I had thirty minutes to grab lunch before meeting our new department director today, the man who will be my boss. I chose Carl’s Jr. Their deli-style kitchen allows me to closely monitor the workers as they prepare my food so that I can lord over them lest they decide to spit in my double-western.
Some people eat their food by taking bites of it, chewing, and maybe looking at their surroundings for a few moments after they swallow. Not me. I eat more like a snake, expanding my throat muscles in an effort to allow large portions of un-chewed food to process freely between my gums and my stomach without delay.
As I was pulling out of the parking lot, I reached into the door cubby for my bottle of Binaca spray. At this point I’d like to do a little flashback to my wife and I standing at a kiosk in Disneyland a month ago as we grazed a few overpriced items we needed that day…
“You have any mints? No? Okay… Uhm… let me get one of those Binaca sprays… and…uhm… honey, do we need anything else? Oh, right. Batteries. And also, you have any antiseptic lotion? I don’t want want to catch anything from these people… Oh, it comes in a spray bottle? That’s weird. Okay, I’ll take a bottle of that… wow, this looks dangerously like that bottle of Binaca.. They’re even the same mint green…”
Folks, I consume breath fresheners the same way I eat Carl’s Jr. hamburgers. And when I decide to take my mouth out for a rinse, I don’t just use one pump. I use many. I like that minty mist to form a lake in the bottom of my mouth so fucking deep and majestic that Samuel De Champlain will draw a map of it and children will grow up with fond recollections of the summer they spent there with their grandfather. And by God, when the first few pumps failed to bring sweet julep to my tongue I said “Fuckit” and kept pumping that son-of-a-bitch thinking that maybe the bottle had gone stale.
It takes ethyl alcohol a few seconds to register on the taste buds. First, they have to try to categorize it. And since they’re being singed and withered out of existence, the task of identifying gets passed along to the nasal cavities who sound alarms to the brain, which causes the eyes to fall down on the bottle. And by this time, you’ve already taken in about a tablespoon of the shit.
Since I was driving in the rain I decided not to roll the window down to spit it out. Realizing it probably shouldn’t be swallowed I decided to let it just sit in my mouth for a while until I figured out what to do. And by the time I found a coffee mug I could use, half had already gone down my throat and the other half just sort of disappeared into my gums.
When I got back into the office I walked past one of my new team members, a young woman with a bio degree. And as she was click-clacking away on her computer I chuckled and mentioned what’d happened.
“I just used antiseptic spray because I thought it was Binaca.” I said, and to be sure nobody else made the joke, “At least my mouth is clean.”
She stopped typing suddenly. Alarmingly, one might say. And as anthropologists have pointed out, facial expression is the only form of communication which is understandable across all cultures. Hers indicated that something had dawned on her, like maybe she had just remembered that she’d left the gas running in her apartment, or that she needed to pick her father up to drive him to the hospital for some life-saving operation. Her look and tone reminded me of a mother talking to a small, stupid child.
“Kevin,” she said, “How much did you swallow?”
“A lot, why?”
“Because you probably need to go to the hospital like, right now.”
“Pffffft… it’s not like I was guzzling it.”
“What does the bottle say?”
Good question. The bottle didn’t say anything other than not to drink it. After giving it some thought, I decided to compromise and do a Google search, because if you are having symptoms or feel that you may be experiencing a life-threatening emergency, Google can provide answers.
Ten minutes had passed from when I had sprayed to when I started reading a blog written by a woman whose two-year-old had done almost the exact same thing.
“Stupid kids,” I muttered.
The blog described how her son had used a bottle of “Germ X” sanitizer spray (same bottle), sprayed it into his mouth (same orifice), and after relaxing when the child showed no immediate symptoms (yippee!), was on the phone with poison control when he began experiencing the first wave of symptoms roughly ten minutes later (Same–AW FUCK!). The blog went on to detail what those were.
There’s an old cartoon gag wherein a character thinks they might be getting sick, and as a doctor starts listing off symptoms they begin going through each of those motions. This wasn’t exactly the same, though it was just as comical. First, I noticed that I was extremely light-headed. Then my stomach started to clench. My eyes glazed over, and I noticed a painful stinging behind my eyes and my head was throbbing.
I looked over my shoulder, and noticed that walking through the office was a man I had never seen before being escorted by a group of upper-level executives who were pointing to various sections of the floor and introducing him to various supervisors.
“And this is Jane, she’s our project manager… and this is…”
The new director was approaching. The man who will decide whether I will officially retain my new position (i.e. get the title & salary) or be cast asunder for one of the staff he’s bringing from his company which we just acquired. Months of work come down to this impression.
I dashed for the break room, where under the advice of a few coworkers I chugged as much water as I could ingest.
“Go the hospital, dude.”
I walked back onto the office floor, and noticing that he was still at least five minutes of introductions away from our team I decided to take a quick walk outside to get some air. In the hallway I ran into a buddy of mine.
“What’s going on, man? You don’t look so good.”
I stared at him for a really long time and after trying to mumble what had happened I did that thing that you do when you’re stoned and sound becomes layered and everything seems difficult to comprehend: I started laughing.
“Uh… fuck, man. Shit’s crazy.” I explained, trying not to go into too many details. Then I walked away.
By the time I got outside I started to feel genuinely concerned. At best if I could just throw up I’d still be throwing up at work, most likely causing enough of a kerfuffle that people would ask what was happening. Somebody would have to respond that I drank antiseptic solution, and they would patronizingly respond that you shouldn’t do that.
I decided to look up Poison Control on my phone. And I am glad that despite all the numerous budget cuts across the state, California has seen to it that our number for obtaining poison information is still well-staffed with professional, kind people who don’t assign blame and/or laugh at you over the phone. The gentleman I spoke to was very helpful.
“Poison Control, how may I help you?”
“Uh… I think I did something stupid.”
“Okay, what did you do?”
“I drank antiseptic.”
“How much did you drink?”
“Oh…not a lot. I didn’t do it on purpose.”
“I understand. What brand was it?”
I thought this was an odd question.
“Whoa, man. You must be seeing all kinds of crazy shit right now, huh? Far out. Thanks for calling.”