Drilling into Eureka Street


'What do you think of the new Eureka Street that I can’t read?’ my dentist asks.

He always asks curly questions when I am defenceless with a mouthful of wadding. I don’t think it’s a power thing because he is a gentleman in every sense. That’s why I’ve gone to see him, voluntarily, at least twice in the last ten years.

'Whad d’yer mean yer cawn readid?’

We are old hands at diverting conversations. He knows they help me unlatch my fingernails from the palms of my hands. His hands are unscarred and he has a deft touch with his battery of instruments. He also knows it helps to show the instruments to this incorrigibly curious patient so that she can, like Galileo, have her moment of tortured anticipation to allay the guilt about having only come twice in the last ten years. I suspect that the ritual brandishing is also his way of tacit reproach, but he is such a gentleman I can’t be sure.

But I am sure he wants an answer to his question because he extracts the cotton wool from between my clenched jaws.

Spit, gargle, spit.

‘What do you mean? You prefer reading Eureka Street in the old hard copy, so you can papier-mâché it in the bath or take it to bed with you?’


‘And you haven’t got grandchildren who can drag you into the 21st century?’

Drilling into Eureka StreetWe digress for a few minutes. He was the father of young children when I first took my pre-fluoride dentition to him, a few years before Eureka Street began publication. I used to trip over his youngest son asleep on the choir-loft floor of Canberra’s St Christopher’s Cathedral. Lucky I didn’t break his baby teeth. We’ve sung complicated fugues and church-militant recessionals together. Belting out ‘We Stand for God’ together makes for wry mateship.

I offer to send over some of mine (grandchildren, not battle hymns) to initiate him. After all, I inveigled him into his first Eureka Street subscription. He thinks that’s just boasting about who has grandchildren etc. It probably is, but the generic usefulness of grandchildren as a spur to technological uptake is undeniable, so we spar on for a few minutes more as I attempt to shame him into exploring online and remind him of his obligations to say in touch with the next generation.

Then—forget proselytising—we start serious drilling. I focus on wave patterns, bird noises, wall textures, snatches of memorable cinema. But they’re treacherous.

‘Did you know Doc Holliday was a dentist?’ I ask, the minute he takes the metal out of my mouth.

‘No. What made you think of that?’

I am too embarrassed to go through the stream of consciousness: Tombstone town, tombstone teeth, sharp shooting with sixguns, holes in the O.K. Corral.

My dentist reaches for his drill holster.

I counter: ‘Did you know Wyatt Earp called him the nerviest, fastest, deadliest man with a sixgun he ever saw?’

I’m buying time. Distract him further by telling him that John Henry ‘Doc’ Holliday also wrote a thesis on diseases of the teeth, but he gets in first with another question while he rams in more cotton wool and brings on the heavy machinery.

‘So did you read that in Eureka Street?’

‘Naw, bud oi cudve…’


‘Can’d dork.’

‘I know,' says my dentist and looks, for the moment, wicked.

Drilling into Eureka StreetHe goes on looking delighted with himself, in his gentlemanly way (he and Doc Holliday share a certain politesse) until he finishes the grinding and polishing and finally brings the chair upright.

I’m not in best condition for spirited discussion now. A bit woozy. Maybe this is how the Clantons felt. But I do tell my smiling dentist about the only other dentist I could abide: the one who had a grainy photograph of Doc Holliday taped to the ceiling directly above his torture chair. But he tired of dentistry in the 1980s and took up philosophy instead.

‘Don’t you dare do that,' I say.

At home I print out the pdf file of the latest Eureka Street. I take it with me into the surgery next time, as bait. And, feathering the lure, I make a few concessions. No, I don’t like reading online either (true) but I like to know what’s what, and he needs to know what’s what too. How else will he be able to talk to his patients?

We have six more appointments. I’ll bring paper printouts for the first three. For four and five I’ll come armed with my laptop and flourish the links to past Eureka Streets and to other dandy sites. I can show him the instruments too.

After appointment six I’m sending in the granddaughters.

Morag Fraser edited Eureka Street 1991 – 2003.



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Existing comments

I am fascinated that just by writing I should have expanded my gender and age options. See the pics: in one your dentaly challenged author has a Nixonesque five o'clock shadow and in the other I has become even younger than my granddaughters. If nothing else, the age transfromation potential will sell ES Online to my dentist. Miracles of technology!
Morag Fraser | 22 August 2006

A visit to an optometrist with all their modern cadgets togethor with eye drops can be a hallowing experience john ozanne
john Ozanne | 03 September 2006


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