When a number is used to label someone or something, the subject in question inherits a quality that is somewhat void.
Numbers are immortal. They also don’t have feelings, or opinions. The rough edges of humanity are suppressed any time a number is put next to a name.
Even though I become a neutral figure when I am labelled as a number, one important thing that I do retain is uniqueness.
Because that number has been given to me to distinguish me from others. And the only meaning that this number has is the meaning that I give to it.
I have many numbers to my name. My IRD number, my passport number, my driver’s licence, my professional registration. It seems as though the more numbers associated with a person’s name, the more that person is enabled to do. In these contexts, human emotions are irrelevant, as long as one can be identified as a human.
In the world of corporate dentistry I am given a clinician number. I’m 4614. When I am 4614 I do not always feel like a human. Maybe it has something to do with the wires that rise from the battery in my pocket, and drape over my neck to power my headlight. Or the elongated lenses of my loupes that allow me to see things with greater magnification than the human eye allows.
“You look like an alien!, exclaimed one of the kids I saw in the clinic. They usually don’t hold back.
“I’m a pretty alien though, right..?” I joked.
Crushed. I was absolutely crushed. Not that it showed. Because the clever kid is right. I’m 4614, and I’m an alien. And not even a pretty alien.
I do admit the things that I have to do in my work are quite alien. Like looking through a tiny mirror and putting a fine metal file down the root of someone’s tooth. What on earth is natural about that? What is natural about administering local anaesthetic? What is natural about needing someone to hold their mouth open for over half an hour and remain perfectly still? The expectations are unreasonable for both of us.
Therefore it is no wonder that it’s not only the kids who don’t hold back. It has been made perfectly clear, time and time again, that visiting the dentist ranks at the very bottom of the list of most preferred experiences. Actually it wouldn’t even qualify for a list like that. And why should this surprise me? After all, I am an alien, and aliens are scary.
I have surrendered to this, and over time my body will begin to take alien form as well. It is almost impossible to always maintain a natural posture while doing this type of work. And no human ear can withstand the sound of that high pitched dental equipment all day. So we have developed a greater need for even more alien gear to preserve our humanity. An alien chair. An alien microscope. Alien earplugs.
As strange as this is to say, I do actually enjoy my alien responsibilities. But I am also thankful that I am able to leave all that alien gear behind and come back down to earth every day. 4614 is just another subset of the many classifications that enable us to be identified as a human.
So I would like to extend my greetings. I am 4614. And I come in absolute peace.
This Guest Post is written by Lisa Bahho – one of our dentists at Lumino Masterton. Outside of work, Lisa likes to be in tune with her more creative and artistic side. She particularly loves writing on her blog Odontogirl.