The story starts actually when I was teenager and swam every day, all day, one hot summer in Los Angeles. It turned out that one of my ear canals was narrower than the other and I ended up with ear problems. Since, I have had two major ear surgeries. My ears tend to get more waxy buildup than a dining room table, so every once in a while I need to have them vacuumed. I really do not think about it often enough until something alarming happens.
The alarm went off a week ago. I was about to cross a street downtown. Now the Thais drive on the “wrong” side of the road. Lifelong memory has me look the other direction first. I did. I stepped out into the street and came within a cat’s whisker of getting run down by a car. I had to regroup mentally and remind myself these people drive like Brits and that I had better get used to it, fast. But then it dawned on me that I had not HEARD the car either. I knew it was time to Hoover out my ears. I hate this procedure for two reasons. First, if you have never had a vacuum cleaner run inside your ear, good for you. Don’t unless you must.
The second reason is that afterwards I hear much more than I heard before. As far as I am concerned, to a certain amount, having impaired hearing is a type of blessing. Who needs to hear fans? The streets were quieter before. Now I hear what y’all hear and I wonder how you go about life with all those distractions. But now I can hear a car coming and I probably wont step in front of one.
To get the procedure done I went with my Cousin Jon. He has to go once a month for a checkup following some gruesome problem he had with his leg. He had told me how good this hospital is in Chiang Mai. It really is. Maybe it in’t Boston General but it is modern and clean and big and has the highest international ratings given to hospitals. It is the main place for the thousands of Expat oldsters living here. I kept thinking about the Clinica in Bocas del Toro. Or even the gringo hospital in David. I started to appreciate why Chiang Mai is rated on of the top places in the world to retire. You can grow old here inexpensively and have good medical care 10 minutes away instead of some guy with a bone in his nose in Bocas or have to take an hour flight to another city.
My doctor (A Thai) listened as I explained to him exactly what my problem was. I showed him on his wall size picture of the inner ear exactly what was habitually wrong with me. All he said was, “let’s fix you.” He sat me down in front of the same level of equipment I have had stuck in my ear in Boston and Los Angeles, and proceeded to clean out my ears. He said I should have it done more often.
Now for the good part. I walked in without an appointment. They asked if I minded waiting ten minutes. They were almost apologetic about the wait. 30 minutes later I was done. They handed me the bill. 1100 baht! That is US$34. It would have cost me that much to park at Boston General.
Chiang Mai, gotta love it. Now if everything would just QUIET DOWN!