Allergy Wiz

A while back, I wrote an article here on Bag Stranded about just how much I despised a few aspects of summer. I received requests from a few readers to expound upon my list of pet peeves of the hellish season. In a way, I would like to do that now. One of the things that I really hate about Summer is it ending. Not that I wax nostalgic for feeling akin to a pot roast in my oven of a home. But like a bounced party guest who swipes as many hors d’oeuvres as possible and eats them in spite as he leaves the house, the summer always finds a way to get one last jab at me before it makes its exit. It does this by infecting me with the dreaded late-summer allergies.

For many of you, I am sure that the approach of fall calls to mind all of the beauty of nature that fills up your senses like some sort of John Denver séance. If you are anything like me, and I pray to whatever pagan god you worship that you are not, the onslaught of autumn fills up your senses in quite a different way. The pollen grates at my eyes like buckshot into Uma Thurman’s chest. My ears are dulled by the throbbing, distant feeling resonating through my skull. My nose attempts in vain to contain the floodwaters of copious amounts of mucus. Food loses its taste. I feel nothing but remorse.

I have had to deal with allergies for most of my life. As a young boy growing up over by the railroad tracks in Ragtown, Utah, I was quite different from what you know me as today. I maintained a general sense of well being and satisfaction with the world around me, for one. I also loved to play outside during the summertime with no regard for the many dangers that would threaten me then or later in life. I would come inside after hours of intensive work on the Slip n’Slide and within hours would contract giant pustulous blisters on my shoulders the size and texture of over-ripened cantaloupe. These things were able to maintain their own pulse. The application of aloe vera simply made them angrier and prone to pulsating more rapidly. At times, I would have to feed them crickets to keep them happy.

Along with the impending prognosis of skin cancer, mother nature also decided to punish me for the damage I had done to her through such acts as putting two praying mantises in a glass jar together and awaiting the cannibalistic finale. I was to live out my days (or at least the early-spring, late-summer days) in writhing agony as my sinuses battled the tiniest of seedlings. Far from being welcoming and spacious, the Great Outdoors became more like a great harbinger of doom for me. Now, there is nothing that is scarier to me than a sprouted dandelion just ready to spread its noxious seed into my nasal cavity. I fear these things so much primarily because of two anomalies, among many others, that my body claims.

Two praying mantises, one jar.

The first is that when I sneeze, I can not stop the biological process. After the first sneeze comes the second. Then the third. With no more than 10 seconds between them, I rattle the sneezes off like incantations. It may seem trite, but I remember several instances where I filled up the bathroom garbage can with blood-soaked Kleenexes and convinced myself that I was in fact emptying all the fluid from my brain and would soon die. The only thing that willed me back to life was my refusal to have “Sneezed to death at age 14” immortalize me in an obituary. I have developed many methods for calming these spastic expulsions. The only one that has really worked, and which I still use to this day, involves plugging my nose at the bridge with just a little less force than it would take to break the bone, laying down flat on the floor, and breathing calmly through my mouth. Needless to say, this makes for kind of an odd first impression on a date or a job interview or a bank robbery hostage crisis.

The second anomaly that I bear is that (for those of you who are squeamish, you may skip to the next paragraph) when I sneeze, I always produce ample material of the mucus variety. Most people are able to give off their little sneezes as if they are blowing out a single candle on a birthday muffin, and with a petite “excuse me” they are off to their normal business. For me, if I sense that a sneeze is coming on, I not only begin to prostrate myself on the floor to stop the onslaught of a repetitive nasal attack, but I also have to quickly find a tissue, a spare t-shirt, or a fire bucket and prepare for the weaponized payload that it will surely deliver. And because my sinuses are roughly the size of barn silos, there is always quite a bit of the stuff to deal with. However, since I do not want to be too graphic (and I have saved this material for a movie script I have written aimed at Disney tweens called “Shamus McLamus and the Snot Sneezers) it will suffice me to say this: I have lost weight by sneezing. True story.

My condition was not helped by the fact that, as it is currently, while growing up one of my primary household chores was mowing the lawn. I enjoy mowing lawns, but in the same way that the albino in The Da Vinci Code kind of enjoys lashing himself with a whip. When I was younger especially, I imagined myself hosting my own show that would air on PBS Saturday mornings where I would expound all the mysteries of the artistry of lawn care; “The Lawn and Short Of It with Uncle Cameron”. I could get about half-way through my parents yard when the fits would happen and I found myself wondering how we would fill this dead time on-air. When I was older, I was commissioned to mow my aging grandfather’s pristine lawn which covered the same square footage as some counties in Texas. He watched me like I was sowing his plantation, and in the several intermissions that I had to take to return my body to stasis, he would only complain that the grass under where I had so hastily left the lawnmower was not getting enough sunlight. I’ve tried mowing the lawn with a mask, like a hired Asian landscaper who was afraid of catching a virus, but found that breathing was not a sacrifice I was willing to make in order to avoid a sneezing fit. And so, I mow and I sneeze to this day.

As I write these words, I have a tissue lodged up my nose to prevent any drainage on the newly acquired sores on the outside of my nostrils. I am also nursing a steady cough, chapped lips, and I am collecting the pollen in my eyes to create my own rakeable zen garden. My children, who are often the benefactors of my massively flawed genes, are sniffling their way through September as well. But, my situation could always be worse. I could have allergies and be a complete idiot like the man suffering in this amazingly well written story I came across. Or I could be flippant with allergies like the kid in this video who treats what I consider a serious condition as a mere challenge. Or I could be doomed like my friend who suffers from allergies so severely that he has to go to the hospital to receive weekly injections of poison into his bloodstream to counteract his allergic reactions. Even better, he once passed out while driving home from the hospital and trying to inject himself with the antidote to an overdose of the medical dose of poison. He must have killed a lot of praying mantises when he was younger. I guess I should consider myself lucky that my affliction is only seasonal and I can reserve my contempt exclusively for summer. You know, for an intangible period of time lasting roughly 4 months out of the year, Summer is a real dick. Good riddance Summer. I’ll see you next year.

At once my dream and my nightmare.


doug said...

My allergenic curse comes not from tormenting praying mantises, but from flushing hamsters down the toilet in my younger years. Karma sure has a long memory...

Kara said...

I hear ya!! I have been living on Zyrtec, along with all 3 of my children this summer, because like your kids got your allergy genes, my kids got mine. Ever had the allergy attack so bad that your eyes have swollen over? I'd love to hear your descriptions of something like that! ;P