Have you ever heard of tinnitus? (Some people pronounce it “tonight-us,” but I think you’re supposed to say “tin-it-us”; i mean, heck, that’s the way it’s spelled, eh?) That’s when you get a ringing in your ear that never entirely goes away. I’ve had it for years. At first it drives you nuts. You want to stab yourself in the head with a fork so you end up looking like Mrs. Baylock, the evil nanny in The Omen with the rottweilers that Gregory Peck has a tussle with before he eventually tries to do in his good-for-nothing son, subject of the Elvis Presley number “You’re the Devil in Disguise.” I even woke up my doctor in the middle of the night to complain about it, then later apologized for being an asshole. He forgave me with an understanding chuckle and had his nurse give me a vaccination for Lyme disease, which ended up causing the infection instead of preventing it. (And hey, I’ve still got it, Doc! Nice to know that some things do last forever, Buddha be damned–or at least they last one measly yet interminable lifetime.)
The “doctor” who’d given me the tinnitus had helped me out before by cleaning my ears out with a vacuum-powered doodad. I’d been sleeping with silicone earplugs for awhile, so he was doing me a favor. (The reason the word doctor is in quotation marks above is that he wasn’t really a doctor, but a medical technician.) Unfortunately, the next time I went to see him, complaining about an itch in my left ear, evidently caused by swimming in saltwater, I’d forgotten to bring my medical card; since I insisted on seeing him anyway, he eventually relented and jammed the vacuum toy in my ear again without looking into it first to see if it really needed cleaning. It turned out it didn’t. He said, “This may be a little noisy,” which was awfully sporting of him, as I’ll be darned if it wasn’t. Still is, in fact.
Got to love those doctors, huh? Actually, I’ve had some good experiences with doctors too, but it only takes one psychopath to traumatize you for life. I probably ought to have sued at least one of the above quacks, but I’m not sure how safe it is to trust lawyers these days either. Those fellows (and fellowettes) tend to be expensive.
One of the best things about Korea, my temporarily adopted homeland, is that they have these utensils here designed for cleaning out your ears. You can buy them in any convenience store for a couple of bucks. They have pearly plastic teardrop handles and are otherwise made out of stainless steel that’s about the length of a Q-Tip. The far end is tapered like a flattish spoon.
My sister, who’s both one of the smartest and wisest people I know, said you shouldn’t put anything in your ear smaller than your elbow. At least that’s what she told my brother. (Not that I’m recommending you try this, as it’s extremely difficult to do, unless you’re willing to lop your arm off first, and who has time for that?) Imbecile that I am, I have gone out of my way not to follow her advice ever since I heard it. I seem to have a Homer Simpson-like allergy to self-preservation. Since I only love life intermittently, I’m not too worried about it. Not that I hope to die young–or young-ish anyway–but if I’m in a bad mood when it happens I might be grateful. Murphy’s Law being what it is, however, such a fate is probably not in the cards.
To get back to the Korean earwax scoop, the other problem is that the human ear turns out to be one of my erogenous zones. I’m polymorphously perverse, which is an especial torment considering my wife appears to have “outgrown” sex (since her religion disdains it as something yucky and poopy), so when I insert the ear-spoon into my Eustacian tube, ecstasy ensues. I remember once when a gay dude I knew in college pleasured himself with a Q-Tip and intoned, “Oh! Orgasm!” Well, you don’t have to be gay to enjoy such a feeling. Try it. You’ll see what I mean.
Then again, if you like being able to hear things, you might want to skip it. Unless it’s from the Lyme disease (a distinct possibility), the augmentation of the tinnitus may well spring from the ear-fondling job with the stainless steel implement. I could have damaged the tiny hairs inside the ear and mangled my own hearing further than Dr. Demento was able to manage so many years ago. Van Halen had done their part before that when I went to see them in concert as a teenager (I wasn’t even a fan of theirs, but some friends of mine told me they were great so I went along and screamed my head off with the rest of the crowd, even though I had a feeling they actually sucked; abject conformist that I was at the time–and probably still am, for that matter–I was unable to perceive the glaring mediocrity of certain other bands though, such as Lynyrd Skynyrd or Little Feat. Oh well, at least I’d outgrown Dan Fogelberg by that time, and never got bitten by the Billy Joel bug or Eagles tick).
(One problem is that if you live in a big dirty city, you’re liable to generate more earwax. I meant to mention that in one of the above paragraphs, but it didn’t appear to fit anywhere.)
So I was thinking, what if the human ear had a separate function as a kind of vagina? It would give a whole new resonance to the saying, “You know what? You’re fucked in the head.” People might even get pregnant if they were penetrated from above the neck. (Go to You Tube and watch Richard Pryor describe how his pet monkey did just that to him, but not while you’re eating cereal as you’re liable to make a mess, since you’ll be laughing your ass off.) Hey, that’s what happened to Zeus. That’s how he gave birth to Athena. (Hmmm, so that’s why I have a headache. All right–who’s the culprit?) I’m not sure who it was who diddled him; it couldn’t have been Cupid, as he hadn’t been born yet. Probably that old prick Cronus, the cruel god of time who eats his own children.
Or perhaps your ear could double as a mouth. That way you could keep talking even while your main mouth was full. I’m sure everyone would appreciate that. Or you could use one ear to talk and the other to listen to the person trying to get a word in edgewise on the other end of your cell phone. Of course, in that case, the phone would have to be long enough to wrap around your face so you could accommodate both ears.
You know how Vincent Van Gogh supposedly cut off his ear and gave it to a prostitute he was in love with? Imagine the poor woman’s reaction. “Hey thanks, Vinnie. What the hell am I supposed to do with this–use it as a diaphragm?” If he’d really wanted to impress her, he would have gouged out both of his eyeballs and given them to her instead. “Aw, shucks. You love me even more than painting. Ain’t that sweet?”
Maybe Van Gogh should have shaved his head and sewn the ear onto his skull like a permanent pink beret. He could have done a self-portrait and led people to say the work influenced Salvador Dali and Renee Magritte, surrealists who followed the great post-impressionist.
If Beethoven had lived long enough to learn sign language after going deaf, I wonder whether it would have had an impact on his skills as an orchestra conductor. I mean, you’re not supposed to play tennis too often if you’re a baseball player (or the other way around), since you use incompatible muscles in your arm in each game. And watch out for that repetitive motion strain so you don’t rip the tissue in your rotator cuff.
Carolyn Forche wrote a poem called “The Colonel,” about a Salvadoran chap who poured a bag of severed human ears on the dinner table. (The professor who read the poem to my class followed up with the crack, “Dried apricots, anyone?”) If I’d ever met the guy, I would have given him an earful.
Ears would probably not make great frisbees. They’re not the right shape, and besides, they’ve got holes in them. They might work for ring toss, but only for more advanced players.
If you didn’t mind damaging your hearing, you could use them to carry your pens and pencils around (although it’s easier and safer just to let them ride atop your outer ear) or else jam chopsticks in them deep enough to hang shopping bags from so you could walk around like an overzealous ox.
Three out of five of my sensory organs are in shit-shape. My eyesight is unworthy of the name. My sense of smell is compromised by a deviated septum (as is my breathing). The left ear, as I’ve already mentioned, rings. (Come to think of it, I took a naproxen for a headache an hour ago, which would explain why it’s ringing more loudly now than before.) Since I use my eyes more than the other two organs, I’m grateful to have both ears and the nose to hold up my glasses.
Otherwise, they don’t seem to have a purpose.
That’s okay though. Neither does life.
Isn’t that special?