In which stupidity disrupts my Chi

I always like a good bit of stupidity, as long as I’m participating in it, and not having it inflicted upon me. Unfortunately this episode is an example of the latter, but I can look back and laugh.

Aged about 6 or so I used to suffer from continuous and excruciating ear infections. For a while it was attributed to my mother’s penchant for listening to Chris de Burgh on long car journeys, but altruistic thieves eventually stole the offending tapes from our Cavalier, demonstrating diagnostic powers in marked contrast to their woeful musical tastes. Not the eyebrowed wonder’s fault, then.

Electro cap

As a last-ditch effort to avoid having holes poked in my ears (all the better to hear Lady in Red), allergy diagnosis was given a shot. The unfortunate thing about allergy diagnosis, however, is that it’s slow and boring and there aren’t any sensible shortcuts. About the only way to do it properly is a blind elimination diet, in which blind people are cooked and eaten to pacify the ear gods.

Ah ha, I slay me. No, it involves removing each suspected allergen from the diet for a period of time without the subject knowing what the change is, then reintroducing it and waiting for emesis. If you’ve ever tried to get an already-picky 6-year-old to eat anything foreign, you can surely imagine the challenge of not only repeatedly altering their diet, but getting them to eat it without telling them what it is, then expecting to reliably observe a difference in the speed with which it is returned to sender. Hardly surprising, then, that I got shopped around some more exotic “specialists”, who promised far more rapid results.

There are lots of hilariously stupid means of “testing” for allergies. First (and slightly dull in its conception) comes electrodermal skin testing, in which a vial of the suspected allergen is connected in series with the patient (in my case by having my toes poked by electrodes) and some ludicrous Heath Robinson contraption with lots of impressive-looking dials, meters (analogue, of course) and pointless external capacitors (it’s a lot like high-end hi-fi in this regard). Twiddling ensues, readings are taken, and a pronouncement is made.

“Hmm,” says the alleged doctor. “You appear to be allergic to the two most common childhood allergens.”

“Goodness,” one replies, “how clever of you,” handing over one’s cash in awe at the still-oscillating hoojamajigger attached to your toe.

Applied Kinesiology

Far more fun, and infinitely more woo, is Applied Kinesiology. The idea here is that the subject holds a vial of an allergen in one hand, and extends their other arm parallel to the ground. The “doctor” presses down on the extended hand. Should the subject be allergic to the vial’s contents, his energy will be disrupted and he will find himself unable to resist the downward pressure applied by the idiot poking his hand.

So far, so stupid, but it gets better. Aged six I was clearly in no position to resist the strength of a fully-grown moron, whether my cosmic flow was being altered by desiccated celery or not. Not letting this minor detail get between himself and a full consultancy fee, however, the moron in question suggested that I sit on my mother’s lap. I would hold the vial, my mother would hold out her arm, and the moron would press down on that. Genius! Only a hidebound cynic would question the transitive property of celery disturbance. Hug ye not a hayfever sufferer, for he will drain you of your very life force! Anyway. This is what we did.

“Hmm,” said the alleged doctor. “You appear to be allergic to the two most common childhood allergens.”

“Goodness,” we replied, “however did you work that out, having only probability and observable classic symptoms on your side?”

Only we didn’t, of course; we believed him. And that’s how a complete idiot doomed me to years of Ryvita sandwiches and rice cakes by being only half right. For years I wasn’t allowed wheat. Wheat. No bread, no biscuits, no pancakes; I had Ryvita sandwiches, for crying out loud. I don’t imagine you’ve had a Ryvita sandwich. They have the flavour of carpet underlay and the alluring texture of plastic forks. The most satisfaction that can be gained from them is finding the ones where the dimples don’t quite tesselate properly and mailing them to the manufacturer to demand a refund. I hid them behind the toilets until the stack got so large they fell out one day, concussing the janitor. That’s when the rice cakes started. Lighter, you see; less dangerous.

I appear to be rambling now, so I’m going to stop. That’s craft for you.

1 Response to “In which stupidity disrupts my Chi”


  • I should just point out (a mere 2.5 years after writing this) that my mother is most upset that I accused her of being a Chris de Burgh fan. The de Burgh tape in question was recommended to her by a friend (who shall remain nameless), and was placed in the car in the express hope that it would be stolen (either that or as a burglar deterrent).

    My mother no longer likes Chris de Burgh, and indeed denies ever having done so. I can confirm that no such recordings currently infest my parents’ house.

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