There is something unacceptably cruel about an unexpectedly delayed dental appointment.
I turned up at midday, on my bike, to be met by blank incomprehension about my check-up that had been arranged almost a year ago. Eventually my name rang a bell in the receptionist’s mind and she wittered on about not having my telephone number to let me know that circumstances had changed and that my new appointment was for Tuesday of next week. They do have my telephone number, indeed they have both of them and my address, and my full name and probably my NIA as well - so they could have used the telephone directory or looked me up online.
But people don’t do that nowadays. If your mobile number or email (which they also have, come to think of it) is not immediately to hand then contact is impossible. I call it The Full Dishwasher Syndrome.
The FDS is when you cannot fit anything else into the dishwasher and you find that you have one cup left over? What does one do? From experience you know that the higgledy-piggaldy approach to randomly piling things together will result in imperfectly washed items that will also have retained water because they have not been placed in their correct, drain-ready position. Better to leave the extra item to one side so that it can be added to the next load.
Or you could (as you used to) wash and dry it by hand. A squirt of washing liquid (or a mere drop of the more expensive stuff), some reasonably hot water, a quick brush over, rinse and a fresh tea towel to dry. But that doesn’t enter one’s mind. FDS obliterates the idea that washing dishes can be done by hand: the lone, dirty cup becomes A Problem. “My dishes,” so runs the mantra, “are more hygienically dealt with by the dishwasher.” The machine is more thorough, it works at higher temperatures than your hands can stand, it produces cleaner results - even as it washes off some decoration and leaves streaks on glasses and fails to remove some stubborn stains. No matter - dishes are washed in the dishwasher. It’s a fact.
Just like clothes are washed in the washing machine and dust and loose dirt is picked up by the Hoover and getting to places is by car and . . .
It is only when you consider how your life is lived that you realise that it is very different from the way that your parents lived.
In no way do I consider myself to have had anything other than a comfortable and privileged upbringing, but we did not have an electric record player until I was 10; we didn’t have a fridge until I was 12, which was around the same time as we got our first television; we had an outside loo; our first automatic washing machine was when I started secondary school; dishes were washed by hand; our first telephone had a ‘shared line’; our first motorised transport was a Bonmini three-wheeler.
But this was all in the 1950s where I was the only person in my year in school to have gone on a foreign holiday. I could safely roller skate down the road because most people did not have any motorised transport of any sort and photographs of the time (B&W) show me in an empty road, with few cars parked. So-called white goods were only starting to become affordable. It was the time when you had to apply for a telephone and you had Hobson’s Choice about what you got. There were just two channels on the television, BBC and ITV. My grandparents’ television had a tiny screen and took an age to ‘warm up’ and faded to a single bright spot when you turned it off - and of course it was black & white, not colour. I still remember my first viewing of a mobile phone: a large wooden box with a normal handset and rest used by a telephone engineer.
Things have obviously changed and we have many more ‘things’ than we ever used to have. But our ways of doing things have also changed: our expectations and our approaches.
Which brings me back to my dental appointment. One way of contacting me failed and, instead of trying another (in this over connected world) they gave up. Because we do things this way and not in other ways. After all, they could have written - but when was the last time that you had that sort of communication for a previously arranged appointment. If you can’t Message it, it is not going to happen.
O brave new world that has such full stops in it!