What’s Going On In There?

I knew that I would always be my mother’s child regardless of how old I was, but at a little over 40 years old – okay – a lot over 40 years old, I never thought that I would have been scolded by my dentist.

I don’t know if you’re one of them, but I know that there are lots of us who don’t go to the dentist until absolutely necessary – which is what happened to me a few months ago.

What do you do when you can’t chew certain foods on one side of your mouth? You chew on the other side, of course. What do you do when consuming an ice cold beverage? You tilt your head so that the liquid flows to the other side.

Fast forward through several months of oral gymnastics after which I finally end up in the dentist’s chair. For reasons that I won’t get into here, I ended up going to a dentist who was totally new – but had been recommended – to me. My last visit (to a previous doctor) was not as long ago as you might think, but that too had been a matter of cure not prevention.

I wasn’t able to reach the dentist by phone, but assuming his office to be a busy one (and being within walking distance of my location) I decided to hoof it over there to see about an appointment. After climbing a flight of stairs to the office, I was met with a closed door, a “CLOSED” sign, and no information regarding office hours or any explanation as to why they were not open on a perfectly good day in the week.

Maybe I should have taken that as a sign.

Nonetheless I was determined to see the good doctor, so I called and left a message requesting an appointment, or a reasonable facsimile. Happily, my call was returned and although expecting to be classified as a walk-in with the lengthy wait time that was usually required, I was given a time for the following day.

Maybe I should have taken that as another sign.

My appointment was around 11am. Now I’m not saying that I live for food or anything like that, but thinking that the dentist might have to get right down to business when I explained my dilemma, I decided that I should probably eat my lunch before I got there – since I didn’t know when next I’d be able to eat solid foods.

I climbed the stairs again. This time the door was open and I was transported back in time. To several Christmases and Easters ago. The waiting room was cheerfully decorated with plastic flowers of every hue and it was clear that Christmas was celebrated every day of the year, because a few ornaments had never made it back into their boxes.

The single patient in the waiting-cum-living room was occupying herself with one of the fairly current magazines that were placed on a coffee table. I identified myself to the receptionist who greeted me and after selecting some reading material, I scanned the walls that contained (as one would expect) information relating to teeth, annotated diagrams of the mouth, diseases of the mouth and a published article of a study conducted by the doctor who was about to look at my teeth. All were several years old.

I didn’t actually get a chance to flip through the pages of my magazine because I was called into the inner sanctum. The dentist’s chair and equipment seemed fairly new and modern, and unlike the waiting area, the office was blessedly cooled with air conditioning. I could see the familiar street outside the window – of course from a different vantage point, and the dentist busied himself while the receptionist culled from me some information for her files. When she was through with her clerical duties, she took up her doctor’s assistant duties and I was invited to sit in the chair and to explain my problem.

He sat next to me and listened intently. He asked several questions – actually he asked lots of questions including some about my general health and lifestyle choices – well habits, really. His face hid nothing and after the interrogation (including a joke at my expense, which the receptionist/assistant found incredibly funny as well), I got the distinct impression that I had done something wrong – and he hadn’t even looked in my mouth yet.

That came next. He took one look and could tell not only that I had recently eaten, but also what I’d just had for lunch, so a mouth rinse was in order. Out came the grains of quinoa that hadn’t quite been washed away. Good thing I couldn’t see the look on his face because I was spitting in the sink. After that bit of distatsteful-ness, he dove back into my mouth, admonished me while he was in there and read me the riot act when he came out.

The issues were many. It was at that point that I realized that this was purely an exploratory session to determine what needed to be done, the options for doing what needed to be done, and how much it was going to cost for it all to be done. He seemed eager to help to get me back on the straight and narrow and advised of his surgery dates, payment plans and a pending relationship with an insurance provider that didn’t apply to me.

I left the chair, assuring him that I would look at my finances and make that treasured appointment as soon as possible. Since the pain that had led to this visit had subsided long before, I was thinking that maybe I’d wait to see if my teeth would appreciate the effort I’d made to have them looked at. ‘Cause I wasn’t really in the mood to be taken to task again.


Is that a gun in your pocket?

On a previous visit to the Court House to get a birth or marriage certificate – I can’t remember which – the security guard at the door paid close attention to my footwear. That day, I was wearing sandals and happily, it was of the type that found favour with the wardrobe police. The woman just ahead of me had not been so lucky.

