A FEW years ago, I had braces. Not the train track kind, the fancy Invisalign kind. (They were made of clear plastic and were supposed to be invisible. And they were, if you were blind.) The whole thing cost me a fortune and, when they finally came out, the orthodontist essentially glued wires to the back of my teeth, top and bottom, to act as ‘retainers’. I was told I’d have to wear them for about five or six years. To be honest, I wasn’t at all concerned, because going from wearing braces that had to be removed every time I ate and cleaned thoroughly before being put back in, to a tiny little wire that was glued down and required no effort on my part whatsoever, wasn’t exactly a chore.
But then, after a few months, one end of the bottom wire started to come loose and began slowly and systematically lacerating the inside of my mouth. Off I popped to the orthodontist to have it glued back down. No problem. Except now we’re about two years on and my mouth is once again being savaged by loose dental wire. So I had to ring up to book in for another gluing.
I was totally fine about it when they rang the day before to confirm, but when I saw them ringing again on the morning of the appointment, I became increasingly frustrated at the implication that I was some sort of short-memoried muppet. I answered nonetheless, putting on my sweetest, most agreeable voice. It’s not one I break out very often, admittedly. And I soon defaulted to disdain.
They weren’t just reminding me about the appointment (you know, in case it was my goldfish who answered the day before), they were informing me that they were going to charge me for it. And not just any old nominal charge – 80 bleedin’ quid. When I calmly questioned the outrageous cost, I was told that 80 was actually the discounted rate! Because I was already a customer of theirs. Lucky me. If I’d just rocked in off the street like a common hobo, they’d be trying to extort €135 out of me. I less calmly explained that the procedure would take all of 30 seconds and would be covered by the original price I paid for the teeth-straightening treatment.
She tried to tell me it wasn’t covered at all. I told her she was wrong. Because you can’t really glue something to someone’s teeth and then try charge them to fix it when it doesn’t last as long as it’s supposed to. (I did learn something from all those law lectures, you know.) Furious, I asked her to just take the damn things out if she was going to be awkward about it. “Oh, there’ll be a charge on that too”.
Well! Had I been right in front of her, I would’ve bludgeoned her to death with the pile of apples they keep on the counter (and made some witty remark about how she was getting her five-a-day). Sensing that I was a little miffed (read: wanted to stab her in the eyes), she said she’d speak to the orthodontist about it and get back to me. Guess who never called back?
And so it was that, many mornings later, I made my way to the surgery to argue my case. I explained to the receptionist as reasonably as possible that I needed an appointment and had no intention of paying for it (but, if necessary, was all geared up to tell her that she was going to fix the wire and she was going to do it for free or I was jolly well going to set her hair on fire). Word must have spread about my wild ways – I’m pretty sure I saw her glance warily at the apples – because I have an appointment with them this week. And if there’s so much as a hint of a bill…
Well let’s just say that if you hear that a well-known Dublin orthodontic surgery has been mysteriously burned to the ground overnight in a suspected arson attack, I’ll be on the lookout for a good alibi. And a tube of superglue.