Is it me? A few weeks ago I visited my dentist. Normally I'm on time or early but on this occasion I came panting to the reception desk four minutes late. Stood there waiting for the receptionist to return. And stood. And waited. Some three minutes later the Unsmiling One arrived and spoke. “Mr Collins, you’re late for your appointment. X [my dentist] has started working with the next patient.You’ve missed your appointment You were supposed to be here at 3.40. ” I try not to grind what teeth I’ve left and ask “What time is it now?” “It’s after ten to four”. I look at my watch: it says 3.47. I tell her this and and add that I was waiting about three minutes for her. Then, daringly, I add “The last time I had an appointment here I was kept waiting over twenty minutes. Shouldn't it cut both ways?”. The Unsmiling One gives me a look and tells me she’ll speak to X. “Take a seat”.
Much whispered conferring between UO and X. They peer round a door at me, whisper some more. Eventually X emerges, white coat, green mask, professional. “That’s all right – I’ll take you but you’ll have to wait a while – I’m with another patient”. “That’s good” I tell him. And then I make my second mistake. I add “But I think you should know that I wasn’t ten minutes late, I was four. And I was waiting at the desk for another three”. X looks at me, face now red and sort of annoyed-looking. ‘Yes, but you WERE late!’ And he strides away and half-bangs a door behind him.
Twenty minutes later I’m in the chair getting a filling, which he precedes by giving me THE most painful injection I’ve had in years. Coincidence? Or could he possibly have made it really hurt? Maybe not, although we'll never know. It certainly was a humdinger of an injection, leaving me groaning and panting in the chair.
There are two lessons here, I think. Dentists (and doctors) can make you the patient wait as long as they want, and do so on a regular basis. You the patient on the other hand must NEVER keep the dentist/doctor waiting. If you do you’ll be sorry. I know I was.