An Awkward Day

Early today I was walking down the upstairs hallway when I realized I had put my underpants on backward. To those who have never done this, it is a singularly awkward feeling—but not as bad as putting two legs in a hole designed for one leg. However, that’s a non-starter in every sense of the phrase …

But I digress. The point is that the whole day turned out to be awkward.

Let me go back to the beginning. I awakened on my back, and as I rolled over and looked into Teddy’s wide-open chocolate eyeballs, I felt crackling in my right ear. It was the same sound that happens when water gets into your ear canal while swimming. But I hadn’t been in the pool in at least two weeks. Still, you never know. I got up and did the usual machinations I do to get water out of the ear canal. Nothing. So I redoubled my efforts. I soon realized that all the pounding on my opposing temple while tilting my head at an awkward angle was doing my neck no good, as well as being non-productive. It was about then I noticed a dull headache form around my sinuses.

I decided I needed caffeine, so off I went, but every time I tilted my head, I could hear the crackling sound. Frankly, it was driving me nuts, so I went back to the tilting/pounding thing again. About the fourth round of this exercise, John noticed and asked what was wrong. I told him.

“But you haven’t been swimming for a long time.”

“I know that,” I replied.

“Maybe it’s an insect.”

Now that got my attention. “It’s not an insect. It is positional … like fluid.” Was it positional? I flung my head around to reassure myself. I couldn’t be sure.

“Now what are you doing?”

“Nothing.” I wasn’t really sure at that point, because all of the flinging was really bringing on a sinus headache.

The day progressed with me trying to remove the fluid at intervals. The headache subsided as the sun burned off the fog, but then the crackling ramped up and I realized that both ears felt plugged. 

Because I’m going to be on an airplane soon, I decided to call the nurse on call at my doctor’s office and see what decongestant I could take. (I take an antihistamine and another med for allergies every day.)  The predictable answer was “The doctor will want to look in your ears before he advises anything.” To tell you truth, I was a bit relieved—I had visions of a black-widow spider fashioning a web in my ear and laying eggs and … Best not to go there.

Unusually, the doctor had just had a cancellation, so he could see me today. I had time to do a load of laundry before I left. By then, I had adopted a new strategy of not moving my head at all. I squatted down, pleased that I could still do that, and flung the clothes into the washer. By rolling my eyes down to the lowest possible point of vision, I poured in the soap and then pressed the appropriate buttons, and … there was no response from the appliance. I looked out into the adjoining room at John’s LED weather clock—an unreliable object that refuses to switch to daylight savings time and frequently predicts rain. Huh! I flipped the light switch. Great! A power outage.

Laundry aside, this was going to be really awkward. I would not be able to open the garage door to get the car out. How could I get to the doctor to see if there was a tarantula in my ear?!

At that moment John announced the power was out and sweetly said he could drive me to my appointment in his truck. This day was getting better and better … I hate riding in John’s truck. I’m sure it has no springs. And no, I do not drive him (it is a masculine machine—the only thing missing is male genitalia).

I arrived at the doctor’s, and in due time he came in to see me. He asked me a bunch of questions that I had already answered when his assistant asked them. As he took his otoscope in hand, I couldn’t help myself. I blurted out, “I hope it is not an insect.” I could see the ghost of a smile as I added, “Do you think I should get a COVID test?” John and I are both immunized, but …

“Based on what you have told me, no, I don’t think you need a COVID test.” He then proceeded to look in both ears. “Well, there are no insects,” he smiled. “Your ears look fine. Your eustachian tubes are probably blocked.” And then he gave me the choice of an array of over-the-counter decongestants I could use. 

Before he left the room, I had a fit of angst. “Well, I think maybe I should get a COVID test?”

“If you want one, we have the rapid-result test. Just 15 minutes, and you will know.”

He really is a kind and very patient man. He didn’t even roll his eyes.

“Okay, I think I will do it.”

He left, assuring me that the nurse would soon be in.

The door closed, and I started ruminating. What if it is positive? We will have to cancel our trip. But if I am positive, I could infect unvaccinated children. But everyone I have been around wears masks and social distances. How could I be positive? I don’t need this test. 

So I opened the door and hunted for a human. No one. “Hello, anyone around?” I said softly, wondering if I could just walk out.

And then my doctor looked out of his office doorway. 

“I don’t really think I need the COVID test,” I blurted.

“Okay, if you are sure,” he said mildly. “But it only takes 15 minutes, and here comes the nurse.”

The nurse had entered the hallway with a very long swab, a test tube, and a timer. I could feel my eyes widen.

“Well, if you really think so,” I said in a faint voice and awkwardly wrung my hands.

“Get it. It will give you peace of mind,” he said, smiling reassuringly while probably thinking I needed a mental health consult. 

And so I got the test … and it was negative. Hooray!

I went home and took the decongestant, which cleared up the crackling and made me very lethargic. John made dinner, which I truly appreciated because he is a great cook and I am truly tired of cooking. He grilled salmon and a mélange of broccoli, onion, and red pepper tossed in fresh herbs, chopped garlic, and olive oil. 

We sat down to eat, and after a few minutes he said, “These veggies taste bitter.” 

I never discourage John’s cooking, so I said, “They are delicious.” And they were—except for the broccoli. Unfortunately, he had used the broccoli that was nearly a month past its due date. But I gamely shoveled it in with a sense of foreboding. 

Later, I was chewing on some Tums as I got ready for bed, thinking about this day that began with putting my underpants on backward. Clearly that was an omen. I should have known it was going to be a really, really awkward day.

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