In 1999, my wife and I bicycled across Italy. We sort of winged it, which means we did not know where we were going to lay our heads each night; we left it up to how far we trundled on a particular day to determine where we stayed.
One Saturday, as we were riding through the beautiful but daunting hills of Cinque Terre and the hotels filled briskly with Italians visiting the scenic panoramas, we ended up at the only lodging we could find: a place next to a train station in La Spezia – in other words, a dump.
The hotel was hot, dirty and had a shared bathroom. After a long day of biking, all you want to do is rinse off the filthiness and grab a glass of local red. But in this case, the tub had standing water in the bottom, a black ring of dirt around the interior of the rim and zero hot water. It quite literally was the only shower I have taken in my life where I have come out dirtier than when I went in.
It sort of feels like going to the dentist these days.
I know, I know, going to the dentist is an age-old clichéd complaint. Nobody likes to do it. Not a new concept.
But when did going to the dentist start to feel like going to, I don’t know, the Verizon store?
Look, we all get the concept of upselling and cross-selling. If somebody is there to buy, see if they want to buy something else. Annoying, to be sure, but makes perfect business sense.
But there is a distinct difference between the guy at the Verizon store trying to convince me to upgrade the memory in my phone or get a sleeker Louis Vuitton phone case and my periodontics adviser.
How about this arrangement? Instead of you trying to sell me teeth whiteners and mouth guards and fluoride paints and oral rinses, I pay you a fee, and you clean my teeth, pull out a piece of plaque that looks like it could have been in Fred Flintstone’s quarry and stop lecturing me while I have a mouth full of spit and can’t defend myself?
Do I need the hygienist judging my teeth-cleaning skills like I had left a dog inside a locked car with the windows rolled up while it is 105 degrees outside?
No, I do not need that. Nor do I need to listen to Lionel Richie loops that every dentist’s office I’ve ever been in plays on their overhead sound system. What is that? Do they tell you in dental school to rock “Hello” and “Dancing on the Ceiling” over and over and over so that you don’t notice the tsk-tsking over how badly you’re grinding your teeth at night? I feel like saying, “I live around here. Have you seen the cost of living? Do you have any clients who don’t grind their teeth at night?”
I guess I should feel fortunate, at this point, that the guy doesn’t have a rack of Lionel CDs in his lobby and he’s trying to get me to buy a box set on the way out the door.