One of my crosses to bear is hay fever, an allergic reaction to pollen that emerges in the early-summer and crescendos to the point where I am a runny-nosed, puffy-eyed mess — unable to conduct the most basic of enterprises without dragging a snotted handkerchief across my chafed-red schnoz.
During a hay fever episode, sneezes, which in moderation can be semi-orgasmic little pleasures, attack mid-sentence in rapid-fire succession and render me unintelligible, moderately epileptic and freakishly amusing.
Sometimes these sneezing fits are accompanied by an odd itching sensation in my inner ear, which in-and-of itself is only mildly annoying but becomes psychological torment due to my inability to scratch that particular body part.
But the hay fever symptom that trumps all-comers is the itchy eyes.
I start to feel them in the corners — those little crevices closest to the nose where little crusties gathers after a night of REM. This is treatable by taking a wetted middle finger and carefully dabbing it against the affected region. But this initial stage is followed by an escalating series of subsequent stages in which the entire eye becomes enflamed with itch: a mosquito bite multiplied by 10.
At this point a simple middle finger dabbing is all but useless. Instead, relief must be sought by folding my hands into fists and rubbing my eyes aggressively in that exaggerated, semi-circular manner made famous by tantruming toddlers.
Following an afternoon of such allergy treatment, reddish-raw rashes engulf my eyes and the bags underneath rudely protrude from my face.
Meanwhile, my lids lose almost all their ability to open, allowing me only small, weepy slivers from which to view the world.
A question springs to mind: doesn’t a basic drug store carry a variety of medications that deal effectively with the litany of above-mentioned symptoms? Yes.
Take your pick; they all work. But there are a few things about me you should know.
First, I am disorganized and forgetful to an extent that I often fail to act effectively in my own self-interest. I will zip downtown for the sole purpose of raiding the Shoppers Drug Mart allergy shelf, but after grabbing a coffee and running into a couple of friends I will return home having completely failed in my original mission.
Second, I’m enamored with the idea of the gallant sufferer.
One summer 10 years ago, I was in the habit of picking “ditch flowers” for a pretty girl I worked with. I would head to the shoulder of the Alaska Highway and return with a handful of dandelions and fireweed. It was a practice that subjected me to the very pollen that caused my suffering in the first place. But in my (misguided?) mind this self-inflicted distress increased the chivalry of the whole project.
To this day the ditch flower recipient still does a killer impression of me handing her a bouquet in the midst of a sneezing fit.
My hay fever may not be appetizing, but at least it leaves a decade-long impression.