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.