My dad was an awesome dentist.
He had the softest brown eyes that could hypnotize and soothe as he worked.
Many of the other local dentists referred their overly restless (read: unmanageable) child patients to him because he had a way of doing dental magic that was caring, gentle and clever.
He practiced for 45 years and taught me lots about human nature.
One of the neatest things he liked to do was tap into his “captive audience” with surveys about current newsy topics.
The surveys were usually done weekly but, sometimes, when the topic was hugely polarized, he would run a survey for a few weeks to get a good sample.
Talk about the best strategy to distract nervous people and also get very interesting information about current events.
He would ask everyone (or “drill them,” if you like — sorry) that sat in the chair, plus families, friends and other office visitors, the same question and then summarize the results — all tabulated in his head.
On Friday at dinner, we would all hear about the latest survey and on-the-ground community opinions about politics, religion or whatever happened to be going on.
I learned how people felt about many things long before any official pollsters.
I always thought how much more reflective of the man-on-the-street’s perspectives this activity was than other surveys because my dad’s patients included such a wide cross section of humanity, from all walks of life.
And, of course, the question of the day always required a very short answer — that’s all anyone could manage, anyway, with a mouth dam in place or whatever!
I liked that about dad — that he never phrased his question to require anything more than a simple yes or no, spoken or gestured.
It was appreciated because I’m sure most of us have experienced the “chatty” dentist who gets you going on a subject and then gags you with the instruments just as things are heating up.
Another interesting thing dad did for all of us, when we started dating, was to make sure he offered to do free work on our friend’s teeth.
He insisted, in fact.
Frankly, we never knew if we were being dated for our wonderful selves or the dental work in the package.
Anyway, I dumbly thought how very sweet it was of him to do it.
He would say: “well, I don’t want my kids kissing someone with a dirty mouth.”
However, in writing this, I suddenly realize that was exactly how he always had a lot, too much, information about our relationships and who they were with and where we went, OMG.
“What better place than a dental chair?” You say? Oh, drat!
Colleen Crossley is a freelance columnist with the Tribune/Weekend Advisor.