As I sat and waited for my certificate to be ready, I saw a number of other women (and some men) who had decided on the same style of footwear. It soon became clear, that the main responsibility of the guards was ensuring that visitors were appropriately attired. This meant that before they looked at your face, they looked at your clothing and then at your feet. I’d forgotten to take some reading material along for the wait that day, but it turned out to be quite entertaining to watch who got turned away at the door and who made it through.

It’s this stickler in these islands for proper dress that led this week to a man in Barbados, who was caught trying to enter a Court building with a gun being stopped – not because he was searched leading to the gun being found – but because he had been wearing a pair of shorts. The discovery of the weapon happened completely by accident.

On my most recent visit to the High Court a few weeks ago, I went prepared with an extra pair of shoes (in case the ones that really went with my outfit didn’t pass muster), but I discovered that the foot soldiers had relaxed their restrictions somewhat.

This time, any and all types of sandals seemed to be allowed – as if somebody realized that the slippers versus sandals determination depended on one’s perspective. And if he or she happened to sleep on a narrow bed the night before, well…as we say here, “Dog” could very possibly, “nyam your supper”.

Don’t Take It Personal(ly)

Image credit: cdn.com
Image credit: cdn.com

Doing business here can give you a serious inferiority complex.

Every so often the media reminds us that there’s something called “an ease of doing business” ranking and lets us know where this country falls on the index. Primarily designed for outsiders (also known as investors) who want to set up businesses here and others who need to navigate government departments for whatever reason, the ranking is supposed to give an idea of how easy it is to get through the red tape.

But what about the rest of us who have to live here? I don’t remember being polled, but maybe they didn’t want my opinion because I’d probably have to admit to not feeling the need to get up some mornings to do my daily exercise due to the amount of hoops that have to be jumped through that day. And that’s before I reach the person that I’m actually supposed to talk to.

It can take two calls per day for up to two weeks before you realize that you’ve been trying to reach the wrong person. And when you do get the correct name, you discover that the work required for their substantive post seems to conflict with what they’d rather be doing instead – so normal business hours don’t apply to them.

Waiting for a call back? Might as well go ahead and tackle those difficult calculations that you’ve been putting off. That way you can distract yourself from the fact that three days later you still haven’t received the call. So you can see how a person might come to the conclusion that “it’s my money they don’t want”.

You don’t want to go over somebody’s head, so probably the best thing is to find someone you know who knows somebody who knows somebody else who can move the process along. That’s when you rack your brain and play the game of six degrees of separation. Isn’t the person you’ve been trying to reach a cousin of the godmother of your best friend’s uncle? You’ll find that it’s a connection worth exploring when the usual channels don’t seem to work.

Let’s hope that the person you’re trying to reach is not away on a “business” trip, because then all activity moves from a crawl going nowhere to absolutely dead. Apparently only one person can do that particular job, so the absence leaves only an assistant to move some papers around and take your multiple messages which will be added to the others on the fire stack already waiting.

Nothing personal. Just business.


I Put A Spell On You

Image credit: jamaicaobserver.com
Image credit: jamaicaobserver.com

This is the last one. I promise.

To my cosmopolitan readers, the ad that inspired this post may not surprise you – but I was a little taken aback this week when I heard our local radio station broadcasting an ad for someone who was in the business of taking hexes off of people.

Yes, at around 8:15 yesterday morning I was made aware that I could visit a place that could help me if someone had decided to put a spell on me.

Now everybody knows that these practitioners exist. Some of us may even know where the individuals are rumoured to live. Others of us may even know someone who has used their services – but it’s still all really hush-hush, because most people don’t really want to admit that they took their good money and parted with it…

A couple of years ago, I did spy a local newspaper ad that advertised these same spell-ridding services. It gave a contact number and a fairly religious-sounding name which you would ask for when you called to get the person’s location, because while they were advertising they really weren’t “advertising” where they were.

This latest ad made no bones about it. The commercial gave a contact number – but since it also told us just where to find them, (near a cemetery, no less), we probably wouldn’t need to use it unless we wanted to know in advance what the rate was for getting rid of a spell that caused us to suffer from ill health or one that caused us to be unable to hold on to our money.

I wondered if the business had specials, whether the size of the individual mattered and if discounts were offered for bringing someone else along – you know, like a 2 for 1? I think I’d also like to know whether they offered deals for Easter, Christmas or the just-concluded Independence holidays which might entice me to wait so that I can get more bang for my buck.

