I’ve been bugged

[EDITED 7/09: A version of this post was published in the July 2009 issue of Martha’s Vineyard Magazine. Click here to read it online.]

If you happen to have a mouth full of beverage, I suggest you swallow it before you continue reading.

Guess where I was at 4:30 this morning? Oh, that would be at the ER having a bug removed from my ear. Yep. It woke me out of a sound sleep banging against my ear drum like a lunatic in a padded cell. It’s quite loud to hear something pummel your ear drum in such a way. And jarring. And totally gross.

I jump up in bed to “Wsh wsh wshwsh wshwshwsh wsh wsh” and a tiny body bouncing around in my ear.

Dave’s all, “The hell is wrong with you?”

“I have a BUG in my EAR.” And then wsh wshwsh wsh, “AAAH!!” I jump again.

“Are you sure?” groggy man grogs groggily.

Wshwshwsh wsh wsh wshwsh! “WAAHH!!” (jump) “Yes, I’m sure. Get the little flashlight.”

Of course he can’t see anything. Meanwhile – wshwsh WSH WSH wshWSHwsh – the thing wants out. At Dave’s suggestion, I bang my head against the mattress as hard as I can. This gives my friend a moment of pause. I picture him stopping dead from his flailing to go, “The hell?” And then wshwsh “AAAH!!” (That’s me again. Jumping a mile out of my flesh.)

“I need this thing out. I need to go to the ER.” I quickly google “bug in ear” and I try to ignore something about them crawling in and eating your brain. “Yes, I have to go.”


We take the dogs out and get them situated, then we get in the car. There is not one car on the road the entire fifteen minute stretch, and the movement of Dave’s driving quiets the little dude down long enough for me to convince myself that I am seriously losing it, inventing ear bug – wshwsh “AAH!” (Jump.) OK, maybe not.

I go to check in at the hospital. The mustached man at the registration desk pushes aside his crossword, and as if to make up for my catching him idling, taps importantly at his computer keyboard and ignores me for a good five minutes. “What are you here for?” He finally asks as he confirms that my insurance info hasn’t changed. (I was last in for a Lyme test. Damn bugs!)

“I have a bug in my ear.” I say very matter-of-factly, as if this happens all the time.

“You’re like the tenth person in the past two days,” he says. At this point, I’m recalling the SNL skit “Appalachian Emergency Room” and the ridiculousness of small-town ER.

“Any pain?”

“Nope, just annoyance,” I say.

I’m escorted to a room where I’m given a bed and a pillow, and I try to doze. At this point, the wshes have died down and are only occurring every couple of minutes. Poor little guy’s lost his fight, I think, listening to the crackle of his death throes. By the time the doctor comes in to check me out, I’m convinced the bug is dead. But as I said to Dave on the way there, “Even if it dies, I want it out and I want to see it so that I know it’s out.”

The doctor asks me what’s up. “I have a bug in my ear,” I say. I don’t think this should sound bizarre at this point considering what the check-in guy had said. He’d made it sound like all this doctor has been doing for days is pulling insects out of aural canals. But this doctor tilts his head to the side like I’ve just said something just plain strange.

Then he gives me that look that only doctors can of, sure you have a bug in your ear – but is that what’s really wrong? It’s mixed with a hint of how dare you self-diagnose! And I look back and shrug my shoulders all, sorry dude, just have a bug in my ear.

He looks in both my ears. Hm, a control ear and an alleged bug ear. I guess he has to make sure I’m not actually just running a waxy boarding house for bugs, that this is some sort of unfair eviction. “There is something in there,” he says.

Thanks for that dude. I’m well aware.

“It’s just a tiny black speck.”

“I think it died while I was waiting,” I say.

“Well, we’ll clean it out of there.”

Yes. You will. Because now I have a DEAD bug in my ear, and that’s DISGUSTING.

He gets a towel, a ear pan, and a syringe, and he fills a little bowl with warm water. After a couple syringe-fulls squirted toward my brain (which is not currently taking orders from hungry bugs for at least another good fifty years), he looks in the pan, “There it is!”

He holds the pink pan down so I can see the tiny black carcass floating in its bathwater. “Aw, it had wings!” I can’t help exclaiming. (Yes, clearly a bug in my ear is not the only thing wrong with me. I guess you’re right about that one, Doc.) Even though maybe it didn’t have wings. Perhaps I was romanticizing a tad. Ah, well. My little friend the flea (gnat? fruit fly? Clearly, I’m no entomologist.) had met his untimely demise.

As the doc cleans up, he tells me, “I pulled a Japanese beetle out of one guy’s ear last night and a moth out of another.” He’s been holding out on me! “And one guy had some bug so big we couldn’t get it out!” Clearly. He shakes his head. “OK, well, take care.”

“Thanks Doc.”

The ride home along State Beach offers one of those incredible sunrises that I am rarely awake to enjoy. Birds sail through the clouds, and right under the spot where the sun is making its rapid ascent, a beautiful old schooner has dropped anchor. We pull over and walk the path down to the beach to take in the sight. Even though we’re exhausted, there’s no way we could pass by this view. The beach is calm, peaceful, the sand is refreshingly cool on my flip-flopped toes. I wish I had a camera.

So thanks bug. Thanks for the sunrise. And thanks for getting the hell out of my ear. If only you had lived long enough to spread the word to all your buddies. I might just have to finally get my ears pierced, so that from my ear I can dangle a sign that reads in clear bug-ese, “NO VACANCY.”



  1. Laura said

    Hey, at least it wasn’t a tick!!

  2. ifyoubelievethenclap said


  3. Sada said

    AHHHH!!! Just READING that gave me the heebie-jeebies! Great, now I might have to start wearing earmuffs to bed.

  4. […] the teachers, the nurses, the ER doctors pulling bugs out of people’s ears, the bus drivers and ranchers and organic dairy farmers, Happy […]

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