Across The Counter
Don’t do it unto others – or they might just try to do it unto you
Reprinted from October 1990
Dr. Pullmore, our local dentist, stopped by last week with his solid gold chronograph of ancient vintage. He perspired nervously as he tenderly placed it in RB’s hands. “It’s causing me some problems,” Doc explained, as he strained to see over RB’s bench, presumably so as to not let his prize get too far out of his sight.
“Okay, let’s get ‘er open,” RB recited non-chalantly for the twentieth time that day. One quick jab and a skillful twist with the case opener and it was done. I saw the good doctor wince. “My…h-m-m-m,” said RB, shaking his head like bad news. “It’s pretty bad in there, Doc. Pretty well shot, I’d say. Danged sure can’t make a new one out of it.”
Doc paled. RB went right on with the gloomy diagnosis. “Needs a new gold crown, that’s for sure…. and could use some work on the pall bridge.”
Doc swallowed and squirmed and stammered, “It’s really that bad, huh?”
RB touched one of the parts like it was a sore tooth. “Needs a good overall cleaning too, Doc. I just can’t understand why people let their watches get in such a sorry shape. Now, if you’d have taken time to have this watch serviced periodically, you’d have saved me a lot of work and yourself a lot of money.”
Doc apologized, meekly. “Well, you know time slips by.”
That made RB bold. “Why, look here,” he scolded, “there’s a hole in the back of this case!” He glared at Doc like he was demanding an explanation. Doc just looked humiliated. I felt sorry for him, but RB just kept pouring it on:
“Well I guess I could fill it up with some solder. Gold is plenty high now, you know.” He actually pointed his finger at Doc and warned, “It’s going to cost you more now than when you had the last work done on this fine watch two years ago!”
“Yes, sir,” acquiesced Doc. It was truly pitiful to see him squirm, and RB was being absolutely unmerciful.
“Can you save my watch, Mr. Williams?” he begged.
“RB reared back in his bench chair, lit a cigarette and blew some smoke, letting the good doctor sweat. “Well, I can try,” he replied at last, “but it’s not going to be easy.”
Doc loosened his collar and dabbed at his forehead with a handkerchief. “How much?” he almost whispered.
RB blew some more smoke and pondered the economics of the situation. You’d have thought he was estimating the cost of clearing out the Suez Canal. He took his pencil and did the multiplication table on the back of a Wm. R. Katz Co. order envelope, and finally said: “Forty seven, fifty…”
Doc was breathing a sigh of relief, as RB added, “providing, of course, I don’t run into any real big problems, like unavailable parts and so forth.”
“Oh, thank you, Mr. Williams, thank you,” wailed the grateful Doc. “Just fix it up, please. I’ll pay. I’ll pay.”
With a professional flair, RB whipped out a repair ticket and wrote it up, tossing Doc the estimate receipt.
Doc arrived back at his office badly shaken. Pouring himself a cup of black coffee, he aired his complaints to his secretary-wife, Gloria.
“Do you know how much that vulture charged me to repair my watch?”
“No dear, how much?”
“Forty-seven dollars and fifty cents, for crying out loud!”
“Well, he was able to repair it, wasn’t he?”
“Heck, for that price, Gloria, I could buy a new one.”
“But you told me you wanted the old one repaired, dear.”
“Yes, but gee … for just one hour’s work – forty seven dollars and fifty cents! I’ll tell you, Gloria, we are in the wrong business!”
“But dear, you know Mr. Williams is a good watchmaker, and after all, he is a regular patient…”
Doc quit sulking right away, a devilish glint flashing in his eyes. “That’s r-r-right. Say, Gloria, while I was there I got a good luck at RB’s teeth, and you mark my word, Gloria, he’s going to need some dental work just any day now!”
Well, “any day now” came quicker than Doc anticipated. The very next day RB was feasting on Mexican chili beans, gloating over his success with Doc, when he encountered a rock – crunch! The incident caused him to lose a filling, so he promptly called Gloria and set up an appointment.
Doc was nonchalant as RB flopped down into the victim’s chair. He began to fidget around and inquired anxiously: “ Do you think you can save my tooth, Doc?”
“Open wide, please,” Doc demanded for the twentieth time that day. With his fingers he prodded around expertly, then jabbed at the tooth with a sharp instrument that made RB flinch. “H-m-m-m,” he said. “It’s pretty bad in there. Getting pretty well shot, if you know what I mean.”
RB had heard the expression before, so he knew – and squirmed.
“Could stand a new gold crown,” Doc said, touching the sore place with the instrument. “Sure could use some work on that bridge.”
With both eyes and mouth wide open, RB managed to say, “Uh-huh.”
Doc continued the professional diagnosis, looking quite concerned: “There’s a big hole right there. Guess I could fill it with gold. By the way, RB, you know gold has gone up considerably since you were here two years ago.”
“Really?” said RB. “But Doc, can you save my tooth?”
Doc stepped back and recited his sermon. “I don’t know why you haven’t taken better care of your teeth, RB. If you’d only have come in for periodic cleaning, you’d have save me a lot of work and yourself a lot of money.”
RB ducked his head. “Well you know how time slips away,” he pleaded pitifully.
Doc crossed his arms and took a very long time thinking. Finally he said: “Well, I suppose I could clean them up some to get you by. I’m not promising anything, understand. Danged sure can’t make a new tooth out of that one.”
RB cringed, cowed. “Just do the best you can, Doc,” he begged.
Doc picked up a syringe and with a professional flourish, filled it up with Novocain.
“Ah… how much is this going to cost, Doc?” RB got up the nerve to ask.
Doc took precaution to plunge in the needle before answering. “Oh, I figure it will run around forty-seven dollars and fifty cents.”
RB went limp.
Back at the store, RB unloaded his complaints on me.
“Martha, do you know how much that vulture charged me to fix my tooth?”
“No, dear, how much?”
“Forty seven dollars and fifty cents.”
“Well, he was able to repair it, wasn’t he?”
“Yeah, but heck, for that price I could have had false ones.”
“But you wanted your own repaired, dear – told me so yourself.”
“But gee! Forty-seven dollars and fifty cents for just one hour’s work. I’ll tell you, Martha, we’re in the wrong business!”
“But, dear, you know he is a good dentist and after all, he is our customer.”
RB stopped sulking, and that devilish glint came back into his eyes. “Say, that’s right,” he said. “Martha, get out Doc’s Chronograph. I have a feeling when he picks it up Monday he is going to be sporting a brand new $47.50 JB band!”