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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Medical Advice That Will Blow Your Mind

I come from a long line of people who believe that nothing says “cure-all” like a good bowel movement.

“Mom, I’ve got a headache.”

“Have you pooped?”

We’re full of home-y advice like that. Mustard plasters, vinegar on sun burns, baking soda on bee stings –

You may lose what respect you still have for me, but I’ve got a cousin who claims that his mother used to blow cigarette smoke into his ears to combat earache.

She claims to have learned it from her mother (my grandmother).

As someone who was privy to the fact that grandma would sneak a smoke in the bathroom, standing on the bathtub and blowing it out the fan to avoid detection from grandpa, I can’t help but wonder if this was her way of having a cigarette without having to hide it.

Why blow it out a window all alone in the bathroom when you can sit on the davenport and blow it – in a curative fashion, of course – in a kid’s ear?

I’m just surprised she didn’t have a use for the ashes.

Still, I wonder about the rhythms of the body, the things we think are good for us, the things we know are not.

Me, for example.

“You sound nervous,” Mary says.

“Nah,” I say. “I’ve just had to go to the bathroom for the last hour, hour and-a-half.”

She laughs, a pleasant sound that promises commiseration and, if you’re lucky, lemon bars later.

“I’m not kidding,” I say. “I keep thinking that I’m going to do just this one more thing…” I trail off, switch ears. “You’re lucky you’re at home.”

You can almost hear her shrug over the phone. “Meh,” she says. “The difference is that at home when you finally give in and run to the bathroom you can do that weird little dance all the way there without someone asking you if you’re gonna be okay.”

“I waited until mere moments before disaster a couple weeks ago and then got stopped just short of the bathroom by someone with a spreadsheet question. The roaring panic in my head should’ve been audible, but he didn’t appear to have heard it.”

“Where do you suppose that comes from,” Mary muses. “Were we not allowed breaks as children?”

“Perhaps I’m afraid I’ll miss something,” I suggest.

“Perhaps you need someone to blow smoke in your ear.”

I laugh. This is why I call her.

“Hey,” I say, warming to the subject, “If blowing smoke in the ear is good for earache, where are we gonna have to blow that smoke when I can’t tear myself away from my desk long enough to –”

“Hey,” she says, mock-stern. “We don’t talk like that.”

"No,"I say, smiling. "We don't."


Douglas said...

Cigarette ashes make a great poultice. Just sayin'.

Geo. said...

It's the same dance all over the world, isn't it? All other dances evolve culturally, specific to region and custom, but not that dance --a transcendent global constant.

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

It's an ancient remedy for ear ache that really didn't work very well for either the blower OR the blowee. Gosh that sounds bad.

Daisy said...

I've heard of the smoke in the ear thing too, but never understood it. I've heard you should beware of people who blow smoke up your skirt too! haha!

The Savage said...

Blowing smoke in ones ear creates a mild vacuum pulling and gently massaging the infection and inflamed tissue respectively.
What is better for ear aches is rice water or a very thin paste made with corn starch and water (think enough to make the water slightly cloudy) a couple drops placed in the ear. As the water evaporates the starch dries out and then absorbs the infectious goo. You then have one of those ear rinsing kit thingies handy and rinse your ear canal out.
I know a little about the science behind the old remedy stuff... I'm cool like that.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari Om
okay, you asked the right person; are we talking continual no.1s or no.2s. If the first then go for the cranberry. If the second... avoid the cranberry.

I got more where that came from. 8~>

Sioux said...


First, Not Your Mother's Book has a May 1 deadline for cat stories. 500-2,500 words. I KNOW you have some stories that you could--with a few clicks--change to a memoir. You can even submit more than one.


Second, I have a brother who had a stomach ache. My parents asked if he had pooped. He claimed he had. Later, the pain was so bad, they took him to the emergency room. They asked if he had pooped. He said he had. One x-ray later, it was discovered he was full of @#it.
(And he continues to be...) A year of drinking prune juice at breakfast was his punishment. So sometimes a good BM IS a cure-all.

joeh said...

