CREIG P. SHERBURNE
I went backpacking with friends Christopher and Blaine last weekend. We spent two nights in Big Sur and it was a great time. Well, sleeping on the ground isnít great, but walking all day long with a 30-pound backpack isnít nearly as bad as youíd expect. The company was fantastic and the views were bigger and more than anything else Iíd ever seen before.
But the poison oak was also bigger and worse than anything Iíd ever seen before. There was one grove of the stuff we saw that had to have been eight feet tall, 200 feet wide and an inestimable number of feet deep. We took a photo, but otherwise avoided that part.
Thing is, we werenít able to avoid all the poison oak and itís not like we brought a bottle of Tecnu with us. The end result is that right now, my arms have biblically proportioned swaths of poison oak rash on them.
And thatís on top of a smaller patch I got earlier that week hiking the Cuesta Ridge with Christopher. Youíd think Iíd learn and buy some pants and a long-sleeved hiking shirt, but thatís because youíre a very nice person with a much higher opinion of me than I deserve.
Now, I can buy this stuff called Zanfel, but a one-ounce tube is $46 and I just donít think Iím $46 worth of uncomfortable. In all honesty, it looks worse than it feels. But since weíve already established that Iím stupid enough to get it twice in a week, it could be my brain is just shorted out. In any event, Iím treating it symptomatically with cortisone, ibuprofen and Benadryl.
Now, you need to know that I basically take one medicine for everything: ibuprofen. ďVitamin I,Ē I call it. I take it when I have cold symptoms, an injury or mild depression. And whatís cool about ibuprofen is that itís a no-side-effect medication. To get any side effects, you have to take a ridiculous amount. So I really think of it as a consequence-free medicine.
You see, my baseline for medical side-effects is zero. So I just naturally assume that all medicine is consequence-free. It turns out thatís not actually the case.
About 10 years ago while sick I took some Sudafed. Not the wimpy stuff anybody can buy, but the big stuff the pharmacy person swipes your ID for so you canít buy enough to make methamphetamine out of it.
I didnít think it affected me. I took it and felt better. No big deal. Sudafed was, for me, a consequence-free drug, so thatís great. In fact, Sudafed made me feel like I wouldnít have to call in sick to work. So I hopped in my car, popped the front passenger side tire on the side of a curb, got on the freeway anyway until the car pulled to the right too much, and then decided to put my space-saver spare on. But for some addled reason, I decided I couldnít have the space-saver spare on the front, so got all prepped to move the passenger side rear tire to the front and put the space saver spare on the back. The car fell down off the jack and I couldnít get it back up. A friend gave me a lift to work and my car got towed.
Two hundred dollars later, I got my car out of impound. The tow-truck driver was the one who gave my car back to me, and he said he had no idea what was going through my head to play musical tires like that.
Who says Sudafed doesnít affect me?
So that was 10 years ago. Earlier this week, I decided Iíd take a bunch of Benadryl to stop the poison oak itchiness. I took two of them in the morning, then took another every two or three hours. Everything was fine ó it didnít affect me until I couldnít speak without slurring and went to bed at 7 p.m. on Monday. I figured I was still tired from backpacking and it never occurred to me that 300 mg of tiny pink pills might make my brains sloppy.
So I unwittingly did it again on Tuesday. My sister picked me up after work to go do some stuff, and she noticed I was talking funny. I popped a pill, she asked what it was, I told her and she asked how many Iíd taken.
Me: ďAll of them, I think.Ē I shook the bottle. ďNope, thereís more.Ē Rattle, rattle. ďSee?Ē
Her: ďThose make me tired. How do you feel right now?Ē
Me, after a long pause of self-assessment wherein I gave deep consideration to how my feet felt in their shoes: ďI feel funny. Like my brain is in Templeton.Ē
She took the bottle away from me and told me that sheíd give them to my wife, and I wasnít allowed to argue with anybody no matter what for the rest of the evening.
The good news is I doubt Iíve got any permanent brain damage from my bout with Benadryl. Also, unlike my time with Sudafed, I am not $200 in the hole. Iím a bit itchy today, but Iíve learned a valuable lesson when it comes to medication: donít get poison oak.