I’ve grown up having animals in the house. My parents are divorced, so growing up, when visiting my father in Michigan or my mother in Pennsylvania, they both had cats. I’ve had several cats living with my wife. We haven’t had any cats for about three or four years.
I was discharged from the NAVY in June 1997. I’ve had a standard beard or a Vandyke ever since my discharge. Maybe it was me rebelling against the military’s no-beard policy. (You’re not the boss of me now!) I think, and more importantly, my wife thinks, I look good in a Vandyke. She’s obviously smarter than I am, so I’ve only had a naked chin once or twice in the last eighteen years.
I went to my boss’s house to help her with something. While I was there, one of her cats jumped into my lap, purring up a storm. Like many people, when such a situation presents itself, you pet the cat. The cat required petting from both my hands and was nuzzling my arms.
After about ten minutes, I started sneezing and my eyes were watering. I assumed it was the plant allergies I inherited when I moved to Arizona. Both the Manzanita and Juniper trees are in bloom. I rubbed my eyes and blew my nose. Ya’know standard allergy fare.
I get back to work and I’m in the newsroom and I start sneezing. For ten minutes straight. We’re talking full-body sneezes: arms flailing, heard in the control room, etc. “Hey keep it down in there, we’re on the air!” I run to the bathroom and see myself in the mirror. My face is broken out in hives. My face, hands and arms are itching like crazy. My eyes are starting to swell shut. The whites of my eyes are bloodshot and it looks like a case of double pink eye, only darker. I’m totally miserable.
I take off my cat-hair covered shirt (relax, I had an undershirt on.) Do my best to rid my pants of cat hair. I do a TV-doctor style hand washing up to my elbows. I can’t lose the pants because apparently boxer shorts aren’t business-casual. I’ve still got six hours of work left for the day. I can’t even take a sick day because I can’t see to drive. Between the swollen eyes and the tears, if any law enforcement saw me they would’ve instantly assumed I was imbibing in the St. Patty’s day festivities.
After washing up and losing the shirt, I slowly return to a functional level. Don’t tell my boss, but I spent about an hour with wet paper towels on my face, doing nothing. But focusing on breathing.
After the remainder of my daily shift, I get to go home. My eyes just feel like I’ve been crying for an hour or two, but I can at least see. I get home and it’s instant strip down to my skivvies. The hives have subsided, but my face it still itchy. I figure it’s time to take the beard off so I can rub something on my face.
Remember how I haven’t shaved my beard in eighteen years? Yeah I rummaged around in a drawer and found a razor. If any one was curious, Gillette Mach 3s will last ten years in the case. I buzz it all down with my beard trimmer and realize I have no shave gel.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit it: I’m a wimp when it comes to pain. I figure pain is the body’s way of telling me something’s wrong. Anyway, no way was I gonna dry-shave or try using tap water as a lubricant. My wife shaves her legs, so she had some shave gel in the shower… Better’n nothing, I thought. I’m sure any of my readers who have ever shaved their legs with goosbumps know what happened next. Yeah, hives are just as bad as goosebumps.
Anyway, this pointless story-rant philosophy machine concludes with the title: I shaved off my beard and apparently I’m allergic to cats.