I Got an Earful at Work This Week


Like the title says, I got an earful at work this week, courtesy of my boss. No, I didn’t get yelled at. Not that I haven’t been yelled at before at other jobs. Sometimes I even deserved it. But I’ve never been yelled at one day, then told the next to blow it out my ear.

Which really happened.

Here’s the story (and, as is usual with me and my posts, the back story):

First the back story. A few weeks ago, I started getting dizzy once in awhile. It would only last a second or so and I’d be back to normal or what passes for normal for me. Until one particular morning. I’d gotten up early, as is my habit, and messed around a little on the computer before going back upstairs later to see Karen. (I’d like to say I took her breakfast in bed, but alas, that wouldn’t be true.)

Anyway, I got back in bed for a couple of minutes, and when I put my head down, the bed started spinning – the way it does when you’ve had too much to drink. I thought it would pass, and it did. Until I got back up again. Let’s just say that I started to exhibit the other symptom that people who get the bed spins usually get.

It was that way all day, every time I changed position, I got dizzy and nauseous. It was even worse the next morning. There was no way I could drive to work, so I made a doctor’s appointment and got Austin to take me.

Turns out I had an inner ear infection. Dr. Cook said it was most likely from a virus, which he said would run its course in a few months. WHAT? MONTHS? Yep, he said, only he didn’t say yep. Or not.

I felt better the next day, then much better the day after that, when I returned to my copy editing job at Red Ventures. Since then, I’ve been my version of normal about 97% of the time, with really short bouts of dizziness that last only a second or so.

Which brings us to Thursday. The other copy editors, my boss Michelle and I were discussing our next project when she sent a video clip loosely related to it. I put in earbuds and clicked on the link and watched the video, which I enjoyed. Until I took out my earbuds. Or most of them.

The black rubber thingy that surrounds the plastic on them stayed behind. So I did a dumb thing. I put my finger in my earhole, which only pushed the rubber thing in deeper. Then I did it again.

Now I’m all panic-y, but trying to act as if nothing’s wrong. Asking for help did come to mind, but I didn’t want anyone to know how stupid I’d been, especially my colleague copy editors Patrick and Heather. Had my across the cube neighbor Kirby been there, I would have asked her for help. She’s a young mom and I figure she has had experience extracting stuff like that. Unfortunately, she was out sick.

I getting more panic-y by the second but still trying to play it cool. So I grab a pen and get up to go to the bathroom where I can poke my ear in private. Only when I get up I discover that having an ear plug has triggered my vertigo. I’m still trying to act as though nothing’s wrong, and I make it to the bathroom OK. It was then that I got my first break. No one was in there, so I went in the stall and, yes, put the pen in my ear, trying to use the point to wedge the rubber thingy out. All I did was write in my ear.

My next thought, maybe there’s something in the supply room I can use. It’s also vacant, as it turns out, but the only thing I can find is a small pair of scissors. I grab ’em and head back to the bathroom. The stall is still vacant. So I stick the scissors in my ear and wedge the rubber thingy a bit deeper.

I wobbled back to the supply room and returned the scissors, and started scouring again for something to use. I’m within seconds of abandoning my cool facade, admitting the problem and going to the emergency room. Then I found the paper clip drawer and get a bigger-than-standard gold paperclip. I bent it so the really sharp end wasn’t facing in and went back to my stall, which by now I should be paying rent on.

Success. I pried the rubber thingy out, disposed of the paper clip, and walked calmly back to my desk, head held high in the knowledge that no one knew what an idiot I was.

Until I told them at lunch Friday.

Later that day I told Michelle about the earful she’d given me. She laughed, then asked me a completely logical question: Did you think about holding your nose and trying to blow it out your ear that way?

Crap! I hadn’t thought about it. And it probably would have worked. And saved me from walking around with some mantra written in my ear. Not to mention even larger earholes than I already have. Or earhole.

But I’ve taken my own actions to solve the problem permanently. I bought some of those earphones that completely cover my ears.

Which means the next time I get an earful at work, it’ll probably be the kind other folks get. Which will be painful. Because I don’t like to do anything the way everyone else does it.

“A writer should write with his eyes and a painter paint with his ears.”
_ Gertrude Stein

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