What ever hurts, spread some menthalatum on it or some mecurachrome. It must work, I'm still above ground.

fishducky said...

BEFORE MY TIME they used a bellows-like device to blow smoke into the rectum of people suffering abdominal pain. Now it's mainly politicians who blow smoke up your ass!!

jenny_o said...

Wasn't there a cure for the cold on the Beverly Hillbillies? Granny promised people that her medicinal treatment would get rid of that cold in seven days :)

Goldenoldenlady said...

When I worked in a call centre, between 1998-2000, for part of the biggest utility company in the UK (British Gas - it used to be a nationised industry, until Thatcher - don't get me started!) it was noticed by the supervisors and managers that sometimes two or more "operatives" took what you Stateside call a "comfort break" at once and this just simply would not do.

So it was decided and decreed that they would hang a clipbloard on a nail on the bank of filing cabinets, and any person who needed to go to the loo had to wait until they could collect the clipboartd off the nail and take it with them (remembering to bring it back afterwards) before they could go and relieve themselves.

This was a department of about fifteen to twenty people, who had coffee pumpled into them pretty much intravenously, to help deal with the customer complaints they handled.

At the end of my stint there I moved on to a job with what I hoped would be better pay and conditions. As one of my farewell gifts my colleagues gave me A Clipboard All Of My Very Own.

Happy days!

savannah said...

hysterical laughter over heah, sugar! xoxoxo

Gigi said...

I know all about the smoke in the ear cure. And if I'm not mistaken I think the ashes could be used in the garden.

Birdie said...

My blog this last week has been all about pooping. I would love to know any and all 'old wives tales' about how to keep things flowing! I am not letting anyone blow cigarette smoke not matter how back up I get!

Eva Gallant said...

My doctor recently prescribed a blood pressure medication that listed one of it's side effects as constipation. I had to resort to prunes for relief! Needless to say, I immediately requested a medication change!

Jayne Martin said...

I've never heard of blowing smoke in someone's ear to ease an ear ache. Can you blow smoke up someone's ass if their being a pain in yours?

I'm sorry. We don't talk that way. ;)

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

I think I would have preferred cigarette smoke blown in my ear to what I actually got. Oil. Hot oil. Didn't even much matter what kind of oil... but olive oil was the most common. Then a cotton ball. The problem is, sometimes the oil would be heated for too long. Nothing like having really HOT oil drizzled into your ear.

HermanTurnip said...

My mom still tells me horror stories of her mother making her eat a spoonful of Vaseline as a cure-all. Makes my hair curl just thinking about it.

chlost said...

Both of my parents were smokers when I was growing up. We never had smoke DIRECTLY blown into our ears, but it went in indirectly, not only to our ears, but every other part of our bodies....I think at one point, there was some medical research saying that children of smokers actually had more ear infections. HHHMMM....sounds like maybe you can't win here if you are/were a kid with bad ears.

That Janie Girl said...


Poop talk. I think it happens to everyone after a certain age…however, I don't think you're there yet.

Rose L said...

I SWEAR I read this article before!! Is it a re-post?
Deja vu.

The Jules said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Jules said...

So if you're dancing in front of the loo door, smelling of vinegar and baking soda and cigarette smoke, we can tell what sort of a day you're having?

R. Jacob said...

To poop or not to poop, that is the question!

Rosemary Nickerson said...

For the second year in a row, "Alaska" by James Mitchener and "Matterhorn: a novel of Vietnam" by Karl Marlantes sit un read in the boat's book case. I spend my time here, reading, laughing, crying, imagining....
Funny and informative, as always.

Suldog said...

One of my rules for a happy life is to always take a pee whenever the opportunity presents itself. Why not? What are you going to gain if you don't?

As for the smoke in the ear thing, I've heard of that before. I wouldn't doubt that it has some small bit of efficacy. Aside from most of the stuff in cigarettes being hideous for you in general, nicotine is a bit of an analgesic. As a matter of fact, there have been some very serious studies done concerning its use in post-operative settings.