My all-time favourite episode of The West Wing is from the first season. For me, Celestial Navigation has got it all - tons of comedy, an interesting narrative structure laden with flashbacks and all the main characters get wonderful sequences. Toby is being even more of an Eeyore than usual, Josh is coming unglued in front of the White House press corps, Charlie tries waking the president up after Bartlett's only had three hours of sleep - and many, many more such moments. But perhaps the funniest is CJ suffering before and after root canal surgery. People in pain who can't talk right, that's intrinsically funny. Yes, if you've never suffered in the same way.
You can see where I'm going with this, can't you?
No, I haven't had emergency root canal surgery - at least, not yet. I've spent the past week suffering from a constant, dull throbbing pain in my back right teeth and jaw. That would become a sharp, throbbing pain in the same area whenever I bit down on, well, anything. Lunch on Christmas Day was not as much fun as it should have been, but I softened the pain with copious amounts of alcohol. Four days before Christmas I tried to get an appointment with the local dentist, without much success.
Seems the local health authority deems that anybody registered as an NHS patient [meaning you pay a lot less for treatment] but doesn't see their dentist at least once every 15 months gets dumped. Of course, nobody had told me this. My last appointment was cancelled by the local dental health centre 18 months ago. I assumed they would schedule a new appointment for me - wrong. The onus is all on the patient to keep visiting the dentist if they want to maintain their NHS registration.
So when I called four days before Christmas in considerable pain, all I could get was an "emergency" appointment for a week later. I phoned round every dentist within a twenty mile radius of the house: the best any of them could offer was an emergency appointment at the end of January. Call me old fashioned, but if a problem can wait a month it isn't much of an emergency.
Yesterday was Thursday and I went along for treatment. The dentist discovered not one, but two holes in my teeth - one so big it was described as being like "Mary Poppins' bag". In the end she had to remove part of a filling to get access, had another gouge round near the nerve ending and came to the conclusion I had problems. No, really? A temporary filling was inserted and I've been sent away for two months to see how that does. When I go back in February, I can expect to spend some considerable time - and probably even more money - suffering while the dentist goes mining in my teeth.
So, that's something to look forward to, yes? Come February I won't be able to say Bwiefing. Or Foggy Bottom. Can't wait.