This series shares some of the jobs I have turned my hand to over that fifty years, and some were very odd. Not many have sat at a table between two teams of champion dairy cows, selling bull semen! Over the years I have accumulated a massive dossier of characters and events that now take centre stage in my short stories. If you have read my novel Just an Odd Job Girl you will have met some of them but over the next twelve weeks I hope to bring you some of the others that inspired and stimulated my imagination.
Not all these posts appeared on Smorgasbord as some fantastic blogging friends allowed me to guest post. Where this is the case I will of course provide you with the links to their post.
You can find the previous odd jobs here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/short-stories-odd-jobs-and-characters-2018/
The Dental Surgery Part Two.
After many years of not being able to have a baby… Miss Smith was pregnant and could not stand the sight of blood! So began a very intensive training course and my career took a very different path.
I was now 18 years old and have been studying the dental nurse course at home and in quiet periods in the surgery. I had also been getting practical experience on the basic tasks required by a chairside assistant, and having done a first aid course I found that I slipped into this role quite quickly. In those days on job training was common, and because there was not such a wide range of procedures carried out, it was intensive but thorough. Also in those days there were not the technical aspects to the profession to contend with. Poor patients were lucky to get an anaesthetic for minor fillings!
By this time Roland was 68 and he was a tough boss. He had been in the army during the second world war and after retiring at 50 had gone into private practice. He did rather treat me as a squaddie and this extended to the daily deep cleaning of the surgery. Apart from washing down all the surfaces with anteseptic wash, including chair and its attachments I was expected to sterilise all instruments after each patient in a temperamental boiler. I was also equipped with a toothbrush, and all cracks and seams on the chair and the cabinet that contained the instruments and drugs had to be cleaned with hot water and soap each Wednesday afternoon when Roland went out sailing.
Our equipment was not exactly state-of-the-art, and some of it actually had done service in the desert. For example, at that time, in the sixties, we had frequent power cuts during the miners strikes. This of course meant that the electric, high-speed drill was non-operational. So, out would come the ‘squeeze-box’. This powered a drill attached to a pulley. Roland would pump up and down on a pedal and this provided enough energy to operate the drill at a painfully slow speed. I operated another squeeze box that powered the suction pipe. Painful enough just watching, so I can only imagine what it was like for the patient.
Another of my jobs was to develop the X-rays, and on one occasion this led to a bit of a ‘miracle’. The developing was done in a small broom cupboard at the top of the stairs. It contained two tall, narrow, tanks, one for developing and one for fixing, and I had to wear elbow length rubber gloves to handle the chemicals.
For processing, the X-rays were clipped into a metal holder which had four metal clips each side of the main central shaft. A sticker was put on this shaft showing which patient each X-ray belonged to. On this particular occasion, when I was in a hurry, I inadvertently opened the clip at the top of the holder and released all eight X-rays into the fixer tank. You have to remember that I was operating in very subdued lighting and I had to fish around in the tank with my gloved hand to find these slippery little bits of film.
At last, I got them all out and because they were now developed and fixed, I could switch the main light on. But, whose X-ray was which? I did my best, and put all eight films back in the holder to dry.
Nothing happened for about two weeks. I was doing the accounts while Roland was taking impressions for some dentures when I got the call. I entered the surgery to find a lovely lady in her seventies in the chair. She smiled at me revealing her pink gums and nothing else. I turned to my boss who was holding an X-ray up to the window and examining it closely.
‘Imagine my extreme surprise to discover, on removing this patient’s X-ray from her notes, that she has grown a complete set of new teeth and indeed has a whole jaw of second teeth to follow.’ Thankfully, the correct X-ray was located in one of our younger patient’s notes, but from then on, I always checked the X-rays in the notes before handing them over for the appointment.
There were still the odd times when I wished I was anywhere else but in that surgery, but looking back, even those times were amusing.
During an upper tooth extraction I would place two clasped hands over the patient’s head to keep it nice and steady whilst Roland applied pressure to the tooth before removing. On one occasion as I applied the necessary force, I felt the patient’s hair begin to move. I was terrified that I had scalped him but then realised it was a toupee. It slipped back and forth during the procedure and unfortunately the patient left with it askew as I was unable to get it back in its proper position. Do you know how hard it is for an 19 year old not to giggle in that situation!
After two years I felt that I would like to take my training further, and considered training as a State Registered Nurse. The Queen Alexandra Nursing Service was advertising for recruits at the time and the uniform was very attractive. However, fate was to take yet another hand in my destiny!
Some of the more memorable patients have appeared in my short stories... and next week – The Shoe Department – Cheating and Surprises.
Short story anthologies.
You can find all my books at these links:
Smashwords for Epub: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SallyGCronin
More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin