Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Agony and the More Agony

Last week I started in on the six months of misery that is summer.

I suffer from allergies, have done since I was 17 and suffered a summer at the university of East Anglia in Norwich, England where the pollen count hit a record high ten times the national average, and stayed that way for several weeks. You looked outside and it was like a yellow blizzard. From that summer on I had the most terrible trouble with Hay Fever, though I'd never had a hint of it before.

When I first came to New York I had a couple of summers with no allergies at all, which I put down to the urban eden stamping out the agricultural blight for miles around and the air conditioning that filters everything except Legionair's Disease out of the air inside the buildings and pumps pollen-repelling hot air out of the exhaust. The Manhattan thermal on any given summer week day is a thing to behold and I remain convinced despite the lack of any scientific surveys to support me1 that it actually changes the weather. Each weekday rain in the summer months becomes a rare event, yet each weekend, when the offices are closed and the A/C powered down the rain rolls in. I digress.

Over the course of the years my allergies once again re-asserted themselves.

For the first twelve years I owned Chateau Stevie I had a post nasal drip and a throat so sore I nearly went mad. It only cleared up when we went on vacation and I becoame convinced we must have a toxic mould problem in the house.

Then Mrs Stevie's cat2 died, and I discovered that I was allergic to cats as well as pollen. Some cats, at least.

This had a somewhat amusing coda in that The MrsStevieDad bought a cat soon after ours died. He meant well. The Stevieling, upon whom he dotes, was missing our cat very badly but I was able to swallow without pain for the first time in years and wasn't going to go back to that place again on a bet. We went round to his house and within minutes of the new kitten rubbing my trouser leg I had eyes like E.T. and was hissing and wheezing like Darth Vader. I've never had such a strong reaction to anything in my life. I said that I was going to have to leave soon.

"What's wrong with him?" Said the MrsStevieDad to Mrs Stevie, talking past me in the third person and making it clear that his opinion of me3 hadn't mellowed over the two decades we'd known each other.

"He's allergic to cats" snifed Mrs Stevie, sending the subliminal message that she concured mostly with her father's opinion. "Apparently".

The stunned look that greeted this announcement made everything clear in an instant of clarifying clarity. The MrsStevieDad had been expecting us to leave his house with the new kitten. I could see the visible manifestations of a plan going nails-up bigtime on his face. It was good to be able to see what that looked like from the outside for once.

It turned out to be a lucky escape because this cat was Evil Made Manifest. It stripped off yards of embossed wallpaper that was irreplaceable and of which the MrsStevieMom was inordinately fond. It shredded furniture, drapes and humans. It would beg to be petted and bite you if you were stupid enough to fall for the ploy. It was not a Nice Cat. It bit the MrsStevieMom so badly she ended up in the emergency room of Good Samaritan Hospital.


After the first time I offered to "find a farm" for it to live on. After the second the MrsStevieDad did so, and peace returned to their home.

Anyway, the allergies were kicking in again and I was begining the trip into the place I go before I end up begging for an appointment with Doc Rubberglove to see if he can fit me with a working set of lungs and eyes. I don't just get itchy eyes and sneeze a lot. Well, I do get all that, but I also get what the doctor calls "cobblestones" under my eyelids. The skin under there apparently4 gets all knobbly and the lids start oozing a sticky pus that glues my eyes shut overnight. I also cough. A lot. And then my windpipe starts to close up. Apparently the allergies induce athsma, and I usually have to suck on Doc Rubberglove's Patent Electric Medicinal Vapour Bong for 15 minutes or so just so he can hear my reaction to his bill. It is all very tiresome.

This year I thought I would get a head start in the war against nature, and so I scheduled myself for an allergy shot on Saturday (yesterday). The only problem was that Doc Rubberglove doesn't do Saturday's any more, at least any of the Saturday's I've attempted to see him on. I was informed that Doc Rubberglove's partner in crime was on duty. This partner goes by a different name than "Rubberglove" but I happen to know that she is actually Doc Rubberglove's spouse. Since they would likely share many of the same interests, medically speaking, I generally reschedule under these conditions since having a lady squeeze my "trouser" parts or shove a latex gloved hand into the places I can't see without a cunning arrangement of mirrors has a context I prefer to keep firmly in the area of Mistress Alexa's House of Pain5, but in this case I couldn't see the harm.

The doctor, a disarmingly pleasant person with no trace of the maniacal gleam Doc Rubblerglove's eyes habitually show the world, chatted a bit, prescribed a nasal spray and gave me the shot, which I didn't feel at all. Not so much as a needle sting.

My hackles immediately rose. I did a quick survey - intra-muscular shot6, no immediate pain. This was definitely one of Doc Rubberglove's moves.

"Wow Doc", I said conversationally. "I didn't feel a thing. Is this like the cortisone shot where it hurts like heck in ten minutes, by any chance?"

"No, it doesn't hurt at all" she replied with a disarming smile, and sent me on my way.

I left the practice a little bemused at the lack of discomfort the entire proceding had inflicted. It was a first.

Then, as I was crossing the car park, someone rammed a white hot branding iron into my arm, and twisted it. I manfully bore the pain for about a quarter of a second then screamed for mercy. It did no good.

I staggered around the carpark smashing into cars, lamp-posts and passers-by, vision paling with the pain all the time begging for death, until the pain subsided enough for me to regain control of myself. I checked my watch. The doctor was right, the shot wasn't like the cortisone "ten minute delay" shot. It was more like five and the pain was orders of magnitude worse. Lesson learned there then.

Doc Rubberglove's technique is childish compared to his wife's fiendish and sophisticated methods.

  1. All the scientists being far too busy worrying about Pluto not being a planet and Lake Huron not being a "real lake", as if anyone who deals with the bloody thing on a daily basis cared
  2. He never admitted that I had any right to be in the house with Mrs Stevie, and would enact small deeds of terrorism at my expense on an almost daily schedule
  3. Which can be summed up as "Thick Dick Shirthead"
  4. I can't see it myself
  5. Offering executive correction for the delinquent businessman in discreet surroundings
  6. And yes I do still have them thank you very much, even if they are a trifle relaxed these days

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