Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Scratch 'N' Hear

My ears had been periodically itchy for some months. Annoying, but I was hardly bringing my relatives to my bedside for last farewells. Still when you are a musician and a morning person and have jobs where you work by your lonesome you spend a lot of time inside headphones. And suddenly scratching your inner ear frantically usually sends your headphones sailing across the room. But still; I am a guy and this was not life threatening (or indeed, very cool at all), so I wore my mask of Stoicism well and covered up my discomfort. "Sorry about the take man. Let's try it again. Dude, can you hand me my headphones?"

And the itching increased and intermittent pain entered the canal as well and then one morning my left ear was sealed tighter than a tomb in the Valley of the Kings. I endured; Guys are good at that. But the pain, and its incidence, increased and my ear remained chastically closed. And the next morning I mistakenly plugged my discman headphones into the 'line out' jack instead of the 'headphones' jack (thereby cutting off 3/4 of the available volume), and my stony dam of testosterone came crashing down in Wagnerian pathos. "I'm going deaf! I've infected my brain! I'll have to write symphonies now!"

Leave a fellow to his own devices and he will be most comfortable residing in the extremes: either (A) Stoic Manly Man, or (B) Big Whiny Baby. It is only around others, usually sensible, reasonable others - with XX chromosomes, that men rise to that pinnacle of human evolution: Rationality. Or in this case, getting someone to look at it.
Oh, okay. I'll go see the doctor. But I won't ask directions on how to get there!

So I walked into my doctor’s office fully expecting that he would see me right then. Instant gratification crossed with solipsism. {See (B) big whiny baby, above.}
My doctor was booked, no kidding, for the next six months. I told them I would wait. I had brought extra batteries. {See (A) stoic manly man, above.} They suggested Urgent Care. After I finished scratching my ears and retrieving my headphones again I agreed.

Urgent Care in the middle of the morning meant a two hour wait. Two hours of pretending to read a 15 year old Sunset magazine whilst in reality trying to diagnose everybody else in the waiting room. Pain brought all of these people to this place, but by God we are all going to ride this wait out in passive repose. {See (A) stoic manly man.}
I balked. Two hours of pretending I'm not sick with a room full of people doing the same thing sounded too much like work, so I might as well go to my job, where I get paid for pretending to do things.

Taking the Receptionists advice I showed up again mid-evening, in the down time between dinner hour accidents and I'm-never-gonna-get-to-sleep-until-I-have-this-checked-out. Bingo; I was shown right in with no waiting. {See (B) big whiny baby.}
Ah, but the medical world is famous for its cruel ironies. I am escorted from the waiting room to the examination room, where I wait, unexamined, for more than half-an-hour.

What to do?
  •  Music was out as I had busted all of my headphones by that time.
  •  I read an article about Brezhnev's Soviet Union in a National Geographic that might be a tad out of date now.
  •  I did not look in the drawers.
  • I worked out a nice Calypso arrangement of the ice cream truck theme in my head.
  • I noted that the waiting room had considerably more padding in its fixtures than the examination room.
  • Have you noticed that your thumbs and big toes have this cool little half moon on the base of the nail? And that your pointing finger and long, skinny toe have a smaller one? And that the rest of your fingers and toes hardly have any? Why is that? And what the heck is it anyway, and what does it do?
  • I continued to resolutely not look in the drawers. {See (A).}
And finally, suddenly, the door is flung open and Dr. Halibut bursts into the room. (I'm guessing on his name. He neglected to introduce himself and I couldn't get a good look at his badge.) He glances at my chart, (I have a chart? How did I get a chart? They haven't done anything to me!) and asks the paperwork what the problem seems to be. I explain that I have an infected brain and that I'll need a transplant and I hope it isn't somebody named Abby Normal.

Dr. Halibut fixes me with the stare that only doctors and auto mechanics can give: The 'unworthy wither'. They are the experts and you are fit to hold ownership of neither a car nor a human body. "Well," he says, dismissing my intellect, "Let's take a look at that ear." He produces a hollow railroad spike with a light inside and jams it 16 inches into my head. Then he grinds it around for awhile (which sounds like an avalanche) before yanking it out, muttering "I can't see a thing in there" and disappearing from the room {See (A) - This works for all men}.

I sat in stunned, but welcome, silence and thought. What was it that he saw that stopped him from seeing what he wanted to see? I felt cheap and degraded, and oh so violated.  {See (B).}

Then a nurse walks in, and she is the epitome of niceness. She explains who she is (Nancy) and what she is about to do in slow, complete sentences as she looks me in the eye, and confirms that I understand completely. Quite the treat. Then she loads up a turkey baster with warm Hydrogen Peroxide and blasts my ear like its 1963 in Alabama and I'm trying to get into an all white high school. Wow!

Actually after the initial shock the ear canal bath was quite pleasant. Kind of like a skull enema. You don't want to see the stuff that comes out of your ears though. All of the stupid pop songs, bad advice, and justifications that you fill your head up with leave residues and when these are flushed out it is quite unsightly.

Nurse Nancy finishes her part, winds up our droll conversation, tidies up her station, and explains that Doctor Hollowbrute will return shortly. Yeah, right.

And the clock ticks out like a dripping faucet, the calendar pages fly off the wall, and the montage sequence plays out while a stupid pop song fills the air. {See (B).} And while I am pondering who decided that the minute hand is longer than the hour hand and why isn't it the opposite I suddenly realize that Urgent Care is closed. It's after 9pm. Doctor Halobutt has probably forgotten all about me, and he and Nurse Nancy are in his flashy convertible on their way to some illicit rendezvous. I am all alone in the Medical Clinic. Stuck here all night. Just me - and the morphine. Hmmm.....

And then Doctor Heroburp bursts into the room again, circles into my ear like an echo-location bat, rams his railroad spike into my ear again, and finally, looks at the problem. "Oh." He says. Wroink! the spike leaves and He proceeds to write on my chart. I wait, patiently. {See (A).} Done, He looks at me. "You have Seborrhea, which is like dandruff of the ear canal. There is no cure, but a little over-the-counter cortisone cream and you'll be fine. You also have exceedingly dry ear wax. You may need to come in once a year or so and have that flushed."

And poof! He was gone. Handshake, paperwork, questions, what the hell his name was - oh well. Probably had the convertible (and Nurse Nancy) warming up out front.

So I asked for help and now I am free of discomfort. There's a lesson in that for all of us Stoic babies to learn. I also learned that I am forever doomed to have oily skin and dry ears. What a freak. Kind of looking forward to the skull enemas though.

Angus McMahan

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