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I've been itching to tell this story


Since I mentioned having poison ivy in a couple of columns late last fall, several people have asked me, “How did you get it that time of year, Mark?”

The short answer is: Your guess is as good as mine.

However, the short answer won’t fill a column, and if I don’t fill a column I don’t get paid, and if I don’t get paid I can’t afford the medicine that kept the itching from getting so bad that I wanted to throw myself under a hay rake. So you see my dilemma.

I was awakened one morning in a most unpleasant way – by severe itching. I jumped out of the bed, yelling something that sounded like “Yeauuugghhh!!!!” and looked down at my body, something I try never to do. Especially first thing in the morning.

I found two spots that looked like a very small bug had crawled up my lower chest, biting as it went; two small, identical lines of tiny bites. Apparently the phrase “don’t let the bedbugs bite” is there for a reason. It didn’t occur to me until later that the two spots were exactly identical, as if my body had come into contact with the same contaminated spot, twice.

The bug concept made sense, because my waterbed is heated, but I hadn’t yet turned on the furnace in my house. That made my bed the only warm spot in the place, and if I was a bug I’d make a beeline (pardon the pun) to the same place.

Well, I went a little nuts with the bug thing, because I somehow got fleas in my house only a couple of months earlier and had a heck of a time getting rid of them. Once bitten twice shy, you might say. So I took out a loan and bought Dollar General’s complete supply of bug killing products, which I then proceeded to dump into my bedroom all at once.

Did you know wood can actually melt under certain chemical combinations? Neither did I.

After the hazardous material team finished decontaminating the place, I washed every bit of cloth within fifty feet of my bed. Lucky I took that loan out, huh? Dollar General has a nice collection of laundry soap. I did send the town water supply into a crisis, but they managed to fire up a couple of pumps and refill the tower.

So, everything was clean. The next day I woke up itching from abdomen to neck. By evening, it was on my face and arms. The next morning, it had erupted on my hands. It was moving faster than a politician on a campaign swing. It was then that I recognized it for what it was, because I’ve had poison ivy on my hands several times before.

By then it was Friday morning, and I was following my normal procedure for dealing with a serious problem: ignoring it in the hopes it would go away. My mother told me in no uncertain terms that I should go to the doctor, but I decided to just tough it out, as I have before. The problem is, “before” involved just my hands, not half my body.

A guy should listen to his mom.

Especially just before a weekend. When his doctor’s not available.

Meanwhile, my daughter works at a pharmacy, and gave me the best thing they have for poison ivy. I sprayed it all over my body and rubbed some on my lips, which had also started breaking out. In a classic example of delayed effect, it wasn’t until after completely coating myself that the severe burning kicked in. It turns out this stuff is made of pure acid, and removes the problem by removing the skin. I remember looking into the mirror as it bubbled off the first layer and saying, “Yeauuugghhh!!!!”

This is something I said a lot more of in the coming week.

Finally I got to the doctor, who informed me I had contact dermatitis. Okay. He thought it might be contact with something besides poison ivy, such as mildew on clothing, but I know poison ivy when I scratch it. Except for one problem, which brings us back to the point: How did I get it?

Well, about a week before my breakout we had a cold snap, and I pulled my insulated underwear out of the closet. Foolishly, I put them on without washing them first. After all, I knew where my closet had been. But the poison ivy on my body was in the perfect place to be explained by contact with a contaminated long sleeve undershirt, with my face and hands explained by contact while I was pulling it on. Problem solved, right? Contaminated long johns!

Just one problem. Well, okay, another problem. How the heck did it get on my long sleeve underwear? This is not something I wear outside while clearing brush. And even if it was, why didn’t I break out last fall?

There’s just one answer: Sabotage. Someone broke into my house in the dead of night, sneaked into my bedroom, and sprayed poison ivy juice all over my clothes! Yeah, that’s it. It’s probably someone I’ve criticized in my writing, such as the state legislature, or a trial lawyer. No, it couldn’t be the legislature; they wouldn’t all fit into my bedroom.

You know who you are, fella! I expect adequate compensation for all that bug spray, and the detergent, and the melted nightstand, or I’ll sue; if you’re a lawyer, I’ll sic one of you on you.

Oh, and take care of that water bill.


