Evidence that pandemics cause all kinds of communication issues
Yesterday I visited the dentist. Let me tell you about some of the communication issues I met.
Communication #1. The email from the dentist.
Amongst the other 347 instructions regarding my consultation with the dentist about a broken tooth was this: 'Please do not use our customer toilets while you are here.'
I understand why this has to be so in the current Covid situation. But my bladder is made from cheap market-stall cling film these days, not its previous reinforced rubber. I thought back to Adam and Eve and to God saying, 'Don't eat from one particular tree,' and remembered how things turned out. I knew that as soon as I stepped over the threshold of the dentists' surgery, my bladder would want to do the one thing that was forbidden. My only option was, therefore, to visit the public conveniences in the town square once I climbed off the bus.
Communication #2 The sign in the public conveniences
I washed my hands in the public conveniences using the automatic machine on the wall. It was one of those 'squirt of foamy soap, dash of water, gust of Arctic wind' contraptions. Between water and air, you get 6 seconds to clean your hands. The local council has obviously realised this because there's a sign to the right of the automatic machine announcing, 'After using the automatic handwasher, please wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds.'
Communication #3 The sign in a shop
I passed a shop on the way to the dentist. A sign on the door says, 'Please wear a mask before entering the shop.' I must have missed the guidance that says that as long as you were wearing a mask before you went in, you can hang it from your ear while choosing your groceries and breathing particles of Covid over all the fresh vegetables.
Communication #4 The sign in the dentists' surgery
Among the other 347 instructions, the email from the dentists' surgery had specified that patients should not take personal belongings into their consultation. I duly left my bag and coat on a chair above which was a sign: PUT YOUR BELONGINGS HERE AT YOUR OWN RISK. The sign itself was ambiguous: was this an instruction or a warning?
The door to the consultation room opened and a female dentist peered out and beckoned me in. Then she pointed to my bag and coat. 'Are they yours?' she said.
'I'm just obeying the sign,' I said, thinking I was about to be rebuked. Did 'belongings' not include bags? Coats? Had I placed them too untidily? I wasn't sure what to do.
She smiled. 'Don't leave them there!' she said, cheerily. 'Bring them in.'
Don't they use this method to torture people: sudden shifts from aggression to kindness? Put it this way, after all the emotional turmoil, the dental treatment itself was a breeze.
Communication #5 The dentist's PPE
I heard very little of what the dentist said once she'd donned her PPE to repair my broken tooth. Her voice was completely muffled. But as most of her comments were directed at the nurse and not me, I wasn't worried.
But, at the end, when I stood up from the chair, I turned to face her. 'Any general advice?' I said. 'Can you see any warning signs? Things I should be doing?'
She replied, 'Poofleboofle snom chortleboff poolarly bofflewhisk pombootle snaff.'
And I said, like an idiot, 'Thank you. I will.'