Last night, Meelyn, Aisling and I were eating some frozen pizza. Since our stomachs are made out of gen-yew-wine cast iron, we were sprinkling our slices with generous amounts of crushed red pepper, which is the condiment of the gods. We eat it on everthing except bananas.
The three of us were being very indolent and watching our good friend, Suzanne Wong, on a really premium episode of HGTV's House Hunters, a show in which we neither were irritated by the home viewers' incessant and unreasonable demands for perfection ("I don't like that blue paint at all.") nor shocked by 1,300 square foot houses that were on the market for $295,000.
Everything was going swimmingly both for the house viewers and us, when all of a sudden, Aisling started blowing her nose, again and again.
"Are you okay?" I asked.
"No," she said, her voice muffled by the paper napkin she was using as a hanky. She blew her nose with vigor and then examined the contents of the napkin. "Oh, look, there it is." She held out the napkin to show me whatever "it" was.
"No thanks!" I said, backing away with haste.
"It's the red pepper," she explained.
"Yes, the red pepper I got up my nose when I was eating my pizza."
"Aisling, how on earth..."
"I don't know," she interrupted, her eyes beginning to stream with tears. "I thought it would be okay if I just got it out of my nose, but it still burns."
Nonplussed -- and Aisling seems to have me in an increasing state of nonplussedness as time goes on -- I looked at her, thinking that I have dealt with bumped heads and skinned knees and even, at two separate times, fractured arms, but never have I been called upon to treat a nose for red pepper burns. From the inside.
Since I do have an imagination, I could imagine how it must feel, though. Ouch. The effect of capsaisin on tender nose tissues would be painful. Professional assistance was required, I thought, so I dialed the number of my favorite CVS here in the city.
It took me forever to get through their ridiculous guided menu selection ("For the aisle where we display the Q-Tips, press one; for the gift wrap and birthday card section, press two; to find out if there are any close parking spaces available, press three; to talk to an actual living person, press fivesixninesevenzerozerothreetwofiveeightfourtwonine...")
When I finally got a pharmacy technician, I said, "I have a strange question. My twelve-year-old daughter was eating a slice of pizza and somehow got a red pepper flake up her nose. Could I use nasal saline solution to rinse her nose out, or would plain water be better?"
The technician giggled a little. "We get strange questions all the time. It's no problem. Just a moment, let me ask the pharmacist."
She left me to some badly-played Mozart and I looked at Aisling, whose eyes were still flooding with tears as a result of the burning in her nose. I was really hoping that the saline nasal spray would work, because I had no idea how I was going to get pure water into her nose in amounts that wouldn't drown her, but would rinse away the capsaisin. Saline, though, I wondered. Could that make it burn even more? Nasal saline spray, which we use when we feel iickily sinus-y, comes in those handy little bottles and I think we even had some on hand in the downstairs medicine cabinet. Pure water? I got a bewildered mental picture of trying to pour a bottle of water up Aisling's nose. How...?
The technician came back on the line in the midst of all this mental dithering, just as I was hoping the the syringe-top to the nasal saline solution bottle I thought was in the downstairs medicine cabinet would come unscrewed so that I could replace the saline with warmed, purified water...
"The pharmacist says that the nasal saline solution will be fine," she said. "I hope your daughter's nose is okay."
"Thanks," I said. "And thanks for not thinking this was too bizarre."
She laughed. "Oh, the questions we get at night are usually much more bizarre than this, ma'am."
Fortunately, we did have a bottle of nasal saline solution, right where I thought it was. Aisling armed herself with a hand towel and a bad attitude, and I took the little bottle in hand and lavaged her nose a couple of times.
Aisling spluttered and coughed and flung herself around the living room in a manner that she considered suitably dramatic for having jets of water launched into her nasal passages.
"All right, enough already," I said, slightly exasperated, as she gagged and moaned and wailed. It doesn't do any good at all to offer Aisling too much sympathy, we've found out. She feeds on it. She feeds on it to such an extent that a simple sliver in her pinky finger can become a severed arm, lying right there on the floor at your feet, if you only had the sensitivity to understand her pain. With Aisling, it is better to adopt a cheerful, matter-of-fact mien, otherwise she'll drive you mad with her reeling and writhing and fainting in coils. "Does your nose feel better?"
"Salt..." she groaned, gagging right over my shoes in an alarming manner. "It's saaaaaaaalllllty."
I moved my feet nimbly. "Well, yes, it is salty. But does your nose feel better?"
"It tastes aaaaaaaaawwwwfffffuuuuuuuuulllllllllllll," she moaned, clutching the towel to her face and falling into her father's armchair, in which he fortunately was not sitting. She kicked her feet a little bit. Meelyn, who had been a silent observer of this whole thing, rolled her eyes a little and looked at me. I shrugged.
"Uuuuuuuuuggghhhhhhhh....ohhhh, it's terrrrrrrrrrrible..."
"Aisling, your NOSE, is it..."
Aisling looked up at me, the magic of Sarah Bernhardt, Meryl Streep and Glenn Close oozing from every available pore. "Huh? My nose?"
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