Once bitten

It may have been the single worst sip of beer of all time.

A) Something was most definitely amiss in my bottle of Pilsner Urquell. The once ice-cold, bubbly from Pilsen, Czech – a truly Bohemian brew that’s delighted for nearly two centuries – had baked in the afternoon sun and attained something close to body temperature. Somehow I’d inadvertently pulled a David Copperfield, magically transforming the glorious imported greenie into low-grade swill (These things have been known to happen to men wrenching on their beloved’s vehicle).

B) To make matters worse, a venomous, six-legged flying insect had opted to share said pint of beer. Sneaking past my inner grease monkey, the yellow-jacketed invader took the big slide down the smooth longneck. There, bathed in green light, the bug sank exoskeleton-deep in liquid gold, tasting the highest euphoria of its short time on planet Earth.

I’d just finished under the hood, slammed my left thumb for added effect and mysteriously developed a powerful thirst. Oblivious that I was now sharing my beer, I went for a little liquid reward and took a double chug of the shizzle. The lukewarm hit my lips and promptly triggered my good friend, the gag reflex. However, beer hasn’t touched Sands family soil in six generations, and I had no desire to be the weak link.

I quickly learned the hard way that I need to heed such instincts. Seconds later, my mouth was quite literally on fire. I’d clearly upset the little stinger because the drunken drone shot back up that longneck and was ready to rumble. Before I could so much as hiccup, the yellow jacket nailed me three times – all of the stings on the inside of my upper lip. Three fluid ounces knee-jerked off my mouth (and onto Sands family soil) in a violent fountain of spew and foam. On the tail-end of the explosion was my buzzed buddy.

Now here’s the bitter irony. I’d just spent a few moments of that very morning reflecting on how much I was enjoying a sting-free season. You see, last summer I was nailed on four separate occasions all about the arms and legs. The sessions included one particularly cruel cut inside the shorts along that tenderest of reaches. Let’s just say, the associated swelling was in no way worth that price of admission.

Last week’s triple-hit was new territory. I’ve never been stung inside the mouth, and I immediately knew that I was in for a wild ride. Even before I could pluck my beer bottle from the ground (and use it to brutally squash and smear my dazed assailant), the poison started coursing through my system. In mere minutes, I attained cartoon character status – my upper lip suddenly resembling a ripe piece of cantaloupe.

After a preventative course of ice and ibu, my lot improved slightly. My new piece of melon shrank into a much more manageable Chinese dumpling (steamed not fried), and I settled into dreamland, assumed I was in the clear and carefully reconsidered the tested wisdom of drinking cold beer in the hot sun.

A mere seven hours and four minutes later, I woke to a shocking realization. My head was no longer on straight. My face (all of it – chin to scalp) had swollen into a monstrous form that resembled nothing more than a pink volleyball with hair and breather holes. My eyes were swollen shut, my nasal passages were sealed and a scratchy tightness was beginning to take center stage in my throat. My bride took one look and gasped; the fruit of my looms, my daughter Skyler, took another and laughed; and we were soon en route to a local emergency room – Rachael’s freshly tuned vehicle buzzing along in fine form.

I blindly stumbled into reception and begged for epinephrine, taking the liberty of cutting in front of a Celebrex salesman – who strangely enough was wearing what appeared to be an Armani suit and had just clicked the alarm of a glistening, black BMW.

What I got was some high-grade Benadryl, a scrip for steroids, a pat on the back and the comment, “Wow, your body is doing a really good job of fighting this thing.”

Days later, my body was still fighting. “You look just like a cabbage patch kid,” a friend jested. Seeing my distress, her husband came to my rescue, “That’s going a bit far, honey. Stop picking on the fat-faced kid.”

As I type this, things are finally starting to look up. My course of prednisone happily derailed my brief sideshow career as the Amazing Chipmunk Boy. And when I was stung again yesterday (true story), the wasp opted for the familiar territory of my upper leg, a region not nearly as prone to extreme swelling. I’m also now the proud owner of an epi pen – “If you flare up, jab yourself in the thigh and call 911.”

But the true sting of the whole sordid affair is still buzzing around my pocketbook. I’ve put the cost of that warm sip of Pilsner Urquell somewhere around $372.43. I keep hoping someone will actually take pity, soften the blow and pass me an ice-cold Pabst Blue Ribbon. I’ve learned my lesson. I promise not to leave it out in the hot sun.

– Will Sands