I’m that Tired Guy sitting in front of a twenty-two inch screen on a Sunday evening with a yen to write something, anything. I’m that Tired Guy, the one who isn’t afraid to admit how young and gullible he was back in the day.
Here’s a funny memory.
It was the Fall of 1987 and Sixteen Year Old Me was a senior at Ashland High School. My uncle had invited me to go with him to watch the Patriots / Dolphins in Foxboro. I remember it was a very muggy September afternoon and we got drenched by multiple rainfalls sitting on the uncomfortable metal benches of good ole Sullivan Stadium.
I’m also pretty sure the Patriots lost.
They did a lot of that during those years.
After the game my uncle dropped water-logged Sixteen Year Old Me off at home probably thankful I was no longer dripping all over his leather seats. My mother and step father weren’t home and my brother Doug was now a freshman living at Bentley College. This meant I had to take our family yellow lab / german shepherd mix Gibson Erhardt von Krastog (or Gibby, for short) out for a walk.
Off we careened down Sunset Road, skinny Sixteen Year Old Me clinging to the leash while Gibby dragged me up the hill and down the hill.
(Oh and for the record Sixteen Year Old Me was probably 110 pounds soaking wet. But I digress.)
Finally he found a good spot to do his business. Normally I’d yank on the leash and he’d resist a bit before allowing me to steer him home, but this time he had found something interesting on the ground and was gleefully ignoring my insistent tugging. He snuffled around for a bit, digging with his front paws and scattering dirt and fallen leaves all about.
Just as I approached he leaped away as an angry swarm of yellow jackets burst upwards from the hole he had dug.
Moments later Sixteen Year Old Me felt a burning sensation on my behind and immediately burst into motion.
That’s right folks, Sixteen Year Old Me got stung in the but-tocks.
I’m not afraid to say Sixteen Year Old Me ran like a girl. Heck, I know some girls who were a helluva lot faster than me back in the day. In fact, they’re probably still faster than me. And smarter too, but that’s a tale for another time.
Off we ran up the hill and down the hill until we reached home. I flung off Gibby’s leash, gave him a dog biscuit and then in set mind-numbing panic.
You see, my mother was allergic to bee stings. She once stepped on a dead bee (or hornet, I don’t recall which) and had to be taken to Framingham Union Hospital.
And Sixteen Year Old Me honestly wasn’t sure if I was allergic too.
Unfortunately no one was home so my fear grew exponentially (even though at the time I didn’t exhibit any signs of having an allergic reaction). When we panic it’s quite easy to forget our rational side and give in to that little boy or girl hiding deep inside all of us.
And if you’ve ever listened to my wife you’d know I can be a drama queen.
So Sixteen Year Old Me did the only thing I could think of at the time.
I called my friend Alyssa.
Y’see Alyssa worked at a hospital (or medical center, I don’t remember which) and Sixteen Year Old Me figured she’d know about this kind of thing. She was smart, she wanted to be a nurse, and well Sixteen Year Old Me didn’t have many options at the time.
The following is a vague and error-filled recreation from the dregs of my Tired Guy Memory ™ of that fateful phone conversation which would forever shape my understanding of the scary world in which we live:
“Ummm…hi…Alyssa? Are you…ummm…busy? Oh, yeah, how are you?”
Yeah, I was THAT suave. Just a great conversationalist.
Still am. Just ask the wife.
“Hi Peter. Are you ok?”
She had this quiet, calm voice. Perfect for a nurse (even if she hadn’t graduated high school yet, so I was feeling pretty good).
“Ummm…yeah…well I need your help. I got stung by a bee and I don’t know if I’m allergic.”
I could sense my time was running out. The burning was AWFUL. And there was PAIN too. And ITCHING.
Oh and did I mention the Awful Melodramatic Impending Sense of Doom ™ that flew all over my frazzled thoughts like a swarm of bees that had been unearthed by a curious dog on a muggy September day.
You get the idea.
“That’s not good.”
No, no it wasn’t.
Didn’t she realize the ENORMITY of this situation? But then I recalled she was a nurse (or rather someone who worked at a hospital or medical center…I really don’t remember) and that meant she had to remain calm even during the worst emergencies.
And clearly my phone call was one of those Code Reds or Blues or whatever they’re called.
I needed help.
Good comeback by me. Remember, suave.
Nice leading question. Like I said, she was smart.
“Oh yeah, umm…so what do I do now?”
There had been a slight pause, and Sixteen Year Old Me knew Alyssa was poring over the dozens of medical texts at her immediate disposal. Because everyone knew nurses sat next to all manner of Useful Medical Stuff so they could read them during the rare down times in between emergencies.
“It’ll be ok Peter,” Alyssa had instructed. She had been so calm, professional. “You need to find meat tenderizer. It will help with the swelling.”
Sixteen Year Old Me paused.
“Meat tenderizer? You mean like the thing you use to smack meat to flatten it?”
Sixteen Year Old Me was dubious.
“Yes, that’s right. Meat tenderizer.”
She had said it so deadpan that Sixteen Year Old Me took it for the gospel it surely was.
“Ummm…ok…let me look for it.”
Sixteen Year Old Me had desperately ransacked one of the drawers that held all manner of cooking implements, from pokers and things with pointy ends, to spoons and stirring thingies that were used to, well, stir stuff.
Finally I had found the object of my search – a gleaming metal mallet with a square furrowed head to evenly distribute the tenderizing. Relief washed over Sixteen Year Old Me like a man lost in the desert who miraculously discovers a lush oasis.
“Found it! So you want me to use this on the bee sting?”
“And I’m supposed to hit the bee sting with this thing?”
Sixteen Year Old Me stared at the metal mallet clutched in a white-knuckled fist.
Oh she had been so calm!
“Well ok then, here goes.”
And so Sixteen Year Old Me pulled down my pants and struck my ass several times with that metal mallet.
Needless to say, it didn’t work but the bee sting certainly hurt a helluva lot worse than before.
And that’s when light dawned on Sixteen Year Old Me.
Well that, and the soft laughter on the other end of the phone.
“I can’t believe you told me to smack my ass with a meat tenderizer!”
“You meant the powder, didn’t you.”
Even more laughter.
“I guess I’m not allergic to bee stings after all.”
“Are you going to be ok Peter?”
“Yeah, I’ll live. See you tomorrow at school.”
A stifled giggle.
“Oh Alyssa, do me a favor and don’t tell anyone about this ok?”
I still don’t think “mortified” is a strong enough word for how Sixteen Year Old Me felt on that fateful day.
“Sure Peter. I’m glad you’re ok. See you tomorrow.”
Sixteen Year Old Me hung up the phone and then gathered up my wits, my pants and my dignity.
Nothing ever came of that bee sting.
To be fair I haven’t been stung by a bee since (thank goodness).
But if I ever do, Thirty-Nine Year Old Me knows exactly where that powder is in the pantry.
As for the other so-called remedy, let’s just say I’d prefer to leave that tender moment alone.