Prompt: “Alas! Earwax!”
“There’s a little bit of ear wax,” the doctor of audiology said.
“Is that bad?” I asked.
“Normally, not. But for this exam, I want the ear canal to be completely clear.”
“That’s okay with me,” I said. “I don’t even know why I have ear wax.”
“Everyone has ear wax,” the audiologist said.
“I know. I didn’t mean that my ear wax is special. I just meant that I have no idea why ear wax exists. If we’re always trying to get it out, what’s the point of putting it in?”
“Actually, ear wax has a number of purposes, starting with its function as an anti-insecticide.”
“Right,” I said, trying to interrupt the audiologist before she went too much further into the positive properties of ear wax. “I’m sure ear wax is okay under normal circumstances.
“It’s more than okay. It’s one of the body’s most important barriers against invasion by foreign agents.”
“I hadn’t thought of that before.”
“Few people do.”
“Whenever I think of foreign agents invading my body, I never think about them going in through my ear.”
The audiologist didn’t respond immediately; instead, she used a probe at which I purposely didn’t look to clean the wax out of my right ear. She had a certainty and a definitiveness in her manner that was reassuring. She clearly knew her way around the ear canal. Finally, she said, “You mentioned cleaning your ear. Do you use a Q tip?”
“Maybe,” I said, unsure of the degree to which that technique was out of vogue in the audiology world.
“Q tips not only run the risk of seriously injuring the ear canal, but they also force the ear wax deeper into the canal.”
Before I could express remorse for any q-tipping I may have done in the past, a line from a Harry Potter book popped into my head: , “Alas! Ear Wax!” I said, immediately realizing how odd that sounded outside the pages of a book about magic.
“Nothing. I was just remembering something I once read.”
“You’ll have to share your reading list with me,” the audiologist said, and I didn’t know if she was joking or not. It’s hard to tell with audiologists.