Saturday night I fell asleep feeling a little crampy with a tickle in my throat, only to wake up on Sunday with a burning throat and that heat-radiating feeling that can mean only one thing: I was running a fever. Now, I know a lot of people are satisfied just knowing that their symptoms include fever. However, when my forehead is feeling a little toasty, I like to know my exact body temperature, and monitor its fluctuations frequently. A little too frequently, perhaps, because our digital thermometer (which had just been purchased in April) was out of batteries on Sunday morning when I went to collect my baseline piece of data. I clearly needed a new tool, and, since I was always a little skeptical about the accuracy of a digital thermometer, I felt myself called to the old school, under-the-tongue, wait-five-minutes thermometer. I was so excited about the thermometer, in fact, that I opened the package in my car on the way home from Wal-Mart–then surreptitiously drove with my hand blocking the side of my face so that next-door drivers wouldn’t think I was a total hypochondriac. ‘Cause I’m not. At all. Well, the reading was clear (and accurate) and self-evident: 99.5. I was officially under-the-weather.
See, the thing is, I’m a Type-A Personality who has trouble using the word “no” or putting my to-do list aside. However, when I’m sick, I finally have an excuse to lay on the couch drowning in episode after episode of DVR’d TV or Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix Instant Streaming. And, when you can cite your body temperature, that is evidence of your illness and therefore provides an excuse for any critical non-believers.
99.5 meant I could change into my sweatpants, curl up on the couch, and not feel guilty about the stack of grading that had sat in my car all weekend, or the dust accumulating on our bedroom furniture. The afternoon was perfect–I got caught up on recent episodes of Pan Am, Up All Night, The Middle, Modern Family, and Suburgatory. Then, B came home and we started in on our current Netflix obsession, How to Meet a Mom (which I believe others refer to as How I Met Your Mother).
Around 5pm, I deemed it time to record my next statistic, and picked up the thermometer. I began shaking the thermometer down (necessary for the old-school type). We all know this has to be done with some force. Well, I forcefully shook the thermometer–right into the remote control sitting on the couch next to me. The thermometer shattered and small balls of silver liquid flew through the air, splattering all over our couch cushions, afghans, and my laptop.
B and I looked at each other, wide-eyed, thoughts of mercury poisoning rising in our heads:
“Oh, sweet wife, I know you don’t feel well. That could’ve happened to anyone. It’s certainly not your fault and I don’t blame you in any way.”
“Thank you, dear husband, for understanding.”
“Let’s sit back and think about this in a logical way.”
“Oh, yes, let’s put together a methodical plan for cleaning up this potentially-hazardous chemical.”
“I will contribute my knowledge, being a senior hazardous waste technician for the county.”
“How wonderful to have such expertise in a moment such as this.”
Yeah, I would love to tell you that’s how the scene unfolded. But, to my dismay, it was more like this:
“Oh s***!” “Why the heck were you swinging it around like that?” “I don’t know I had to–” “Can’t you just buy a normal thermometer like everyone else?” “Don’t yell at me!” “Start pulling off the slipcover we’re going to have to throw it away.” “Not my slipcover! That was $119!” “Well don’t walk in it, you’re spreading it all over the floor.” “Stop yelling at me! My dad just gets a piece of paper and picks up all the balls. Not like that!” “Let’s just not worry about it. It’s not that much.” “What are you talking about your just said–” “Don’t vacuum it!” “Shake it outside are you CRAZY???” “Holy–It’s all over my shirt!” “Oh, great, I looked up what to do on the Internet and it basically says to call YOU.”
Our apartment quickly became a warzone. It was B vs. me vs. the mercury. None of us were on the same side. (Well, I think Delilah was on my side.) Finally, we decided we’d cleaned it up the best we could, or at least gotten it out of our apartment. But we didn’t think Delilah should be sniffing around in the carpet too much for a day or so. B decided he needed to get out and calm down, and since I wasn’t feeling well, I decided to take Delilah to my parents’ house to lay on their couch for a bit. We got D’s things collected, and B helped me carry her cage down to my car.
When I opened the passenger door to put Delilah in, there was the packaging from the now-shattered thermometer sitting in the seat. That’s when I read the wrapping.
“Environmentally-friendly. Mercury free.”
B looked at the wrapper at the same time I did.
“It’s mercury free.”
Without the utterance of even one more phrase, we collected the things from my car and carried them back up the stairs to the apartment.
“How about potato soup for dinner?” “Yeah, but first I’m gonna go buy some beer.” “Get me some, too.” “Aren’t you on cold medicine?” “Yeah, oh well.”
As we settled back onto our couch, we suddenly looked at one another… and burst out laughing. I’m talking one of those full-on, tears-rolling-down-the-cheeks, belly laugh kind of laughs. We laughed and laughed, falling together onto the couch. At that point, all the tension evaporated. We each had a beer, took a deep breath, and went on with life.
Although I hate how we handled what is going down in the books as the “Fake Mercury Disaster” situation in the heat of the moment, I’m glad that we’re figuring these things out about one another now. When B gets mad, he yells then gets annoyingly quiet. I cry and cry and whine and whine. Clearly, neither of us has a good coping strategy. But, at least we’re getting the chance to work on these issues now, in “fake disasters,” before a real situation arises, or someone else is involved. I think we would do well to have a couple more fight “drills,” but I feel confident that each will go more smoothly than the last.