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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Hi there, do you mind if I spit in your sink?

I received this email from my nephew, Sionne.  He and Natasha and their two children, Ava and Owen, live in Toronto
.  He is sharing the story of his recent birthday and has given me permission to post it.

Email subject line: Hi there, do you mind if I spit in your sink?

(The subject line in my email is a quote from my greeting to Linda years ago.  I showed up at her door frothing at the mouth, literally.  I was on my way home from Nanny’s house, where I had eaten a mouthful of Bits and Bites mix, in which, I afterward learned, there had been a lone Brazil nut lurking at the bottom. When you read my note below you’ll understand why I am referencing that long-ago incident, and how I am still super-sensitive to specific nuts, reacting strongly even though I haven’t actually eaten the allergy producing nut, itself.)
If someone had told me that I would spend the night of my birthday dry-heave vomiting in a parking lot after leaving a restaurant where my birthday dinner was held...and then drive home hunched over the steering wheel, before falling asleep curled up in a ball while still wearing my daytime clothes (I think that’s referred to as Irish Pyjamas in some hardcore drinking circles,  no offense)… then I would have responded, "Wow, the old dude still knows how to really tie one on, once in a while, doesn't he?"  But in this case it was not at all a fun and games scenario, it was due to the effects of a one-word culprit: NUTS.
The evening started out innocently enough.  I left work early-ish and drove up from Toronto to meet Natasha and our children, to celebrate “Big #42 for Sionne” at a restaurant in Newmarket.  It was slightly past their usual dinnertime; I rushed in ordering and took the server’s recommendation of an Asian chicken salad with peanuts.  I went through my usual confirmation routine to ensure that there were peanuts only; not any other kind of nuts in the salad.
This is a delicate conversation because I want to establish that I have a mild allergy but am not *EpiPen/potential death/expensive lawsuit* allergic, which has been the misunderstanding in past.  This then involves a frustrating 15-minute reassurance conversation with the establishment's manager, who immediately quotes me whatever boilerplate disclaimer their lawyers advise they spout, whenever any Super-Duper-Allergic-To-Nuts customers are involved.
OK, so all the meals arrived and I started digging into my salad. Fortunately for me, I did not eat very much because Owen decided he needed IMMEDIATE help, cutting up his food.  I stopped my munching and moved over to focus on daddy duty.  Shortly after switching to address Owen’s concerns, I noticed that old familiar scratchy feeling.  I quickly asked the waiter if he was 100% certain there were only peanuts in my meal. “Let me check” he said.  Upon consulting a co-worker, he came back and provided the very unwelcome news, “Well, it’s usually just peanuts but sometimes we change it up and throw in assorted mixed nuts instead.” (<<< sorry, WTF!? seriously!?!?!?!)  This fully confirmed my fears.
Within minutes I was experiencing the worst allergic reaction ever. Usually I am lucky enough to notice the offending nuts before consuming them, or it’s one of the milder varieties, like an almond that causes only mild discomfort, at worst.  Not this time!  I was thrown full-on into the heebie jeebies.  I’d say on a scale from wonderful to anaphylactic shock, I was a lot closer to the yucky end of things.  When all the mucous membranes in your body are incredibly itchy - from the backs of your eyes to other less-polite-to-mention areas - the fact you can still walk and process rational thoughts is a welcome bonus but somehow little consolation. I suppose those of you who witnessed my *ahem* episode circa 1971, when I was a toddler, at Nanny's house can connect the dots and substitute in your mind’s eye, a big, adult hairy-faced man-baby acting like the 2-year-old version of cute little Sionne in the high chair… when he was unlucky enough to eat that dirty old Brazil nut...for the rest of you, just use your imagination, okay?
I quickly bailed out of the restaurant and started home…leaving Natasha to pay the bill and gather the kiddies, so she could follow in her own car. My head start did me no good, as I spent several productive minutes purging beside my vehicle in the parking lot, and then grabbing a toothbrush, I just happened to have on hand …so I could feverishly clean my teeth and mouth.

