As I sat on the patio this morning, sipping my coffee and listening to Ben Harper, I had no idea that yesterday had been the last day that I could truthfully say, “I’ve never been bitten in the face by a scorpion.”
I should have been working, as I had promised myself. Hell, I didn’t just promise myself, I wrote it down on a little yellow post it: “SUN. AFTERNOON TO DO,” beneath which I had three assignments written. The next few days are going to be an absolute tsunami of interviews, writing, travel, admin, etc., and a productive afternoon today was essential to my serenity later in the week. It’s something of a miracle (and evidence of insanity) that I still write my plans out on sticky notes when I never pay any to them after filling them out.
But damn, it was really nice out. The gloomy cloud cover that smothered San Diego yesterday had burnt away, leaving only blue skies and golden sunshine.
“What the hell?” I thought. “I’ll snag an hour at the pool and then get after it.”
In horror films, there’s always some jackass whose character defects lead to his or her demise. It’s called “hubris” in ancient Greek: a character flaw so pervasive that it leads to the person’s doom and/or demise.
Today that jackass was me, and the character defect was procrastination, because had I simply sat down at my desk and got to work, the following incident would have never happened:
There I was, chilling at the pool when I should have been working. I had one towel stretched out across the beach chair and another folded up into a makeshift pillow. I laid out for about an hour, went for a dip and chatted with a couple neighbors before my biological battery topped off and I was ready to get some work done. I gathered my towels, picked up my book, my iPhone and my keys, and headed back to my car.
From here it gets a little fuzzy.
I reached my car and opened the driver’s side door, holding the towels in one hand while dropping my phone and the pool key into the little cup-holder between the seats. Then, for reasons that escape me, I wiped my face with one of the beach towels and that’s when it happened.
“MOTHERFUCKER!” I screamed, as the sensation of an electric shock ran through my nose. Picture someone grabbing the end of your nose with pliers and then running electricity through the pliers while still grabbing your nose. That’s what happened when I put the towel up to my face.
Pulling it back, I stared into the towel, seeing exactly what had happened, yet not willing to believe it.
There in the middle of the towel was this:
Now, I’d heard from my neighbors that scorpions are pretty common in our neighborhood, but I’d never seen one in the four years that I’ve lived here. Yet here, seething in my beach towel, was this tiny scorpion, maybe two inches long, tail coiled, ready to give me another dose of the business.
Being bit by a scorpion is one of those things that happen to you where you’re pretty much on your own. It’s not something that everybody experiences at one point or another, and all you have to do is call your buddy and ask, “Hey, I just got stung by a scorpion; what did you do when you got stung?” I didn’t think it was fatal, but still, I know people who’d been bitten by rattlesnakes and they ended up with lengthy hospitalizations and long-lasting consequences.
Scorpions were different, right?
I had no clue and worse, I had no point of reference. The tip of my nose felt hot, but I was more concerned with the scorpion staring at me from the towel in my hand. A totally illogical thought occurred to me:
They can’t jump like fleas, can they? Because if they can, I’m thoroughly fucked.
I decided they couldn’t, and I dropped my towel to the ground. Then, because I’m a complete jackass, I took out my phone and snapped a couple of pictures of my assailant and walked back over the pool, where I summoned my neighbor Cyndy. She confirmed that there was no blood pouring out of my nose, nor had it swollen to the size of a grapefruit. In fact, apart from a small white bump, I looked normal.
She suggested I put some baking soda on it before clarifying, “You know, you should probably just Google it…”
I went home and did just that, finding an article that referred me to the poison control hotline. By then the pain was entirely gone and what little swelling had begun appeared to have already subsided. I told the guy on the hotline what happened and he told me to wash it, ice it, take some Benadryl and go to the hospital if my face blew up. Pretty sound advice, I thought, and I did just that.
I couldn’t help but think that if I had just done my work on time, this whole mess would not have happened. I mean, what were the odds that the scorpion would be down there at the same time that I was, that it would crawl onto my towel and that I would put the towel up to my face in the exact spot where the scorpion was hiding at that very second. We’re talking Greg Brady tiki idol territory here: eerily bad luck.
An hour or so later I took the dogs for a walk and ran into the neighbor who was at the pool with me. I apprised her of my condition and thanked her for her help. All in all, I was feeling pretty good about the whole incident, saying, “Well, I guess I learned my lesson. From now on, whenever I’m down at the pool, I’ll shake the towels out before heading back to my car.”
“Yeah,” she said, “that’s if the scorpion jumped on at the pool.”
“What?” I asked, not comprehending her implication.
“For all you know, you took that scorpion down to the pool with you. You might have been lying on him the whole time.”