The Worst 50 Cents I Ever Spent

I’ve read so much good advice on Medium about everything from how to have one gazillion followers to how to write something that will go viral in three easy steps if I subscribe to somebody’s newsletter that I decided it was time to put myself out there and give some advice.

Some very good advice.

My advice will save you time and money. It might even save your marriage…(That’s a stretch, but I think I need three things for it to be a listicle. Or is it five?)

Anyway, without digressing further, here’s my advice. Take it. You won’t be sorry.

Don’t buy Q-tips from a thrift store!

I speak from experience, because I made this mistake. I bought a box of 500 cotton swabs, brand unknown, for 50 cents. What a deal, right? 500 for 50 cents!

You won’t think so when you find out what happened next.

I was cleaning my ears with one of the newly-purchased thrift store cotton swabs when, pulling it from my ear, I was dismayed to see only the slim white stick. The cotton tip had vanished.

I plunged a finger in my ear and felt nothing. Panicking, I tried pounding the missing cotton ball out by thumping my head like you do when you have swimmer’s ear.

There was still no sign of the missing cotton, so I enlisted my husband’s help. “Do you see the end of a Q-tip in my ear? It’s disappeared!”

“No. I don’t see anything. Move over by the light.”

I moved. He tilted my head and looked in my ear. “No, I still don’t see anything. Maybe it’s not in there.”

I leaped on his suggestion like a drowning woman grasping an inner tube, convincing myself the cotton tip had fallen to the floor.

For a week I was in denial. Every time a niggling worry wormed its way into my mind, I dismissed it. But eventually I could no longer ignore the strange sensation deep within my ear canal, or the fact that sounds were becoming muffled.

When I yawned I experienced a weird scraping close to my eardrum, so I kept yawning in the hope that everything would return to normal with the next yawn.

“Why do you keep yawning like that? You’re doing it over and over again,” my husband said.

“I think the Q-tip is still in my ear. I’m going to an Urgent Care. I can’t live like this anymore!” I screamed, losing any semblance of the normalcy I had tried to maintain.

At Urgent Care, a jovial doctor peered inside my ear with a small light and announced happily, “Yep. There it is. I see it.” Then he produced an instrument that looked like it was designed for extracting something from a T-Rex.

At first I stood, but the cotton had worked its way far down my ear canal. The doctor couldn’t work from this angle, so I ended up lying sideways on the examining table, perfectly still to avoid the possibility of a punctured eardrum.

“You’d be surprised what I’ve seen in people’s ears,” the doctor chatted amiably as he worked. “Peas, beans, bugs, mostly flies. That drives people crazy when they have a fly buzzing around in their ear. Haven’t you ever heard you’re not supposed to put anything smaller than an elbow in your ear?”

“I won’t anymore, even if my ears never get cleaned,” I said.

“Aha! I’ve got it!” The talkative doctor held up the instrument, a tiny ball of cotton clasped in its tweezers. He looked very satisfied.

I paid my bill, $125, and decided buying the thrift store cotton swabs was the the worst 50 cents I had ever spent.



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