These activities took awhile.  Luckily, I managed to flag down Natasha driving her car as she left.  Told her not to worry if I didn’t arrive ahead of her at the house in Bradford.  I had to make an emergency detour to the drug store.  My purchases?  A big bottle of liquid Benadryl, some Pepto-Bismol, plus a new toothbrush to replace the newly polluted version.
I chugged the entire bottle of Benadryl; followed it with some Pepto to calm my stomach. Any of you who have ever experienced an itchy stomach lining will agree that the discomfort pain-wise is matched only by the strange feeling of having several internal parts itching that cannot be scratched. Good times, indeed!
The Benadryl worked its magic quickly, after sitting behind the wheel in the pharmacy parking lot for 10 minutes, I made my way home. Overall body itching abated; I was left with the single complaint of a pain at top of my abdomen, best described as Worst Heartburn Ever…On Steroids Times a Factor of 10.   I could feel it from the front all the way through to my back, underneath my shoulder blades.  I actually think it was my diaphragm, as I could only take short breaths for the longest time.  It felt like a big muscle tensing. Sort of cool but mucho creepy at same time; I would gladly skip any repeat occurrences.
Obviously I survived since I am writing to you.  It was an ordeal, and even with my natural Drama Queen tendencies, I am not exaggerating.  It was a major pain in the butt for the 60 minutes from restaurant departure until arriving at the house, rendered almost paralyzed and nearly unconscious from all the drugs I drank. No heavy machinery operating for Sionne that night, trust me.  Ava called me into the kitchen, smiled politely while they all sang Happy Birthday, as candles melted wax onto a cake that was my at-home surprise for this special evening.
Natasha thoughtfully baked me a Nanny’s Money Cake.  She also thought it would be fun for the kiddies if she put all 42 candles on it. Let’s just say that when half the candles are melted onto the icing before you can get everything lit, that’s a good indicator that you are probably getting too old to have a 1 candle per year policy when celebrating birthdays. When I blew them all out, there was so much smoke we had to open the windows, to prevent the fire alarm from kicking in. Yikes.  
I try to keep a glass is half full attitude most days, however a good formula for a depressing post-40 birthday is  feeling near death, while blowing out what feels like a thousand candles on your cake…and then being too sick to even have a piece of said cake!
Fortunately, I am feeling no lingering effects…thank goodness. I did sleep nonstop for about 12 hours thanks to the Benadryl.  I also had a serious “too much medication” hangover headache but that’s long gone.  While my special day was kind of rotten overall I hope telling this story at least provides some entertainment, and/or serves as a cautionary tale.

Speaking of cautionary tales I have two to share:
1) when you bolt out of the restaurant due to *poisoned* food, then you also have the wonderful opportunity to call back the next day, to politely ask for a meal credit or rebate, since not only was my birthday dinner ruined but basically my entire night. I’d say it’s more effective to complain right away, but that’s not always possible when you are huffing and puffing and dancing the funky chicken, instead of standing there quietly and making a rational argument in favour of good customer service. I’ve not given up yet on some satisfaction, so stay tuned for an update on how that works out with The Pickle Barrel’s management.  
2) when you have a high concentration of sweets-loving family genes distilled into your offspring, it’s not recommended to order a Pina Colada slushy, with a sugared glass rim and jaunty little umbrella decoration, and then to leave it unattended. Natasha told me when she came back to the table; Ava was sipping away on the straw of my abandoned drink.   In her words “It just looked so good, mummy…I had to try it, and you know it tastes even better than it looks!” but to her credit the little girl was horrified when she learned, it was in fact a grown-up drink with *gasp* AL-CO-HOL in it. Yet interestingly enough, not so horrified as to stop licking the sugar off the glass, but at least she refrained from further accessing the drink contents.  Let me say this: with the almost-daily crying jags taking place in her school classroom, plus non-stop arguing/debating/getting in last word with her parents on seemingly every possible topic of conversation, her apparent inability to fall asleep before 10PM more than 3 night a week and finally her deep-seated sweet tooth tendencies, I never worry about whether Ava is my biological offspring, since all the signs are clearly there to prove without a doubt, she is.
Don't even get me started about Owen. He looks like a total sweetie and is one of the most considerate little boys you will ever meet.  Watch out if you try to make him do something he does not want to do because he possesses a superhuman level of stubbornness.  The only thing that works is to trick him into thinking it's actually his idea...at which point he'll agree to do it. Sound familiar?  Like the classic chip-off-the-old-block or a case of The Force Is Strong in This One.

Yes, it’s true and I am not ashamed to admit it - my life is really quite a bit of a Gong Show these days. It’s not in any way boring and at least I can get some good mileage out of all the crazy stories as a result, right?
Hope you are not getting too slammed with snow storms. Toronto living has its numerous drawbacks for us but I am thankful at times like this when I hear about weather back east. Our forecast daytime high temp will be 10 degrees, hitting as high as 15 over next few days with no rain or snow in sight. I miss the slower-paced lifestyle there, but the Maritime weather really is terrible and the pleasant summer season is WAY too short every year.
That’s it for me. Toodles!
Sionne (xo)

Story and photos belong to Sionne R.

He assures the family that he will be talking to his doctor about this episode and will perhaps be carrying an EpiPen with him for his next meal outing.  I will update, to let everyone know what
THE PICKLE BARREL in NEWMARKET, Ontario is doing about their faux pas, bad service and nearly killing my nephew.  One hopes that they respond responsibly and respectfully.

If you click on words in red, you will go to another website with additional information.


Anonymous said...


Carol Steel said...

And so lucky that it didn't kill him. I hope The Pickle Barrel Restaurant does something appropriate to make up for nearly doing him in, through staff incompetence.

Crafty Green Poet said...

my goodness, I hope that restaurant never does that again! Glad your nephew is okay and recovered so quickly.

Carol Steel said...

The family is glad too. No word yet on how the restaurant is responding. He feels OK now.

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