February 21, 2002
Puncture the Eardrum Slowly


"Are we still saving this Q-Tip?" David winces, as he picks up the slightly-crusty cotton swab between thumb and forefinger ... distastefully, like an eight-year-old picking the green peppers off her pizza.

It is clear, by the pained expression on his face, that he already knows what the answer will be.

Are you kidding?? I want to shout. That Q-Tip is our vacation villa in Tuscany! That Q-Tip is our consolation prize for not winning the two hundred million last weekend!! That Q-Tip is our ticket to a life of luxury, leisure, and limitless lollygagging!!!

As soon as I win my multi-bazillion dollar lawsuit against the Johnson & Johnson Corporation, that is.

Of course I'm going to have to prove that it was their negligence that led to my devastating injury last week, and not my own carelessness. Yes, I was in a hurry that morning: I might not have been paying as much attention as I should have. Yes, it was dark in the bathroom. Yes, I was dangerously pre-caffeine. And yes, if you want to get all technical about it, there WERE warning labels on the box. ("Stroke swab gently around the outer surface of ear. Avoid entering ear canal. Avoid using swab as cranial probe.")

But then again, the box ALSO said "Double-Tipped For Your Protection."



The story, as I will relate it to the kindly judge/the incredibly sympathetic jury/the cable TV cameras, is simple. I inserted the cotton swab into my right ear that morning, anticipating the soothing itch relief of 100% pure cotton ...

... and what I got instead was a SPEAR, savagely plunged into my lower ear canal.

When I pulled the Q-Tip out and looked at it, I was shocked to see that there wasn't a single solitary *molecule* of cotton on that end of the swab. Just stick. Sharp, unadorned, 100% pure cardboard stick.  Another bazillionth of an inch further and I might have ended up with a punctured eardrum, or worse. (Although I'm not sure what would be "worse" in this situation than a punctured eardrum. A punctured temporal lobe, maybe?)

So OK.  It only bled a little bit. Five minutes later, it was all over with. And OK, the actual pain didn't last for very long: at least not 'pain' in the traditional sense of the word. Still, I believe that the resulting emotional distress  --  not to mention what will almost certainly turn out to be a debilitating, lifelong fear of Johnson & Johnson products (I'm already having nightmares about baby powder)  --  should be worth something in a court of law. Enough, say, for an around-the-world cruise for two, or a couple of Hewson 650CL 21-speeds.

(Or at the very least a weekend in Monterey and a free tandem rental.)

Of course, suing the Johnson & Johnson Corporation is going to mean exposing myself to three things I ordinarily avoid like the plague: 1.) courtrooms, 2.) cameras and 3.) conflict. I don't have a litigious molecule in my entire body. (If I did, I probably would have sued The Hires Soda Company back in 1993. My big toe is still broken, nine years later, and it's been at least that long since I've been able to look at a can of root beer without feeling traumatized.)  Plus if I go forward with the Q-Tip lawsuit, I run the risk of serious public humiliation. I mean ... think about it. How would it look if the official spokesperson for National Q-Tip Safety Awareness Day is SUING a COTTON SWAB MANUFACTURER, forcryingoutloud?!?  It's like Miss Fire Prevention 1970 being arrested for arson.

This is beginning to sound like it might be more trouble than it's worth, frankly.

Meanwhile, David is still standing there in front of me with the evidence in hand, waiting for the verdict. Trash ... or treasure? 

"Let's hang onto it for another day or two," I sigh. I may or may not follow through with my plan to sue the Johnson & Johnson Corporation, but I should probably keep my options open, at least for a little while longer.

(And if the Q-Tip thing doesn't pan out ... I guess I could always drop another six-pack of root beer on my foot and go after the Hires people for real.)



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that's the picture frame jaymi gave me for valentine's day on the left;
photo of my mom as a child on the right.