I'm done ranting now.

The End

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