The modern doctor’s office is no longer the spartan white sepulcher it used to be. Engaging illustrated health posters and whimsical mobiles enliven the space. One poster counseled men to ask young women on the street to smile. It could save their life if they’re having a stroke. Women, if a strange man asks you to smile, to raise your arms to hug him, or tries to start up a conversation, don’t ignore him! Go directly to the emergency room! These niceties made my doctor’s office a lovely place to sit and hold my hand to my throbbing right ear. I couldn’t help but remember Alice’s warning that if I couldn’t kill them all at once, the bacteria in my ear could resurge in an antibiotic resistant form. Two doctors had told me there was nothing to worry about, but that was before I was having trouble concentrating on anything but the pain.
Doctor #3, whose name I forget, but whom I’ll call Dr. Doom, had a different analysis. “You absolutely should be in terrible pain right now,” she said. She described the Lovecraftian nightmare that she had witnessed when she put her otoscope to my right ear but, after taking a moment to sit down and shake off the existential horror of it all, ended on a positive note. “We’re going to make it better.” A whirlwind treatment of Amoxicillin, Sudafed, Prednizone, and Ciprodex all together were going to beat this infection and restore me to aural health. In the meantime, I was not to come within five hundred feet of any body of water.
I told my triathlon team the bad news. “If I want to keep my ear,” the doctor had said “I gotta stay out of the pool.” They seemed understanding. One person accused me of making it up later, and I just handed him an otoscope. He should be out of the mental institution in a week or so.