sneeze.jpg Anyone who has known me longer than he’s willing to admit will tell you that there’s one grim subject that haunts my waking hours, a capricious and terrible bitch that lurks constantly on the outer ridges of my consciousness, ready to leap to the fore at the sound of a sniffle. What provokes such cathexis, you ask?  It’s the state of my perpetually fucked sinus cavities. I’ll avoid the details, just know pollen is my nemesis, Kleenex abound, etc.  Electric conversation really, sure to win many admirers.

The logical response to these histrionics should be, “go see a doctor, son.”  But you see, the thing is, I already have an allergist and an ENT and to whatever extent they’ve helped—and they’ve helped a lot—I still don’t breathe right.2  So I started seeing a Chinese physician whose holistic approach relies largely on acupuncture and healthy eating.  My allergies, I was told, would be much less of a noticeable intrusion if the following things were cut back on/removed from my diet: red meats, dairy products, wheat, potatoes, sugar, caffeine, everything created for human enjoyment. 

allergywheel.jpg A few weeks after my indoctrination to this radical3 way of thinking about the state of my body, I wasn’t feeling much better.  Now I had calmly been accepting the needles plunged into my forehead, I was diligently sucking down (twice daily) the obscure herbs mashed up for me, but I’d been having a hard time keeping my mouth locked shut when it came anywhere near the contrabanned food. 

So at my next visit, under the fudged scientific pretense that if I did the acupuncture and changed my diet, there’d be no control to the experiment; no way to tell if it was the pin-pricks or quinoa that had been clearing my airways, I told my doctor that I hadn’t really been staying within the nutritional boundaries set up for me and asked how much that aspect of the regimen—versus the actual acupuncture—would impact my health.  What she told me is not what I wanted to hear: the needles help but diet has the more decisive effect.  Shit.

And so I arrived at a crossroads.  Food or phlegm?4 Which did I want to give up more?  To someone whom God has smiled upon and is free from the shitstorm that is chronic allergies, it’s hard to really relate how much of a pain in the ass (and head) they can be on a daily basis.  So there’s the argument for turning into the ascetic eater.  But like, I derive a disproportionate amount of the pleasure in my life from eating.  My social life revolves around it.  Hold off on bread and red meat and dairy?  Sure, I’ll just stop eating cheeseburgers and then shoot myself in the face. And. And ultimately5  this decision turned into a weird philosophical thing where I was like if I stop eating what I want, I’ll be an old man.  I don’t have many indulgences—I like to drink but not excessively, drugs I can take or leave—but food, if I stop indulging in food… I’m about to turn 24.  Now is the time for excess.  Cutting back is for when you’re older.  Do I really want to look back when I do reach the point where I have no choice and my cholesterol and area code look the same, do I want to look back then and realize that I had the opportunity to put whatever I wanted in my body and I wasted it?  So I have to blow my nose a lot. Big deal.

toilet_tissue.jpg Which brings me to the issue I initially wanted to discuss like four paragraphs ago: I have a new criteria for judging restaurants: are there tissues in the bathroom?  Now I know, to 99% of you this sounds terribly absurd because the blowing of the nose is not really part of your bathroom routine.  But I’m sure that someone out there whose immune system is also fragile at best can empathize with my plight.  You have to blow your nose at a restaurant.  What are the options?  Use one of those eight-times-recycled paper towels that has the consistency of a Brillo pad?  Go into a stall to grab  2-ply toilet paper that you rip the first few sheets off of just to be safe but still feel some sort of hygienic uncertainty whilst blowing?  Or just honk away at the table and risk grossing out everyone within a ten foot radius of you? Personally, which option I select depends on what kind of mood I’m in that day, because I’ve basically given up on the hope that there’s going to be Kleenex waiting in the privy. 

I’m not saying that every restaurant should have a box of ultra softs waiting to meet my proboscis, but there’s a line—nebulous though it may be—where once you’re eating in a place of a certain caliber or refinement or just plain old fanciness, you deserve a white square cloud into which you can eliminate that which needs to be eliminated.  Like lavatories exist solely so the occupant can get rid of a whole host of effluvia; why can’t you, dear restaurant, accommodate just one more type of discharge? I’m not asking for you to put a goddamn attendant6  in there, but doesn’t enough of a margin exist between what you pay for chuck meat and what you charge me for boeuff bourgignon that you can stick a box of tissues next to the sink?  Because I’m going to keep visiting you, that much has been decided, so can’t you just help a brother out? 


1 My apologies for what might seem hyperbole, but to me, it’s not. Like, seriously, the old aphoristic warning “don’t cut off your nose to spite your face” just seems like a good idea over here.
2 Cue the violins.
3 To me, not the hundreds of generations of Chinese who have been practicing this kind of medicine probably long before Alexander Fleming’s ancestors even settled in Scotland.
4 Second apologies to anyone who finds the topic less than couth.  I just figured that if you made it this far…
5 I don’t think it was ever even really a contest; it just made me feel better to have a longer list of justifications.
6 Talk about your all time worst ideas.  Really?  Do you want to send me into moral crisis just because I have to pee?  I have to tip some man who hands me a paper towel because I had to use the restroom?  Or I can just not wash my hands and duck out of there, that’s an option.  Or what if I only have a twenty?  Places that I know have someone waiting in the bathroom seriously just make me want to hold it.    

Joey Power is a tutor living in Los Angeles. He likes Dr. Brown's Black Cherry Soda very much. Also, he writes for the website