‘Comfortable?’ the dentist asks.
What do you think? I’m lying here, tilted as if I’m about to be launched feet-first into oblivion, the blood’s rushing to my head and away from my hands clasped solidly over my stomach (although I can’t actually feel them now, that’s just from the memory of having put them there) and it feels like you’ve just stuffed a couple of tampons into my cheeks.
‘You’re doing well’, he claps his hand reassuringly on my shoulder and this knocks my paper bib askew; he straightens it, because it is his workspace, after all. He starts to have a little tidy up. He gets some tissues and wipes around the outside corners of my mouth. He’s just given me a top-up of local anaesthetic and he’s dutifully waiting for it to take effect.
He’s tapping his foot to the beat of the classical tune playing on the radio and to the rhythm of pounds ticking away from my bank account. I hear the suction thing start gurgling again and brace myself. I close my eyes because I don’t like the intimacy of being eye to eye with a stranger and I don’t want to distract him; I could get a bit of filling in my eye and he might think I’m winking or he might feel obliged to hold a conversation. No, best to keep it strictly minus eye contact.
There is a whining sound, accelerating in an arc from the stainless steel in his hand towards my mouth, it hits its target and neeeeeeeeoooooooooowwww. In my mind, the drill bit would be more appropriate either for an operation in the North Sea or for performing brain surgery via the gums. In reality, I’m sure it is the correct tool boring into my jaw bone and this is not as reassuring as I’d like it to be. Water from the drill is spurting over my face right up to my eyes and tickling the insides of my nostrils but I can’t scratch because I might jerk his arm and he’ll slip and slice me up.
The next week, I’m at work looking out through the window, absentmindedly rubbing my cheek, still nursing the bruises left by my dental surgery. I see a familiar face on the steps. It’s a blustery day and angry cumulus clouds are hanging ominously overhead. It’s almost time to go.
‘Good morning Ladies and Gentleman. This is Captain Knight and I’d like to welcome you aboard this flight to Paris Charles de Gaulle. The weather in Paris is pretty much the same as here at Gatwick and once we’ve climbed to our cruising altitude of 32,000 feet, your flight should be fairly comfortable. In the meantime, I would ask you to keep your seatbelts tightly fastened as we may encounter some turbulence during our ascent. I hope you have a pleasant flight.’
We push back off the finger and taxi down to the end of the runway. Whilst my first officer is busy doing some final checks, I have a wicked idea.
We accelerate down the runway, the nose lifts and the tail end follows. Once the landing gear is retracted, and we are breaking through the cloud, the forecasted pockets of turbulence buffet the aircraft.
I must admit that I do little to avoid the worst bumps although I would never endanger anyone’s life. Obviously. But, on the other hand, if the turning off of the cabin lighting and plunging the passengers into near darkness whilst sounding the emergency alarm could be considered cruel, then I suppose I should be found guilty.
Once we have reached our cruising altitude, I stand up, straighten my tie, open the cockpit door and proceed to walk down the aisle, past the ashen faces staring open-mouthed at me. I make a bee-line for the man in seat 13C. I lean right into his face.
‘Comfortable?’ I ask him.