When living paycheck-to-paycheck, visiting the doctor is a luxury reserved for joints bent the wrong way or sustained bouts of vomiting that dehydrate you to the point of hallucinating Bob Barker in your living room. If there is even a chance the prescribed course of action will be rest and ibuprofen, the financially unstable opt for the world’s most bullshit-proof source of medical attention. They solicit free advice from anyone they know with a nursing degree.
At one point, I was in the segment of the population caught in the Catch-22 of Obamacare. I paid out of pocket for health insurance on the exchange, but in doing so had no money left to actually see a doctor for anything less than a partially severed head or the Black Plague.
In the moments after accidentally freeze drying my asshole, I was faced with a difficult question. Would it cost me more to, A). visit a doctor to examine a topical burn that ultimately might not be life threatening, or B). ask a friend, preferably a nurse, to take an extended and evaluative look at the skin of my anus, knowing full well I would be on the hook to return an equally absurd or disgusting favor?
For years I worked outside as a dog walker to fund my dream of being a stand-up comedian. When the law dictated that I needed health insurance, I decided it was time to give up the starving artist lifestyle, complete with hole-filled underwear and an all-ramen diet and take an office job complete with walls, judgmental humans, and jokes about Hump Day. Literally re-entering the corporate workplace, I unearthed a minefield of workplace etiquette that had passed me by in my years alone in the wilderness. I felt more lost than the time I broke up with my long-term girlfriend, and was two years behind in Tinder knowledge. Smdh.
It took me a while to learn all the new features of Word and Excel. Like a feral cat being house broken, it took me a while to get used to the social norms of working indoors around actual people with all their judgement and hygiene standards. All of a sudden my sleeve was not an appropriate Kleenex and farts were meant to be hidden or mitigated, not set free as nature intended.
A particularly embarrassing hygiene faux pas for me was noticing how bad my beard flakes had gotten. Working outside without the constant feedback of a black keyboard resting under my chin, I failed to notice that my beard flakes had started to resemble the before images from a dandruff commercial. My jet black keyboard looked like when a diner combines salt and pepper in the same shaker.
Disgusted with myself, I asked a coworker how they generally clean their keyboard. Even an outdoor kid knows you don’t just spray electronics with Windex. My coworker informed me, that this problem had in fact been solved years before my re-entry into the office workplace, handing me an air duster.
I pulled the trigger and marveled at the cloud of hair and dust that emanated from my keyboard. Wiping up the beard flakes and loose hairs from my desk I then began to think of other ways to entertain myself with this fascinating ‘new’ air duster. My office friends marveled at my entertainment with this technology, like time travelers watching a caveman discover fire. However, they did eventually join in the fun of playing with the air duster, watching the skin of our arm ripple under its pressure in the compressed air.
After the benign, safe-for-work fun had all been had, my former-comedian brain took the joyful banter and playful discovery of the air duster to a new level. I told my work friends in jest, “Man, this would be a refreshing way to clean your butt.”
When they laughed, demonstrating I had struck that nerve with this line of humor, I took the joke to its logical conclusion. I grabbed the air duster with all the confidence of a seasoned veteran of prop comedy with a suburban crowd in the palm of his hand. I put the duster around my back and turned it upside down and sprayed it in the direction of my corn hole.
My years as an outdoor employee lead to a disastrous knowledge gap about how this tool functioned, much like a caveman being burned by fire for the first time. I was unaware that when the trigger was pulled upright the canister shot air. However, when the canister was turned upside down, it would shoot freezing cold CO2. As a point of reference a canister that shoots freezing cold CO2 is exactly what a dermatologist uses to burn off warts.
It took a second to process this influx of of firing synapses. During this time, my office friends broke into uproarious laughter. My face went from a joyous carefree expression to terror, concern and disbelief in a single instant. My friends told me that my reaction would have made the perfect GIF for Sharting-the moments when you trust the wrong fart and accidentally shit your pants.
Once the pain finally registered and the panic subsided it was still difficult to determine the extent of the injuries sustained. I had never freeze-dried my brown-eye before, but I had burnt warts off my feet, so my level of concern was justifiably high. With each shift in my chair I began to realize how much I took for granted the last stop in my digestive tract, much like a blister makes you realize how much you need your thumb.
When I got home I attempted to set up an elaborate maze of mirrors to do a self examination, but since I had never had cause to sext anyone a picture of my chocolate starfish, I couldn’t get the angle quite right and was unable to examine the damage myself.
I found myself on the wrong end of the world’s worst word problem.
If Murphy barely has enough money for rent this month, and he has caused potentially serious damage to his own anus, which will cost Murphy more?
A). The co-pay and deductible of a doctor’s visit.
B). Asking a friend with a nursing degree for the weirdest favor ever.
I understand how money works; if I paid for the doctor, I might be left needing to offer sexual favors in the park to keep a roof over my head. But, I also understand how social debt works. It’s not like I’d be mooning my friend or even quickly spreading my cheeks as a joke. I would be asking this friend to closely evaluate the health status of the skin around my poop chute. That is not a social debt that I am willing to be on the hook to pay back. I would never be able to say no to that friend again.
“Can you help me move into an 8th floor walk up?”
“Can you help me get rid of a rabid raccoon living under my porch?”
“Will you come with me to my cousin’s one man show about his botched vasectomy?”
“I’m actually really busy with work right now…”
“Remember that time you asked me to stare at your B-hole for several moments…”
“What time does it start?”
So I did what any financially unstable person clinging to his last shred of dignity would do. I managed the symptoms and waited it out. I bought a hemorrhoid pillow, avoided Chipotle, and prayed with every plop of a bowel movement that it was in fact the intended excrement and not my detached sphincter. I made excuses to avoid social situations and invented an urgent project at work that took up all time I would have spent with my girlfriend. A new relationship cannot withstand the judgement and ridicule that comes with explaining how something like this could happen, and defending your method of dealing with it.
In time the pain dissipated and all digestive function returned to normal. My coworkers eventually asked me how I was doing as a whole, and not just about one part of my anatomy. I vowed to save enough money that I could always afford a trip to the doctor, and as the constant itch of healing set in, I learned of yet another human necessity that is frowned upon in the indoor workplace.