In the brief gap between scale and polish

“Democracy just doesn’t work,” says my dental hygienist in the brief gap between scale and polish.

Today is the European Parliamentary Election. I had used this for chit-chat as I sank into the chair but now I was beginning to regret it. My hygienist is thoroughly disillusioned with our entire political system.

As if that isn’t enough to contend with, her pregnancy keeps rubbing against the side of my head.

“It’s always about power,” she says, “The political class will always exploit the common man. By the way, there’s some serious gum inflammation here.”

Well, now I’m depressed. I live in a corrupt political system and I have serious gum inflammation. As I gaze at the ceiling tiles, I mentally add “overthrow the government” and “floss” to the bottom of my to-do list.

I wonder absently if Winston Smith had good teeth. Did the Ministry of Truth offer a dental plan? It seems like the sort of thing a Totalitarian state would be good at.

“There’s too many people at the top, making lots of money and not caring about people like you and me.”

I don’t like that she lumped “you and me” in the same basket but it’s hard to protest when the water is pooling in the back of your throat. I offer a gargle of protest but it doesn’t really have the impact I intend.

“I’ve always felt this way but since all that stuff about duck islands, I’ve been determined to spoil my ballot in protest. Do you know what else that guy claimed for?”

A swan peninsula?

“A twenty-grand shrubbery. You have some plaque on the lower arch but it’s not too excessive.”

My right ear is now completely folded back against her pregnant belly. It is soft and turgid like a space-hopper.

“And Europe! It’s like an afterlife for British career politicians. Okay, rinse and spit for me”.

I rinse and spit. Minty. I ask: “If you hate Europe so much, why don’t you vote UKIP or something?”

She says, “No, that would really leave a bad taste in my mouth.” As a hygienist she would be the authority on that, I suppose.

“I will not be voting. I will go and spoil my ballot.”

I’m not entirely surprised. This is the only dental office in the land with Morning Star in the waiting room.

“So now that you’ve turned your back on democracy,” I say to the hygienist, “what system do you propose we replace it with?”

“Philosopher King,” she says without even pretending to think about it.

“And what would be your first motion in the office of Philosopher King?”

Removing my goggles and bib she laughs, “Oh, I wouldn’t be a Philosopher King! No, I’d be a right tyrant! Book another appointment on your way out. See you in three months.”

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