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 31st, 2005 09:46 pm (UTC)
Oh, it's all over and done with, except for a few faded blotches here and there. In fact, I wrote that column before my Christmas column, but didn't get it in right away because the holidays interferred. I do have the memories, though. :-(

Never had head lice. Ick. Now I'll be itching just thinking about it.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 1st, 2006 08:29 am (UTC)
Happy New Year back!
I missed the ball dropping; at 2 minutes 'till midnight I took a 911 call when three people got knifed at a party, and we dealt with the results of that for another two hours.
It's going to be a long year. :-(
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 3rd, 2006 02:27 am (UTC)
I'd estimate that about half of all dispatchers end up burning out and quitting early, or going on some kind of medication. Or they're just crazy to start with. Me, I've been doing this for fifteen years, so I must be in the crazy category ...
Which explains why I'm trying to make enough money writing to give up my full time job. Now, that's crazy.
Dec. 31st, 2005 04:04 pm (UTC)

May 2006 bring you antihistamines.

two small, identical lines of tiny bites
Maybe it's your seam? :)
Dec. 31st, 2005 09:51 pm (UTC)
I don't think so -- it first started right on the front of my lower chest, and the lines went kind of at an angle. It was almost as if the whole shirt got splashed with something, and even though it acted exactly like poison ivy, I'm still not sure there wasn't some other explanation. I can tell you that everything in that closet got washed twice, though.

I can't take antihistamines -- unless I'm planning to go right to sleep for several hours. :-(
Dec. 31st, 2005 08:00 pm (UTC)
You still itching? Poor Mark.

i can relate to the chemical treatment of beds - when I was little if we picked fleas up from the farms we went to regularly my mother would spread Cooper's Louse Powder between the sheets and blankets. It was like being under chemical attack - and that was me, not the fleas - although it seemed to be pretty effective as I remember!
Dec. 31st, 2005 09:56 pm (UTC)
When we got fleas, in addition to dusting the whole house with flea powder and washing everything, I fogged the entire house, and kept spraying my own self down with that bug spray that you're not supposed to spray on yourself. Anything to make them go away ...
Do you ever wonder how much our lives have been cut short by all the crap we voluntarily come into contact with? (I said, while sipping a Mountain Dew.)
Dec. 31st, 2005 11:17 pm (UTC)
As long as they're just cat fleas we just flea comb the cat thoroughly, get him a new flea collar, and give the carpets a really good vacuuming!

When we first got a Dyson we were suffering from cat fleas - and the first time we used it on the living room floor about ten minutes afterwards I glanced at the dust container (clear in a Dyson) and it was like a bloody flea circus! I was very glad there was no-one but us in the house! But it still, seven or eight years later, clears any fleas out of the carpet in one clean, so we don't have much trouble with them!

and that is probably TMI!
Dec. 31st, 2005 11:24 pm (UTC)
I have no cats, and thus no excuse for how the fleas got in here to begin with. I suspect my daughter brought them from her best friend's house: they have two cats and two dogs (and four kids). Talk about a circus!
Dec. 31st, 2005 09:57 pm (UTC)
Wow! I hate when sabotagers break into the house
Dec. 31st, 2005 10:38 pm (UTC)
yeah, and it seems to happen all the time. Sometimes they take one of each pair of socks, sometimes they leave coat hangers, and sometimes they move my glasses ... it's really annoying.
Jan. 3rd, 2006 11:26 pm (UTC)
Never had poison ivy, but over the past few years, my hands have broken out in itchy, rashy patches during times of stress (they've been a couple highly stressful years!). I'm imagining this over torso, arms, and face and sending much sympathy!
Jan. 4th, 2006 02:00 am (UTC)
I've had some stressful times too, but haven't had that reaction (yet). When I get stressed out, I want to sleep or eat. Of course, when I'm not stressed I want to eat or sleep too, so maybe that's not a good comparison. :-)
Truthfully, I don't react much at all when I'm highly stressed, which helps explained why I'm highly stressed most of the time. If I'd just yell, cry, or kick the wall every now and then, I'd probably feel a lot better.
Jan. 14th, 2007 11:31 pm (UTC)
ouch!!! that sounds very painful

thank goodness we don't have such things here, even if I have the luck to live several miles aways from the big cities and surrounded by forrest - it's more probable to meet a (suicidal) deer or even a wild pig than poisonous plants. Granted, the tick make me think twice about wandering through bushes (and suddenly the ticks appear less annoying and dangerous *g*), but at least they aren't contaminated here.

I had cats my whole life and only twice a problem with fleas, *both* times my poor cats got them from people!!!

Jan. 15th, 2007 02:24 am (UTC)
It wasn't pleasant!

The last case of fleas I got in my house was about two years ago, and I had a devil of a time getting rid of them. To this day I have no idea how they got in -- I haven't had a cat since I was married. At least with poison ivy you generally don't have to worry about how to kill it all off before it makes you itch again.
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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