Happy Birthday to Me!

Chocolate Cake

Most people get cake on their birthday. I was fed poison. Just unlucky, I guess.

We awoke in the town of Revelstoke, at the Western edge of the Canadian Rockies. We’d slept in the car, and had just finished our morning ablutions at the excellent public washroom near the downtown plaza. I was feeling an out-of-season cold coming on, so Yoo-Mi dug in her dop-kit to find me something with which to rinse my mouth. The bottle looked, it must be confessed, just like mouthwash. The throat-burning paralysis and mouth-assaulting nastiness of the big swig and deep gargle promptly (though perhaps not promptly enough) indicated otherwise.

Savlon Savlon

Yoo-Mi had given me a shot of Savlon, a disinfectant product she’d picked up in India to clean the bathroom. According to a packaging insert I later found online, the shit contains “an aqueous solution containing 0,3 g chlorhexidine gluconate and 3,0 g cetrimide as active ingredients per 100 mL and 2,84% m/v n-propyl alcohol and 0,056% m/v benzyl benzoate as preservatives.”

Doesn’t that sound delicious!

Apparently, the stuff is dynamite for getting sinks and toilets super-clean. And I must say, my teeth seemed to have a nice luster to them in the aftermath. The red-bordered cross on the package was not, it seems, entirely misleading, since it can be used as an antiseptic solution on “minor cuts, scrapes, and insect bites” after first being diluted with water in a 1:20 ratio.

My error was anticipated by the instructions on the back label. “FOR EXTERNAL USE ONLY,” the text advised in a font easily read by a teenager with a magnifying glass. How could I have missed such a clear warning?

The online information is a bit more complete: “Accidental ingestion could cause nausea and vomiting, dyspnoea and cyanosis due to paralysis of the respiratory muscles, possibly leading to asphyxia. Depression of the central nervous system with convulsions, hypertension and coma may occur. Empty stomach by aspiration and lavage.” We were a little short of an internet connection and an oral-gastric lavage kit (with or without aspiration valves), so I emptied my stomach the old fashioned way: by puking my guts out.

After twenty minutes of Olympian retching, the worst was over. And a mere 72 hours later, the nasty chemical taste was completely gone. So, all-in-all, it was not so bad. Still, I’m a little more cautious about what I ingest these days. Which was how I discovered the glass of “water” Yoo-Mi poured for me at breakfast this morning was actually bleach.

Hey, you can’t blame a girl for trying!

5 Responses to “Happy Birthday to Me!”

  1. 1 bee 18 August 2008 at 10:51 am

    so sorry to hear of your ordeal. wishing you a happy rest of the year.

  2. 2 Lisa 19 August 2008 at 1:13 pm

    Why is Yoo-Mi trying to kill you Mark?

  3. 3 mbjesq 19 August 2008 at 7:18 pm

    Certainly not for any life insurance policy — which, I suppose, should make me feel even worse.


  4. 4 jes 28 August 2008 at 12:14 am

    wat dont kill u
    can only make u stronger

    Happy belated birthday.
    nice work in Pondy
    had a walk around on my way to Taragapani two weeks back.
    never seen pondy so crowded tho…

  5. 5 Anonymous 30 August 2008 at 9:26 am

    Get ready for this! What goes around, etc.

    When I was a little guy I was sitting on the stone steps gazing at my backyard in Cleveland. (Cleveland!) I was also admiring my handiwork before the hell I must have known was coming arrived. There was paiting going on and I had found me a brush and can and just finished painting the stone steps white.

    There was a jar of some golden-amber liquid nearby and you should know that in those days I was in love with ginger ale. You’re not so disciminating when you’re 5 or 6 so I figured……….
    Yes, I picked up the jar and drank it. And promptly screamed, I imagine, for I had quaffed a jar of turpentine. How should I know. I’m only 5 or 6 and there isn’t even a brush in the jar.

    Anyway, so the story goes, at least as it was told to me, I burned the lining of my stomach. I’m not sure what that means but the treatment in those old days was a diet of egg whites. Uncooked, naturally.

    I recovered, you might say. The only good thing about this story, besides your amusement, is that the episode managed to reduce the, uh, disapproval that would have come my way for painting the steps.
    Love to Yoom,


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