In the course of my life, I have dealt with horrible allergies. Dust, mold…moth antenna. Nothing can cause congestion and an all over malaise quite like severe allergies.
Back in college, I had a particularly severe attack from something I wasn’t even aware of. This happened when I was living in Austin…a beautiful city nestled in the Texas Hill Country and surrounded by cedar trees.
I’d lived in Austin for three January’s prior to that and never had a problem. It took three years for me to sensitize to the point that when cedars had sex, I got sick.
Cedar Fever, as it’s called, is horrible. You feel like hell and you’re so congested that you swear someone shoved a cork up each nostril. Nothing and I mean nothing over the counter anyway, can clear the sinuses during a severe allergy attack. You pray to gods you don’t even believe in just to feel better.
I used to fantasize about a hunky Roto-Rooter guy going into the each nostril with an auger and just goin’ to town up there. But not even that would work. Cedar Fever has to be treated from the inside out. And you have to do it with steroids.
You’ll breathe better but you’ll do so in between growing down-like body hair, uttering mono-syllabic grunts and eating haggas and roadkill while lifting a city bus with your left hand. Gotta love them steroids.
Speaking of, I hear Mark McGwire now has a vagina.
Since I never had allergy issues before, I didn’t have an allergist and needed to find one. And I did. His office was relatively close, so I called. His receptionist told me that there was an opening that very afternoon and it was mine if I wanted it.
I arrived at Dr. R’s office with a few minutes to spare. Interesting place. There was a portrait of a clown on one wall; a clock on the other and it’s numbers were all confused.
There was a collection of vintage Mad magazines covers that were framed. Eight total.
What? Me worry? I probably should’ve been.
There were joke books on the coffee table. I grew even more leary. This was apparently a doctor with one incredibly jejune bedside manner.
After a few minutes, the nurse appeared in the doorway and called my name, then took me back to an examining room. I sat down and look around me. I saw pictures of the internal workings of the human nose.
Just as I was about to get into the wonders of the olfactory system, in walked Dr. R. He said nothing–just stood there in the doorway with a red clown nose perched atop his.
I stared back at him and wondered where in God’s name did this man get his MD???? At the Emmett Kelly School of Medicine???????
“See, you’re not the only one around here with a red nose!!!” He was shouting. Loudly. I started to wince.
”Hello Miss Kendrick. I hear you’re under the weather. Allergies, huh?”.
“Yes, I just feel awful. I’m incredibly congested and was hoping you could help me. I appreciate that you allowed me to come into see you on such short notice”.
“Oh sure….that’s “snot” a problem”. He laughs as he removes his clown nose.
This was going to be a looooooooooooooooooooong doctor’s visit.
“When did you start noticing your symptoms?”
“I started getting congested yesterday and haven’t been able to breathe through my nose since then. Then yesterday afternoon, I started feeling, well, kind of fuzzy, dizzy and out of sorts”.
“Well, we’ll fix you up. Sounds like the cedars are giving you some trouble, but we’ll run a few tests to be sure. Say, did you hear the one about the cannibal who was late for dinner?” He stared at me, waiting for aresponse. I felt obligated.
“No, I haven’t heard that one.”
”His friends gave him the cold shoulder! Get it?” He laughs as taps me lightly on the arm with the back of his hand, for comedic emphasis, I guess.
My God, this man is a human Ned Flanders! I look around the room for something, anything sharp.
I give the best smirk I can muster and the examination begins.
“You’re a student here at the the University?”, he asks as he feels around for swollen lymph nodes on my neck.
“I’m a Senior majoring in Journalism.”
“Really? That’s a great area of study for women. I tried convincing my niece to go into that after high school. But she said college wasn’t for her. She’s a tiny little thing–stands less than five feet tall. She insisted on going into the Navy. I guess at her height, that would make her a “microwave”.
Again, he paused and looked at me motionless; mouth and eyes wide open, waiting for a reaction.
I smiled and nod. “You’re a funny doc, aren’t you?”
The word I was actually thinking of rhymed with doc.
“Well, I learned in med school that humor can take some of the anxiety out of a doctor’s visit. You know us white coats can be a little intimidating”.
Not to mention corny.
“I suppose humor can help”, I said.
I guess his heart was in the right place, but I wasn’t in the mood for the kind of comedy you’d find in the back of a Highlights magazine. I didn’t feel good and I was getting tired of his shtick. All I wanted was to be given a pill or a shot of something. His stupid jokes were only making me feel worse. Carrot Top was funnier.
So was Tetanus.
“Yeah, I love comedy”, he announced as he fumbled around in a drawer. “I’m always the hit of every party”.
The Communist Party….
“I’ve also done some stand up. If I wasn’t a doctor, I’d be a comic full time.”
“Well, right now I’m glad you’re an Allergist”.
He was looking right into my eyes now. “Hey….what’s the national tree of Poland?”
Was he REALLY resorting to Polish jokes???????
“I don’t know. What IS the national tree of Poland?”
He laughed, I sighed.
“Look Dr. R, I really appreciate your attempts at making me laugh, but to be honest, I feel like hell. So unless your next joke includes at least 10-cc’s of some sort of decongestant, please keep the jokes to yourself?”
Wow. That sounded harsh. Not my intention.
“Yes, of course. My apologies”. A dejected Dr. R reached for his stethoscope. I got the feeling his examination room comedy had always “killed”. This must’ve been the first time he’d ever bombed.
I’m Catholic with a Jewish rising, so I started to feel guilty. How do I—in my allergy induced misery—diffuse this situation?
“Allright then, let’s listen to your lungs”. He raised the stethoscope to my chest. He seemed embarassed. All he was trying to do was make me feel better. Sure, his jokes were lame and corny, but he seemed like a genuinely nice guy. I had to do something.
“Ok now, Miss Kendrick…nice, big breaths”.
To which I replied, “Thanks. I’m a C-cup”.
Dr. R remained my Allergist until he retired in 1998.