It is raining this afternoon and I am thankful for two reasons. The first being that my car needed a wash after parking under a tree that, while just a tree whilst I was parking, apparently became a rehabilitation center for incontinent birds the moment I entered the store. The second being that the rain will hold down the pollen, at least for a little while.
I was barely aware of what allergies were until I moved down south. I laugh now at all the times I told friends and colleagues in Vermont and Maine that I was “suffering” from my allergies. This, my friends, is like comparing a paper-cut to an inadvertent below the knee amputation with a chainsaw.
I know now, as with so many things, that I knew nothing in my youth. I’ve now learned, having moved to a place where the local flora throws so much out into the air there are Code Orange air days due to what is affectionately termed “Smollen.” Short for “Pollen-Smog.”
The fact that the locals even have a word for the powdery ribbons of yellow gusting through the air like kite tails should have been a warning sign. Like Eskimos and their hundred ways to describe snow. Thick, yellow coats of smollen over everything from February to September. Following the rain, the wavy ochre residue on the pavement resembles dozens of washed out chalk drawings; as if every child in the neighborhood had played hopscotch just that afternoon. It gets on, and in, everything.
My first year living here, I quite literally landed in the emergency room on prednisone, so completely unprepared was I for such an unimaginable quantity. I stepped outside into the fresh air that first fine Spring morning, inhaling deeply, experiencing my new home. All went well for the first twenty minutes or so; shining sun, chirping blue birds and bright-eyed, bushy-tailed bank executives wandering the streets in great docile herds. And then, I experienced a fiery sensation in my throat not unlike what I would imagine breathing acid vapor to be. This was soon followed by the closing up of said throat.
Trees in the South, I’ve learned, are very forward and indiscriminate when it comes to pollinating. Unlike their more urbane northern kin, they send out great squirting gushes of the stuff whenever the mood strikes them. The botanical equivalent to tree semen. Novice lovers, unexpectedly blowing it all your face without even properly introducing themselves. For me, this simply will not work. Even on my most relaxed standard days, I’ve always insisted on being bought a glass of wine first.
My fellow sufferers and I thought we had gotten off light this year; the mild winter caused the season to start a bit early, but peak blissfully early as well, in May. But there seems to have been a second coming due to continued warm, wet weather. My car is once again covered with the stuff and my eyeballs were burning so badly earlier today I was tempted to scoop them out with a spoon, on the theory that the great bloody raw sockets would ultimately be less distracting than the itching.
Judging by the state of the local pharmacy allergy aisle, I’m not the only one. On a quick dash for anti-histamine eye drops, I found it ravaged, like the bread and milk sections when a rumor of snow is in the air. Though I eventually settled for Visine Allergy, the fact that I even considered shelling out $17 bucks for Zyrtec brand eye drops is a testament to my agony.
There was a fantastic ad campaign put out a few years ago by a brand I can’t remember. Actors went through the T.V. spot introducing themselves to one another based on the allergies they had. “Hello, I’m a pet dander” and “Nice to meet you — I’m a ragweed, tree pollen, mold.” I thought of this spot as I looked around the Target parking lot this a.m., hearing a chorus of sneezes every time the wind kicked up and our dusty toxin snaked off the hot tar into the breeze.
It looks like I’ll spend the next four weeks dashing outside and back in the shortest time possible; jumping in the shower to wash my hair the moment I’m in-doors again. A character in my own little post-apocalyptic drama; terrified of radiation fall out and living in mortal fear of getting genetically modified bubonic plague on his pillow covers.