Since I started this crazy blogging thing I have been inundated with three e-mails all asking me the same question: “Dude, what is up with that creepy picture?” Aside from being a 40-something educated man who is referred to as ‘Dude,’ I welcome such questions and will waste this weekly post by proffering an extensive explicatory explanation.
The photo is indeed of me, a.k.a. TIM of conTIMplating fame, during a dreadful yet entertaining bout of Bell’s Palsy contracted while in Milwaukee, the Bell’s Palsy Capitol of the Upper Midwest Part of Central Wisconsin. For those who are weak agnostics, Bell’s Palsy is a partial paralysis of the face such that the patient appears to be a Batman villain with a visage that is half whimsical clown, half local news anchor covering a story about caged puppies.
And lest you think I am alone in my disease, I will point out that many famous people have contracted Bell’s Palsy including Pierce Brosnan and George Clooney, two men I am often mistaken for when I have my shirt off, unless of course, one employs one or more of the five senses.
It all started innocently enough with a bowl of shrimp bisque on a business trip, which is admittedly not on the list of dishes to be sure to order when visiting Milwaukee. The next day, I was consuming a personal Rocky Rococo Pizza in my hotel room and viewing a Red Wings game when I realized that my tongue was starting to feel like it had fallen asleep, not unlike it does when one allows it to hang from the corner of the mouth for an extended period of time. I remember conTIMplating this as a strange and curious phenomenon, as I was not watching NASCAR.
The sensation was soon accompanied by my inability to keep a seal on the bottle of Diet Coke I was drinking, allowing each swig to dribble down the corner of my mouth and pool on my front in the shape of a young Abraham Lincoln, creating a free-market competition with the sausage-pepperoni stain that had already set up shop in that neighborhood. It wasn’t long before I also noticed that the pizza was gaining a certain metallic tang as if I had been licking the bed frame before every bite which I rarely do even at home nor, to the best of my recollection, had I been doing in this particular instance.
By now I could feel a general numbness in my face and wondered if I was having an allergic reaction to the bisque I had consumed the night before. People have allergic reactions to shellfish, right? And isn’t shrimp The Official Shellfish of Allergic Reactions? Surely it couldn’t be something serious, as I was (and am) youthful and strapping, the meaning of which nobody really knows but are two words that naturally go together like ‘smart and sassy’ or ‘snicker and doodle’. But still…I felt a twinge of panic onset and immediately sought a consult with the supreme potentate of medical knowledge: Dr. WebMD, Himself.
I plugged my symptoms into the Batcomputer and BAM, I was having a stroke. The taste of metal in the mouth is an explicit sign of impending death. Time to rush to the hospital. But the Wings were on and only up by one. Hmmm. Perhaps I should call my brother, the human doctor. Yes. He is human; he can help me. Answering machine. Bugger! Another sip of Diet Coke and Abe grew a beard. It was time to go.
I called the front desk and asked if the complimentary hotel shuttle could be so kind as to take me to the nearest hospital, as I would be dead in a matter of moments. “I’m sorry sir,” was the reply. “It is litigiously to our advantage to have you die in your room versus during any attempt of ours to help you. However local statutes require that I offer to telephone a taxi or an ambulance as your legally binding preference dictates.”
Ten minutes later I was in a cab with al-Assad calling my father to tell him what was going on and to see if he knew where my brother, the human doctor, might be hiding. By a brutal coincidence, my dad had been rushed to the hospital earlier that day and was already looped up on the good stuff. His genuine concern for my welfare was tempered by a rampant euphoria combined with a detectable languorous apathy. I chose not to call The Queen Mother, as she would promptly engage her imagination and be counting her insurance winnings before my meter got to double digits. I tipped Muammar to drive like he was in his native land and was at the emergency room before you can say Ahmadinejad.
People are always complaining about waits in the emergency room, but I have found a solution: tell them half of your face is numb. I was plopped in a wheelchair and rushed into the treatment area quicker than you can complete a San Diego fireworks show. No name, no insurance card, no shirt, no shoes, no problem. Unfortunately I now had another issue as my knees were used to swing open the doors in true TV ER fashion.
A parade of doctors came through over the next hour furrowing their brows and saying things like “Hmmm” and “How are you feeling?” which they learned in the third year of medical school. By now I could not move the left side of my face at all and so would say as politely as I could, “Ashcellakhoe.” This seemed to satisfy them as they would mark secret messages on my chart and move on.
Four hours later I was on my way back to the hotel with an assurance of my well-being and a pocket full of steroids that would make Mark McGwire jealous. When I got home the next day and took full stake of my appearance in the mirror, I laughed about as hard as I had done since high school over an incident involving four feather pillows, a hair-dryer, and a stolen vacuum. As I laughed, one side of my face would squinch up tight while the other was completely dead-pan, which would make me laugh even harder, causing further squinching and so on in a vicious cycle of half-and-half hilarity combustion. It was during one of these episodes that the above picture was taken.
Epilogue: After six weeks of having to physically hold my face up to eat a sandwich and being served soup by my family purely for entertainment purposes, I made a full recovery.
I hope this answers your questions. And thanks for being regular.