My childhood dentist had a secret 2-way mirror

Tracey Folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.

When I first went to my childhood dentist, I didn't know they had a two-way mirror in their waiting room. That two-way mirror wasn't something they needed. None of my other dentists have had one.

Now that I think about it, there should have been a warning sign to tell people it was a two-way mirror: "Two-way mirror used in this office. Look in the mirror at your own risk."

If you were a new patient like me, then you wouldn't even know it was there. It wasn't a small mirror; that wasn't the secret. The two-way mirror was large enough that you could see it from across the street. However, there was nothing to indicate that there wasn't just a solid wall behind the glass until you looked from the other side.

I found out it was a two-way mirror as my mother and I were leaving the office. We stopped at the reception desk to make another appointment, and we could see the patients sitting in the waiting room through a large window.

"That's funny," my mother said. "I don't remember seeing a window when we were in the waiting room."

Seeing all the patients on the other side of the two-way mirror, unaware that they were being watched, was unsettling. That had been us recently.

A teenage girl stood from her chair and used the mirror to straighten her hair and check her makeup. She opened her mouth and examined her teeth before sticking out her tongue. From our side of the mirror, she looked ridiculous.

The others in the waiting room looked suitably miserable. No one looks happy when they're waiting to see the dentist, and I now knew that the receptionist, dentist, and other office staff could look out over that sea of unhappy faces whenever they wanted—and no one would know.

It felt like an invasion of privacy during a time when I didn't even know what invasion of privacy meant.

Was there an actual reason for this two-way mirror between the waiting room and the receptionist's desk, or were we just meant to serve as entertainment?

We didn't return to that dentist's office for reasons unrelated to the two-way mirror, but I never forgot that young woman staring at her face in the mirror unknowing that there were three faces staring back from the other side.

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