HAVANA TIMES — I had two chipped teeth. I’d let time pass to see if I could live like that, at least for a few years, but it proved impossible. Soon, eating any kind of food became bothersome. I had to bite the bullet and go to a dentist at the Finlay polyclinic, in my Havana municipality of Marianao.
When I arrived at the clinic very early in the morning, I found very few people in the waiting room. Though there was only one person ahead of me in the line, I had to wait for half an hour, because, when it was my turn to go in, an employee from the polyclinic who needed something from the dentist cut in line and started gossiping with the person who writes down appointments. After they had their fill of gossip, I managed to get into the clinic.
She asked me what the trouble was. I explained it to her. I didn’t know whether I had to have both teeth extracted or whether they could be reconstructed.
Something reassuring was finding out they were no longer using the previous appointment mechanism (setting up appointments for several days after one’s visit) and that they were seeing people immediately. A patient told me they were only doing that during the summer. She referred me to Dr. Jose Luis.
I almost fainted. Just hearing the dentist’s name made me panic: I recalled that, some time ago, he had let some filling fall into my throat (which I was able to regurgitate several hours later at home).
I had no choice but to have him see me. I didn’t want to have problems with the appointments lady either. Had I turned down the appointment, she would have asked me the reason, and I prefer for things to flow in accordance with the Lord’s wishes.
I headed down to the ward next door, gave the dentist the referral and was immediately let into the clinic. Such promptness struck me as out of the ordinary. He made me sit in the torture chair, asked why I had come, I explained and, very kindly, he told me I had to come back later or the next day (which was Saturday, a day they worked only until noon). With a wide grin, he let me know that the compressor was damaged and that, without it, it was impossible to do any work.
I knew so much efficiency couldn’t be real. Without saying a word, I went home, knowing I had wasted the day (and that no one, except for me, the victim, could care less about it).
The next day, I went back to the clinic with the same appointment slip. When I got there, the dentist wasn’t in, so I headed directly to the place where they make the appointments. I explained to the lady (who wasn’t the same from the day before) the situation. She replied that at no point had the compressor been broken yesterday.
I felt bad – I didn’t understand why he had lied (telling me I could go the next day knowing he didn’t work that day). I wanted to have the problem looked at then, but the appointments lady told me to come back on Tuesday, which was when the dentist I was referred to came in. That is, I had to wait Saturday, Sunday and Monday to have him see me.
Tuesday arrived and I went to the clinic. There were far many more people there than in previous days. No sooner had the dentist seen me than I approached him. I didn’t say a word, I only handed him my appointment. Half an hour later, I was sitting in front of him, my mouth open. He told me he could only fix one tooth per appointment.
History repeated itself. Accidentally, the dentist let a little ball of filling fall into my throat. I was luckier this time: I was able to spit it out onto my hand, he picked it up with a pair of pliers and finally filled the blessed tooth.
Throughout this time, I played with the idea that the whole story about the broken compressor might have been a way of having me pay for the service. Anything is possible these days. Why had he lied, if not to do this?
As I left, I thanked him. It was the only thing I mustered. Smilingly, as though nothing had happened, he gave me an appointment for the following week.