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Earigation

There is this store in Tulsa called the Warren Clinic where I go whenever I get the urge to have someone squirt large quantities of water into my ears. This occurs at regular twenty-five year intervals, beginning with the first episode in 1988 and continuing with the more recent one of 2013. I went ahead and scheduled an appointment for 2038, at which point I will be 72 and in need of a good earful of water.

What brought the first installment on was the supposed need for an asthma prescription, as indicated by Dr. Mom. I had been going through a bout of asthma due to some excess of laughing or something and had found that the over-the-counter stuff I was taking was causing my heart to race. Having barely survived a few years of high school athletics, I find racing to be against my general grain, so I went in search, at my mother's encouragement, of a non-racing formula.

Since having regular sessions with a doctor is in opposition to my policy - much like racing but falling under a different heading - I elected to go to this Warren Clinic where they would take a stranger off the street and presumably deal with the problem at hand and not feel the need to hammer on my knees and poke me full of unnecessary holes in an attempt to ward off tuberculosis. However, this fellow started off the session by jamming the little pointy lightbulb into my ears and concluded right away that they were harboring an excess of wax.

"Ah! This is going to be fun!" I could see him say by the expression in his eyes and the brisk rubbing together of his hands. Digging around in the little drawer, the man pulled out several plastic, but dangerous-looking devices of dubious intention, such as are common in these types of joints, and proceeded to fill one of them up with ice water. Numerous paper towels were draped over my shoulder and a small plastic bucket was handed over to me to be held beneath the ear. Apparently the nurses or surgical assistants were all busy, and he perceived me to be cheap labor.

What ensued was one of the fondest memories of my life. The doctor proceeded to squirt about three pints of ice water into my ear out of this monstrosity-sized syringe thing. Water played upon my poor eardrum as if possessed by the spirit of the late Keith Moon. Water sloshed around violently inside my ear canal desperately seeking a weak spot through which it could tear a hole and escape. Water ran down my neck, soaking the paper towels, my shirt, and inappropriately chosen sections of my jeans. Nothing much landed in the bucket until he shut down the aquatic portion of the program and began digging around inside my ear with a sharp dental tool. This produced some fairly sizable globs of stuff that we need not discuss in detail that he made sure to hold up in front of my face for my edification. Upon completion of this ordeal, which seemed to last fifteen or twenty minutes and repeat five or six times, he concluded that the right ear was sufficiently cleansed, and the whole process began again for the left.

Prior to this earigation procedure, I had been questioned at length in order for him to determine the cause of my malady. Learning that I was a recording engineer, he immediately seized upon the idea that I probably wear earphones all day long, and that this must surely be the cause. Although I assured him that I rarely wore earphones at work, and that when I did they were the large over-the-ear models that could not possibly impede the flow of wax, he persisted in believing that he had penetrated the depths of the mystery and was quite satisfied. He had already dismissed the Q-Tip possibility after I informed him that in addition to never having put a Q-Tip in my ear in my life, I had been ardently warned by my college audiology professor not to do so.

Eventually the conversation swung from Q-Tips and earphones (and topics I missed due to the sound of niagara falls being so prominently experienced) to asthma. After being handed an illegible prescription for an inhaler, the doctor launched into an exhaustive demonstration of the proper use of the thing, and I spent the next twenty minutes engaged in violent exercise, finally proving to him that I had mastered the technique, which, according to this physician, required about ten square feet of floor space, a chair or bench, and room height sufficient to rule out the possibility of ever recovering from a fatal asthma attack inside an automobile, regardless of the number of inhalers on hand.

Perhaps due to immaculate ear canals or the sobering of the experience, my asthma issues trailed off immediately afterwards, and I never once used the inhaler prescription. But my ears were clean, and everything sounded especially digital for about three or four days until my brain made adjustments.

Twenty-five years elapsed, and the continued use of earphones, amounting to maybe two hours per month, caused the dreaded substance to pile up again in my right ear. Somehow the left remained a paragon of spotless virtue, throwing suspicion on the earphone theory once more. But it was not ear wax or asthma that cajoled me back into the Warren Clinic this time, but an inner-ear type of high pressure phenomenon that was giving me headaches and causing everything to sound out of polarity.

