Because I am 75 years old and we are sitting around the dinner table, I am going to tell you about my recent health problems.
The eye situation arose first. The doctor said it was conjunctivitis, commonly known as “pinkeye,” which is a term I usually associate with children whose families live in trailers. (Also: “ringworm.”) It knocked me down a peg to discover I had it, and I had to re-examine some of my closely held generalizations, though I could not examine them very closely, what with the pinkeye and all.
The pinkeye should have gone away within 10 days, but it persisted, and a new symptom was suddenly introduced one day: extreme sensitivity to light. Ordinary sunlight was so bright, I could not keep my eyes open, which made driving very, very exciting. (Something for Utah drivers to think about: Even in my blinded state, I still managed to use my turn signal.) (Though occasionally what I was turning toward was an open trench or a store window.)
Unable to go out in the light, I wondered if I was becoming a zombie or vampire. Also, since every ailment I have causes me to believe I am dying — I never get a headache without thinking I might have brain cancer, and I’m not joking about that — I wondered if I was going blind. It caused a good deal of introspection on my part, and my conclusion was that I would be the grumpiest blind person ever. I wouldn’t even learn Braille. I would just make people read to me. I would be a total jerk, like this blind kid named Jason who was in my first grade class. He was nice enough, as long as you were catering to his every whim and giving him 100 percent special treatment because he was blind. Otherwise, he would throw tantrums and scream a lot. One time in class we were learning about worms, and the teacher said that worms don’t have eyes; instead, they feel their way around with their heads. And this girl named Melissa who I had a huge crush on said, “Just like Jason!” And everyone laughed, and Jason cried this big, fake cry, like he wasn’t even particularly offended by the joke, but he figured if he cried he’d get some special attention from the teacher. In my current line of work, I encounter a lot of people who go around looking for reasons to be offended, and they always remind me of Jason the Blind Crybaby from first grade.
Anyway, half-blind and doddering, I went back to the doctor, and he decided it must be “allergic conjunctivitis,” or pinkeye caused not by trailer people, but by allergies. The only known allergies I have are cats and algebra, and I’ve successfully avoided both for a long time, so what caused the allergic conjunctivitis was a mystery. Nonetheless, the doctor prescribed some drops that did wonders for alleviating the pinkeye symptoms, but which also made my vision blurry. So I could go outside without squinting, but everything I saw was fuzzy. I considered this an improvement, especially when I had to watch “Knockaround Guys.”
The next day, my ear began hurting, and fluids I shan’t describe began issuing from it. One night the ear throbbed as I tried to sleep, and it throbbed in such a rhythmic fashion that I wondered if I had killed an old man and buried him beneath the floorboards and was now feeling guilty about it. Except that beneath my floorboards is another condo unit, and surely the residents there would have noticed if I’d dropped an old man’s body into their living room.
So it was back to the doctor, who looked in my ear and said, “Huh. Wow. Huh. Wow.” I felt satisfaction at having impressed the doctor. It was an ear infection, we decided — which, coupled with the pinkeye, meant all I needed was chicken pox to complete the Diseases of 3-Year-Olds Trifecta.
After a lot of eye drops, ear drops and mouth pills, my senses were restored to their original functionality. Now I can relax, spend time with my grandchildren, and enjoy my golden years.
It would have been awkward and irrelevant to mention this in the column, but each of my doctor visits was actually to a different doctor, simply because each one was spur-of-the-moment and my regular doctor was not available. One of the doctors was named Otto Dickman, which I think you'll agree is a fantastic name.