Just as we were finishing dessert—baklava and sugary mint tea—I felt it. Something was poking my thumb. It felt sort of like a needle was going into my thumb, and as I absentmindedly started to brush it away and look to see what it was, that needle was suddenly a 5000˚F needle. A fat, furry, bee/wasp/hornet-looking thing was the culprit. I flinched and swatted it away just as the temperature reached its peak.
Then I realized that the last time I was stung by a bee/wasp/hornet-looking thing, I was five, and it was somebody else’s problem to figure out what to do about it. Mom knew that a baking soda paste was the ticket, but that was eons ago; is it still the right thing to do? And do you really interrupt your business trip to go find a grocery store to buy baking soda to make a paste to put on your thumb, or do you just tough it out?
I asked her. She’s a mom, she must know, right? She said, “I think it’s ice. I’ll go ask them for some ice.”
“Ice? Really? It’s not baking soda or mud or something like that?”
My pain was temporarily replaced by the eerie feeling of needing my mom to tell me what to do. She said she’d recently used ice with her little boy, and it seemed to work, but she’d also heard about the baking soda. Neither of us knew whether that’s actually helpful or just one of those ridiculous myths that survive in the face of all reason.
That’s when she said it. “Wait! We have smartphones! This is a problem we don’t need to have!”
We both googled. It is ice nowadays—and stinger removal, and perhaps hydrocortisone ointment, and probably Benadryl.
Stinger removal?! Yikes! I could barely see anything; how am I supposed to remove that? One site said scraping it out with a credit card was ideal (but didn’t say how that was supposed to work or why it is superior), so I did my best, but no dice. I’d need a needle and tweezers.
Do you really interrupt a business trip to find a drugstore to find a needle and tweezers and Benadryl, or do you just tough it out?
She paid the bill while I contemplated the harsh and attention-grabbing return of pain. The burning was back, and the rest of my hand and now arm was starting to feel numb. I consulted the smartphone again to find a drugstore along my route.
Once there, I purchased the strangest assemblage of emergency supplies yet for a business trip: toothpaste (to replace the tube the TSA confiscated this morning), needles (to dig out the stinger), thread (to go with the needles, since I lost my sewing kit in the divorce), tweezers (to grab the stinger), Benadryl topical gel for the sting, and Benadryl capsules for the possible systemic effects.
Back in the car, I performed minor surgery, smeared some Benadryl gel on the site, washed a couple Benadryl capsules down with what remained of my morning coffee, and then carried on with my schedule for the day.
Several meetings later, I’m finally settled in for the night, so I googled some more.
The baking soda thing is real. Another suggestion is a paste of meat tenderizer. Just in case you bring baking soda or meat tenderizer along when you travel.
Looks like today’s bee/wasp/hornet-looking thing was indeed a bee. Too fat and furry for the other possibilities. Bees have barbed stingers that stay behind when the insect lifts off, and losing their stingers does indeed kill them. That was not just some story our moms told us to make us feel better—you know, you’re in pain today, but that bee is dead now, so you win!—it’s actually true.
A kaddish, therefore, for the bee that got my business trip off to a weird start.
Oh, and I’m fine, thanks. A tiny bit swollen, a tiny bit of numbness here and achiness there, but no drama, no anaphylactic shock, no ER, no throat-clutching—just a weird receipt for my taxes.