I was a little intimidated by his appearance the first time he walked into my surgery. Tall, well-built, he clutched a half eaten sandwich in one hand and a bundle of papers in the other. When he had finished masticating the piece of sandwich in his mouth, he told me that the police had banned him from entering the area. Waving his collection of papers, he explained that his solicitor needed to get permission from the police when he needed to see a dentist at the practice.
P wanted a new set of dentures. Inwardly quaking, I took the primary impressions of his toothless gums, and then asked him to return a week later for the next stage of his treatment. By the end of the appointment, I felt that he was going to be a pleasant patient and that I need not fear him.
On the penultimate appointment, I tried the wax mock-up of his dentures to check that all was proceeding well. I let P look in the mirror. He was very pleased and wanted to take them away. I explained that the waxed version had to go back to the technician to be made into the final, usable plastic product. I told him that they would be ready in a week.
Looking crestfallen, P said :”really ? That might be awkward?”
I asked why.
“I am seeing the judge next week. If he puts me behind bars, I won’t be able to collect the teeth.”
I asked him if he could let me know if he was unable to return.
“Sure, doc,” he said, “I can phone you from prison.”
I said to him: “I see now. That’s what people mean by a ‘Cell phone'”
P gave me a huge toothless grin.
P did return for his teeth a week later, but I was not at work. I’d had to cancel my clinic to attend our daughter’s birth.