I wondered whether the business had slow periods and what it did while waiting for the unlucky individuals to come in. Did it offer supplementary products such as crosses, special oils, bush baths and candles? What about ancillary services, such as suggestions for keeping a person relatively “obeah free” or classes on what to look for in a good obeahman – or woman – because if one can take it off, it stands to reason that one can also put in on.

“How to spot a hexer” and “How to tell when you’ve been hexed five days sooner than you would normally know”, sound like good topics for seminars to me. If they aren’t offering these services they probably should, because anyone can put an ad on the radio – it’s what else you do to get them in the door and keep them coming back.

“What Don’t Sell Today…”

Image credit: csullb.edu
Image credit: csullb.edu

I recently met a snake oil salesman, and it wasn’t at all what I expected.

To begin with, the seller was a woman and secondly, it wasn’t her only gig, so clearly one can’t make a living from just selling miracles anymore. Her other products were technology related, so she also didn’t have a problem straddling the “old” and the new.

Unfortunately, she was all out of the stuff so I didn’t have an opportunity to see the actual product for myself. However, upon being questioned, she said that the oil was taken from snakes in Dominica and that “they” said it was good for relieving pain. That didn’t sound like a first-hand account about its benefits, so she clearly wasn’t a consumer of the product.

It got me thinking about how one goes about selling something that others claim is wonderful, but that you haven’t actually tried for yourself. Maybe that’s how snake oil salesmen got such a bad name in the first place.

As I said, the lady had a store full of electronic items and gadgets. She had just what I was looking for except that the apparatus wasn’t made by the same manufacturer of my item. Because of this she insisted that before she took my money, she wanted to ensure that the item would work.

I appreciated her ethics, because it turned out that what she had didn’t work, and it was clear that the saleswoman knew that of which she spoke. In a previous job, people would always ask me whether the item that they were considering buying was “good”, which I thought a strange question since I’m not that fast a runner. Why would I sell you something that wasn’t…? 

Anyway, when other customers were presented with different varieties of an item, they preferred to purchase the one that I told them I liked the best. So it’s clear that most people want some measure of assurance when making a purchase. Or someone to blame if things don’t turn out as expected.

In this vendor’s case though, it seemed that whoever was coming already knew about the advantages of the product – so for her, it’s clearly an easy sale. And since the person inquiring about the oil knew exactly where to find her, it informed me that her present location wasn’t different from the one he had visited the last time.

She told the young boy who had come to purchase the elixir – which more than likely wasn’t for himself – that she would have some more for sale in another week or two, so I’m wondering if I should go back then and purchase a vial for myself.

And put those claims about snake oil salesmen completely to rest.

This is one of those cases where two totally unrelated items are being sold in the same space. I’m not too sure if she was simply doing someone a favour or if this is a case of – as the old people would say – “What don’t sell today will sell tomorrow”.


You Again?

Image credit: travelpod.com
Image credit: travelpod.com

After a particularly frustrating customer service experience last week, my husband remarked that I should probably have been as pleasant as possible to the inept attendant because I might have to deal with her again.

In other words, he hoped I hadn’t burned any bridges.

While I understand his concern, I couldn’t help but feel a little offended. In effect he was asking that I bite my tongue, mash my big toe and smile sweetly while she wasted my time. How about she try being a little better at her job for that time a few months from now when she has to deal with me again?

My mother probably told me, but I’ve lived long enough to realize that it pays to be nice to people because you don’t ever know where you’ll meet them again. I’ve run into people for a second time that I never thought I’d see again – and just like checking my breath and hoping it’s fresh – I quickly search my memory hoping to find that the first encounter was a good one.

But not everyone has the same attitude. Like the good customer service representative who sought to antagonize me further by trying to determine whether the fault was really mine. She was so busy doing that – it didn’t surprise me that the apology completely slipped her mind.

Maybe I’ll get it when she sees me the next time. Because there’s a strong possibility that she’ll see me again.

A former bank teller once told me that there were some people who would give up their rightful place in the line just so that they could be served by her. I don’t know many people who want to prolong the time they have to spend in a queue, but it’s probably because they liked her manner – and she was easy on the eyes.

And since I don't want to do this Image credit: pinimg.com
And since I don’t want to do this…
Image credit: pinimg.com

I think I’ll try that tack the next time I go into this particular establishment. That way others can have the benefit of her superior proficiency and I can conclude my business in reasonable time with someone else.


…That’s the only way that I’ll be able to give my husband the promise to be on my best behavior.