Scheduling a Dentist Appointment in a Foreign Country (Or, How I Made a Fool of Myself on a Monday Afternoon)

— By Elizabeth

I have been putting this off. Making that dreaded phone call to schedule dental appointments for our family. I must do this — finding a dentist and doctor in your host country is an important part of the re-settling process.

But calling the dentist here is not the same task it was in America. Here is my story:

The baby is napping. I inform the older children that I must make an important phone call and not to talk to Mommy. I walk into the kitchen, which is swelteringly hot, and close the door. I dial the phone number. Three rings. I hear a Small Voice. I hesitate. What did that voice say?? “Hello, is anyone there?” I hear an Asian accent. I guess it was English words, after all. I can barely hear her. She asks if I’ve been here before. I say no. She asks me if tomorrow is ok. I say, no, 2 weeks from now. (When has a dentist in the States ever offered to see me the next day??) She asks me what we are having trouble with. I say, we just need cleanings, X-rays, and my son may need sealants. I tell her my name and how many people need appointments (5), and she schedules appointments for 2 adults and 1 daughter. No, I say, 2 adults and 3 children. 2 sons and 1 daughter. Ok, she corrects it.

Then she asks for my phone number. To confirm the appointment later.

I do not have this 12-digit number memorized. I say, I need to look in my phone.

I look at my phone. I normally know how to find my number. But I cannot for the life of me figure out how to access it during a call. My phone is sopping wet with sweat at this point. I haven’t seen that before. Neither have I pressed the phone so hard against my ear before. I can barely hear this woman’s voice, and she’s clearly not a native English speaker.

It is at this point in time that one child decides to hit another, that other hits back, and the crying begins. I motion for them to be quiet and leave me ALONE, and I close the door again. I retreat to the bathroom just off the kitchen to try to continue the call.

I tell her, I can’t get my number right now, can I call you back with it? She gives me a number that will reach her personally, and I hang up. I briefly tell the children not to talk, not to hit, and can’t you see I’m busy trying to make this important call?? More crying ensues. I again close the door.

I dial the number she gave me. I hear some Asian words and read “Not a valid number” on my screen. Again I see my phone dripping wet. I try the number again. Same result.

I figure I’ll call the original number again and try to explain myself. I hear a New Voice. I made an appointment 10 minutes ago, I say, but I need to give you my phone number. She tries to make my appointment all over again. I say, I already made that appointment. She sends me to a Different Voice. I say, I already made an appointment and tell her when it should be. I am starting to wonder if I did make this appointment? I ask, is it scheduled? This Voice is louder, clearer, and more authoritative. Yes, it is scheduled. She asks me if I’ve been here before. I say no. I give her my phone number. She asks if they need to call me back?? I say, no, this is the number to call to confirm the appointment, later. Yes, yes, she understands.

Sigh of relief.

Then she asks, is there another phone number I can be reached at?? I say, there is my husband’s phone, but I don’t know the number. Let me look in my phone. I look again. Still no luck finding a phone number while I’m in a call. I am however still finding sweat all over my phone. I say, I can’t give that number to you now. Can I call you back??

No, no, she says, this is fine.

End call.

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