There is an age-old philosophy which says that hearing is believing. Unfortunately, I’ve had sincere difficulty believing in anything much lately due to the fact that my ears have become blocked again, primarily because I live by the other age-old philosophy which says that whatever can be done tomorrow can be put off today. This inevitably leads me to fall victim to yet a third philosophy which says that whatever is partially blocked today will become fully blocked tomorrow. Thus, I find myself with a virtual complete loss of hearing, and with both ears and my creativity blocked, the thought of what could possibly become blocked next is too horrific to contemplate.
In theory, the problem of one should solve the problem of the other, because being unable to hear the world around me means that I am currently free of external distractions and can apply total concentration to my writing. Things are never that simple, though, and I generally spend all day pulling my earlobes to try and achieve the impossible feat of dislodging a tonne of wax buried deep inside my hearing system.
One has learned from bitter experience that when one is told to insert several drops of olive oil in one’s blocked ears prior to syringing, one must use the oil straight from its bottle and not from a hot frying pan. One has also learned from bitter experience that attempting D.I.Y. syringing of one’s ears using the shower results in nothing more than a drenched bathroom and no improvement in hearing. So it was with great discipline that I decided to execute my ear-clearance operation recently, starting with three days’ worth of (cold) olive oil insertion, before finishing off with a professional syringing service.
By ‘professional syringing’ I mean taking the extremely foolhardy approach of exposing my soul to the National Health Service, a recent addition to which has been ‘walk-in centres’. NHS walk-in centres have been designed to reduce the workload of your family doctor so that they can take more cigarette breaks and longer lunch hours. The idea is that, if you become ill, you only have to wait three hours rather than three weeks to have your ailment treated without the need to book an appointment. One must assume from the name of these places, however, that those with an inability to use their legs must ultimately be excluded from qualifying for treatment and find alternative therapy elsewhere.
After the nasty experience with olive oil during my last ear-blockage episode, I decided to seek out one of these new NHS walk-in centres to see if I could walk in and have my ears treated. I rang my local number and, after remaining on hold for nearly twenty-five minutes, was surprised to find two paramedics turn up at the front door who were asking if someone’s life was in danger. A nurse had answered my call but, having heard no voice at the other end, assumed I had lost consciousness, so had put a trace on the call and sent out an emergency ambulance. Feeling rather embarrassed, I tried to explain to the paramedics about my ear problem, but the bigger of the two just said that blocked ears were not life-threatening and it was timewasters like me who ended up costing valuable lives. I asked the paramedics if the local walk-in centre catered for such problems to which they said yes it did, but to forget about asking for a lift because they were not a taxi service.
The following day, I decided to leave home early to avoid the inevitable build-up of patients at the walk-in centre, but when I arrived at around 9.30 a.m. the strangest assortment of individuals you have ever seen was already spilling out of the main entrance. After queuing for about twenty minutes, I commented to a man with an eye patch in front of me that the queue hadn’t moved very fast. Eye Patch looked at me with his good eye, raised his visible eyebrow and told me that everyone was standing outside because the waiting room was full up, and I should just go to the front desk to register myself.
I fought my way through to the reception desk where I introduced myself to a round nurse with round glasses. She took one look at me and said that, unfortunately, they only dealt with ‘coughs, colds and flu and fings’ and could not help with conditions like mine, but she was sure my hair stylist could recommend a more suitable shampoo and conditioner. Rather annoyed, I explained why I was there and, after a moment’s pause, she nodded saying she recognised the voice as the practical joker who had been wasting the ambulance service’s time. She threw a clipboard at me and told me to fill out the form and wait to be called. When I asked how long I could expect to wait, she just asked me if I knew how long a piece of string was.
As luck would have it, I found a place to stand by a wall in full view of the door through which patients kept disappearing, never to be seen again. Bracing myself for a long wait, I pulled out the book I am reading called Journey to the Centre of the Earth by a writer called Jules Verne which is about three people who walk to the very core of the Earth by climbing down a volcano! However, I’m convinced the author failed to research her story properly. According to Ms. Verne, the interior of the planet Earth gets cooler, rather than hotter, the nearer you get to the core. Not having journeyed to the centre of the Earth myself, I am still educated enough to know that this simply is not the case, and thus removes any degree of plausibility from her narrative. Thus, the writer’s primary relationship with her audience is lost. But I digress.
About four hours later, someone began tugging at my sleeve and I looked up to see the round nurse pointing at the formidable door where an evil-looking thin nurse was standing waiting for me. As I walked towards the door, I couldn’t help but notice that everyone was staring at me as if they felt privileged for being the last group of people to ever see me alive. Nurse Evil closed the door behind me before I had a chance to change my mind and immediately ordered me down the small corridor into ‘Room 1’. Frightening Orwellian images flashed into my mind as I sat on a chair in the bare, clinical room. Whilst Nurse Evil looked at my form, I noticed a sign on the door which said: ‘This room contains oxygen.’ I tried to make a joke out of how this was a good thing, but Nurse Evil just glared at me and proceeded to relay a science lesson on the potential flammability of the pure oxygen tanks in the corner of the room.
Before I had a chance to say anything else, she ordered me to hold still so she could look inside my ears with her torch. After some uncomfortable rummaging around, she asked me if I’d been inserting olive oil. I told her I’d been using it for three days, at which point she nodded, put away her equipment, and said she was not legally obliged to treat me as I should’ve been inserting the olive oil for seven days. I got quite shirty, and asked her if she knew how long I’d been waiting outside the formidable door. But she just said it was peanuts compared to the time wasted by ambulance crews attending crank calls.
Feeling rather dejected, I left the walk-in centre and started the long walk home, still as deaf as ever. But I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that, somewhere out there, I could hear the faint laughter of hundreds of paramedics, satisfied with themselves for having scored a point against all the timewasters of the world…