I've been absent from Zembla, as I have been ill, and my brain mostly hasn't been working. For the past two weeks, my left tonsil has been gradually swelling, my ears become gradually more irritated, and I've gone gradually more insane. I thought I had strep throat at first, and initially worried that I'd infect all of my co-workers and classmates. The pain was getting unbearable, and the four ibuprofen pills I was swallowing every two hours were just barely making a difference, so I finally hauled my sick carcass down to the Tang Center, UC Berkeley's student health service.
I couldn't get an appointment, so I dropped by their urgent care facilities. Even though I was pretty miserable, I felt somewhat weak, and ashamed to fill out the emergency information card and check the box next to "sore throat or other". My interview with the nurse brought in another tidbit of shame, as she asked what medications I was taking. "Ibuprofen," I told her. "And Sudafed for congestion."
Then I thought, maybe this is important. I should be as clear as possible. "Actually, that's Wal-Phed", I explained. The nurse raised an eyebrow. "Um, Walgreens store-brand generic Sudafed. I think it's the same thing, probably. Also, that should be Wal-buprofen. And I took the non-aspirin sleep stuff last night, too. It might be called Wal-enol PM, I don't know."
The nurse just stared. "So, no prescription medications, then?" I shook my head no, resisting the urge to explain to her how Walgreen's had excellent and personable pharmacy technicians. She made a quick examination of myt hroat, predicted that I had strep, and sent me off to wait for a doctor.
Eventually, the "doctor" came in, though upon reflection he may have been an imposter. He had no stethoscope, no lab coat, none of the traditional trappings of a medical professional. I was reassured by his polo shirt, the read "Berkeley Sports Medicine", but in hindsight, those are available at the student store for about twenty-five dollars. In keeping with his lack of a medical degree, Doctor Not-son avoided diagnosing me with an ailment, or writing me a prescription. He referred to my tonsil as "inflamed", but suggested I continue to eat Walbuprofen like Skittles, and treat myself to a "Slurpee" if I experienced severe discomfort. Sadly, the same crappy student health insurance that forced me to go to the Tang Center in the first place won't cover a Slurpee, only an Icee.
I spent the next week sleeping erratically, loitering at local convenience stores, and considering a switch to Walxcedrin, or even trying to get some medicinal walijuana. The only thing that kept my spirits up was the exciting launch of a humorous news site called The Modern Snail, created by my former Heuristic Squelch associate Dan Freedman, and maintained by other Squelch alumni including yours truly. If you like sarcastic news headlines and pithy commentary, check it out.
After my midterm on Tuesday, I returned to Tang and this time saw a real physician, or at least a far more accomplished faker. She actually flinched upon looking at my throat, which is usually a sign that your ulcerated tonsil is something special. I got some antibiotics, but more importantly, I got a small supply of Vicodin. The improvement in brain function was immediate and incredible. I could read for minutes at a time. I could move my tongue from the roof of my mouth without triggering a near-migraine.
In the next few days, I saw even more wonderful effects. Academic lectures became positively enthralling. I sat, glassy-eyed, hanging off the professors' every word, taking twice as many notes, yet seemingly using only half the space. I am a bit concerned about extended usage of opiates, as one professor discussed some racist 19th century literature, that suggests that such habits might lead me into the Chinaman's depraved world of white slavery.
As evidenced by recent personal history with painkillers, my affability has been off the charts. I have befriended baristas and bus drivers. I've had in-depth discussions about the evolution of Mountain Dew Code Red with stadium vendors. I told a Mexican cook at Steve's Korean BBQ that their kim chee was "simply unbelievable". Also, I guess the antibiotics may have had some effect on my ulcerated tonsil, but I've been much more focused on looking out of windows and finding the softest possible place to sit.
Also, The Modern Snail is even funnier when you've taken a Vicodin 25-30 minutes before perusing the site.
Tuesday was without a doubt the best trip ever to the Tang Center. I got treatment, I got to meet a real doctor, and unlike nearly every person that has ever visited the Tang Center, I was not accused of having an STD. I think I should send that doctor some flowers.