There’s nothing worse than being ill on the road. No matter how old you are when sickness strikes the first thing you want to do is call your mum. Even if there’s nothing she can do, I just want to hear my mum’s voice on the other end of the phone, sympathising with me and offering all of those suggestions which might ease the pain which only mums can think of. So being alone on the other side of the world and hearing that you may need root canal treatment is not ideal.
It’s difficult to express how much I care about my teeth. Maybe it’s because I was forced to wear train-track braces the whole way through secondary school (along with my huge glasses, they were not great days) and ever since I finally had them removed at the age of 17 I’ve been obsessed about looking after my teeth.
So when a huge chunk fell out of one of them on the day I was due to leave Chile I was not impressed. It seems that embracing the sugary goodness of South American food had not been the smartest idea.
Which meant that one of my first experiences in New Zealand, the next stop on my trip, was a visit to the dentist. Although he was nice and friendly, for some reason, after briefly examining my mouth, the dentist decided to give me a ‘worst case scenario’ talk first in which the dreaded root canal was mentioned. I don’t know whether it was some sort of psychological trick, so that whatever I did need didn’t seem as bad or whether he genuinely thought I might need one. Either was I nearly burst into tears and was actually glad when he stuck the needle into my gum as I didn’t trust myself to speak without blubbing.
As my mouth was numbing the dentist decided to ask me 20 Questions. (I guess it must get a bit boring sometimes just doing that count-y thing they do on your teeth and asking people whether they want a scale and polish.) His chief enquiry was: “Don’t you get lonely travelling by yourself?” To which I had to restrain myself from answering: “Only when I’m sat in a dentist’s chair next to the world’s most unsympathetic dentist.”
Fortunately it didn’t take too long for my gum to numb which meant talking was out of the question and, even more fortunately, it turned out I didn’t need the root canal surgery. For now. The dentist went to great pains to point out that at some point in the future I would probably need one. “It could be in a week, it could be in 20 years,” he told me reassuringly.
In the meantime a filling would do and as he tipped the chair back I noticed a fancy television screen installed on the ceiling, with Sky rolling news playing. Now you definitely don’t get this on the NHS at home, and who doesn’t want to see how the Dow Jones is doing at they have their mouth drilled?
So after two days in New Zealand, with a $380 dollar bill in my pocket and the threat of root canal treatment hanging over me forever more, I had to hope my time in the country would go uphill from there.