We call it the Medical Mile: a stretch of Remuera Road where every building is a high-powered clinic. If you can buy a medical treatment in New Zealand, this is where you come to pick it up. Just down the road is where my sister-in-law got her eyes lasered. Along this road you can buy any treatment from a glorified pedicure to hair restoration surgery. It is not a locale for the faint-of-wallet.
It's my teeth that have brought me here. I want a deep filling replaced; my high-street dentist has spent the best part of three hours excavating it with everything short of heavy mining equipment, before declaring that she's never seen such a devious and twisted root and how would I feel about going to a specialist? It's a shame, she says, because my teeth are mostly in excellent shape - I only have the one filling, but it is, as we say up north, a doozy.
Reassuringly, the consultants' surgery is not quite on the Medical Mile itself. Presumably going twenty metres down a side road makes the rents cheaper. But inside all is light and modern and airy, a far cry from the rather dingy high-street offices of my regular dentist. You can see what these guys do with their $1000 an hour.
There are four women behind the reception desk, all of them carrying the air of full-time employees, all working. Only one of them is dealing with a visitor; according to the sign in front of her desk, she's the one I need to check in with. Of course. Her visitor is telling her all about her daughter's pregnancy.
I approve of this. Making the clients feel relaxed is an important part of the job; if that means chatting aimlessly, then chat they should. Quite right. I just wish one of the other three could deal with me in the meantime. All they have to do is hand me one of those stupid forms asking about my medical conditions. But they're far too busy to look up from their respective spreadsheets.
Eventually I get my form ("Do you have leprosy?", and suchlike penetrating questions - I wonder if the purpose is to check that you've come to the right clinic) and take a seat. There are half a dozen people in the waiting room, mostly older than me. There are two ways to look at this: either I'm successful enough to afford The Best treatment earlier in my life than others, or I'm mug enough to be paying top dollar while my hipper contemporaries all know better options. I decide to look on the bright side.
I don't have to wait long.
Dr Peter shakes me warmly by the wallet and welcomes me into his surgery. Here, again, the evidences of Upmarket are not hard to see. The mounted binocular microscopes for peering into one's cavities; the X-ray viewer displaying on screen, rather than (as at my high-street dentist) on tiny sheets of film; the video monitor on the ceiling - I'm not stuck with staring into a lamp while he rummages. On my first visit, I got to watch Belinda Carlisle - not that I was really in the mood to appreciate it, but I was looking forward to some more eye candy to relieve the next hour and a half. But instead I'm treated to BBC coverage of the aftermath of Britain's election. I'm not sure I wouldn't be better off with the lamp.
Dr P exclaims in admiration at the quality of my teeth, even while he sets to work on the miscreant molar. There are drills, buzzsaws, sanders - it looks like Black & Decker's entire catalogue in 1/36 scale - and pretty soon I can sense the gaping hole where my temporary filling used to be. Then he attacks the remaining filling material with a collection of solvents, the least of which is chloroform. I'm wondering whatever happened to general anaesthetics.
The session lasted a little longer than the budgeted 90 minutes, so I consider myself lucky to be charged a mere $1000 for the experience. And now I have a nice even filling that looks and feels vaguely like a tooth. Bargain. The downside is that I have to go back in June for him to take out the temporary inner filling and replace it with a permanent one.