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WOLF: Shrieking, shirtless car wash guy may be a bee-sting victim

COLUMN: Fear of weaponized flying creatures still lingers
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(File photo)

NEWS: A B.C. city is issuing a reminder not to put active wasp nests in compostable waste bins after collection workers were stung several times. Two poor employees in Chilliwack were taken to hospital for treatment after the incident.

VIEWS: Anytime I see sting-related stories that don’t involve music or wrestling, I harken back to the terror of my youth.

During those always interesting formative years from approximately age five through 12, I wore one piece of jewelry. I didn’t want to but I wore it nonetheless. It was a nondescript silver chain with a small, circular pendant of doom that foretold unspeakable horrors.

How did I know that?

It had my blood type, a contact phone number and the most terrifying words of my childhood in big capital letters: ALLERGIC TO BEE STINGS.

I could never recall being stung, so I always envisioned that necklace saving me as I lay, gasping and swollen after an attack by some evil, weaponized flying creatures.

“What’s wrong?” my rescuer would ask and I’d hold up the necklace before passing out as the ambulance arrived.

Turns out, I had quite the active imagination. The summer I turned 11, I was frolicking (note: you’re never too old to frolic) shoeless in the backyard when I felt some pain between my toes. I had clearly stepped on a bee and been stung. I immediately shrieked loud enough to shatter all the glass at every home within an 11-block radius, clutched my necklace and ran inside to prepare for the end.

I told my Mum, who didn’t exhibit nearly enough panic for my liking, given I was about to turn into the Michelin man.

“Let’s see,” she said calmly. “Stinger’s not in there. Let’s wait to see if there is any swelling.”

“WAIT?????????!!??” I shouted, knowing we should already be speeding toward the hospital.

She gave me some type of allergy medicine and maybe 30 minutes later… nothing. Mild irritation, minimal swelling.

“I thought I was allergic to bee stings,” I said, the highlight reel of fearfully recoiling from every bee or wasp for years on end playing through my mind.

Turns out, I did get stung as a toddler and swelled up pretty good. So the MedicAlert chain was mostly just ordered out of an overabundance of caution. In retrospect, very thoughtful, though the terror to actual danger ratio was way, way off.

Another sting a few months later, also with minimal damage, essentially confirmed I could make it through a bee sting, though it took many, many years before the reflexive terror would subside.

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I can understand the parental concern, however. One summer, when my son was maybe a year old, we were out back playing ‘Bloop’, a game where I collected little stones and he tossed them down a grate and happily shouted “bloop” when they hit the water below. Suddenly, like I had done many years before, he let out a blood-curdling scream.

I had no idea what happened. I scooped him up and took him inside and the wild screeching continued.

He couldn’t quite verbalize what was wrong, but something was very clearly amiss.

Within a few seconds (though it seemed like hours), my Clouseau-like detective skills uncovered the answer. While he was sitting down, a bee had crawled through the leg hole in his diaper and stung the poor fella on the backside. Remembering the drill from when I was younger, he got some ice, some allergy medicine and (my addition to the mix) some ice cream. Fair bit of swelling, but nothing too terrible.

Whew.

Years later, I was golfing with buddies when one took a swig of his pop, which had been left unattended in the cart while he was putting. The loudest cuss word I’ve ever heard let us all know there wasn’t just pop in the can. He got stung inside his mouth and I immediately was eight years old again, fearful of expanding tongues and ambulances. Luckily, he said he wasn’t allergic, although for an hour or two, he did look like he’d been sparring with Mike Tyson.

My only other ‘sting’ incident was surely nightmare fuel for some poor gas station patrons. I was hosing off my car with one of those outdoor car wash wands. The top of the mechanism apparently knocked loose a portion of a wasp nest on the ceiling of the stall I was in, and that chunk of nest somehow managed to fall directly down the back of my pullover.

I realized what was happening after I began getting stung, over and over and pain lit up my upper back, a dozen hot pokers searing me at once.

One familiar guttural shriek later, I was immediately shirtless and out of the stall, flailing like I was in some imaginary mosh pit and swatting wildly at the wasps who were clearly surly after being unceremoniously evicted from their home. If you happened to be one of the wide-eyed folks gassing up and who witnessed the scene that day, I apologize.

I was able to overcome my overwhelming desire to drive to the hospital and sit outside the emergency room until I was sure nothing would happen. I got home, drank enough Benadryl to tranquilize a rhino and fortunately, things turned out OK. Whew, again.

I still have that necklace, by the way.

YOUR TURN: Any readers out there have a harrowing/funny bee sting story of their own they’d like to share? Drop me a line, I’d love to hear some.

PQB News/Vancouver Island Free Daily editor Philip Wolf welcomes your questions, comments or story ideas. He can be reached at 250-905-0029 or via email at philip.wolf@blackpress.ca.



Philip Wolf

About the Author: Philip Wolf

I’ve been involved with journalism on Vancouver Island for more than 30 years, beginning as a teenage holiday fill-in at the old Cowichan News Leader.
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