Today I went to the dentist for the first time in about a year. As I looked up at the examination lamp, I noticed a tiny stuffed koala bear wrapped around the controls and commented on it. “That’s Bernard. He’s followed me around for thirty years. I’ve not always been in the same place, but he’s always been with me.”
The rest of the exam was without incident, with the only real surprise being an ultrasonic water-squirting dental pick, which made perfect sense once I realized random holes weren’t being punched into my teeth for sport.
For some reason, visits to the dentist and barber have become unsettling as I have gotten older. I never cared much when I was a child, but now sharp implements near my head make me rather nervous. I think it has something to do with the confidence that, when you’re a child, you have complete faith in what your parents are doing for your health. The problem is that when you grow up, you realize everybody has bad days, makes mistakes, and can’t be trusted to always be focusing 100% of their effort on your situation at that exact moment — they have their own lives and problems to worry about. Maybe they’re hungry and just want to take their lunch break.
For whatever reason, I find myself less nervous with folks who have been doing these sorts of things for a very long time. I think it has something to do with a certain intuition and familiarity that comes between a worker and their tools after using them every day for decades. So, I don’t mind that my favorite barber is over 80 or my hygienist becomes wistful when I mention Bernard, a sentimental toy she received three decades ago.