I sat down at the desk and filled out the forms while a lady on the other side fiddled with a computer. After studying my driver's license and inserting my data into the system, she asked me if I still lived at 5019 S. Toledo. I told her it was 5050 S. Toledo, and as I pondered this mix up I realized that twenty-five years ago I had lived at the same apartment complex, although I have lived at nine different addresses in four cities during the interval.

After enduring a mercifully short duration of sitting in the waiting room where two TV's tuned to different channels were audibly competing for my attention, I was ushered into the little room to wait for the doctor in comparable silence and comfort. She arrived shortly and pulled out the little pointy lightbulb after hearing my complaints. Now I must say that this woman, though of a size and build giving her the means to inflict considerable pain upon a person, exercised the most grave caution imaginable when inserting the pointy lightbulb device into my ears. Most doctors shove it in, after refrigerating it first for twenty-four hours, with such force that any ear that is not already suffering from a build-up of wax will shortly begin doing so. Her technique, however, was of the highest caliber and did credit to her feminine mystique.

The initial diagnosis was fluid in the left ear - no doubt the culprit - and a build-up of ear wax in the right ear which prevented her from seeing further into the depths. Therefore a nurse was promptly ordered in to earigate the right side. The particular promptness of this phase of the visit allowed me about twenty minutes to steel myself for what lay ahead, and it was not a pleasant task, so I distracted myself by sitting in the chair reserved for mothers of the patient and read a book about the invasion of Normandy.

The nurse finally came in and ordered me to lie down so that my right ear was facing up. I proceeded to lie down on my right side, only to discover that this would make her job more difficult, so I rolled over and attempted to get comfortable on the four-foot long table. I was next informed that she was going to pour a cup of hydrogen peroxide, which I am pretty certain is an ingredient in the manufacture of bombs, into my ear. She mentioned that it might feel cold, which was a subtle way of saying that she had just retrieved it from the refrigerator, and she also overlooked the fact that, even though I am a male, I do know the difference between a cup and a quart. She then said some more things which I did not understand on account of having one ear against the pillow and the other full of liquid bomb ingredients, handed me a paper towel, and left the room. Shortly thereafter the sensation of a mole burrowing through the topsoil and making his way into a void beneath the surface began playing out inside my ear canal. Either I had forgotten this phase of the procedure twenty-five years ago, or it was a new medical breakthrough of the twenty-first century. Certainly the suggestion of breakthrough was prominent on my mind as I lay there feeling like a quart of a volatile organic compound was slowly gurgling its way into my brain.

Some ten minutes later the nurse returned and instructed me to sit up followed by a hasty warning to use the paper towel to prevent my shirt being soaked. She handed me the bucket with the familiar instructions. The giant plastic syringe came out, and although the use of warm water had been introduced into the modern practice, the insistence on forceful injection into the chamber remained in effect. The digging with a sharp dental implement remained unchanged. In short (because it only took a few rounds of treatment this time), she managed to extract an impossible amount of sludge from my ear, making me wonder if these folks do not in reality moonlight as magicians who go around pulling silver dollars and rabbits out of people's ears. She showed it to me in due course, muttered something about wearing earphones, and pronounced the operation done. Remarkably, my shirt was bone-dry, and I cast my mind back to the previous experience and made mention of it to her. I told her the doctor himself had performed the surgery, and she replied that yes, Doctor So and So still does, he is the only one who does it himself, and yes, he still works here, and then she left the room.

I returned to Rommel and Hitler and breathed a sigh of relief that the worst was over. When the doctor returned and had a fresh look inside, she determined that, in spite of the recent presence of niagara falls in my right ear, it was currently free of unwanted fluids. She prescribed a steroid, so that I would be better able to win the Olympics, and referred me to an ear, nose, and throat specialist who would be better able to diagnose actual problems of the ear, now that the Warren Clinic had completed their primary mission of removing the wax.

3/30/13

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