The Thing: a cautionary tale

On the morning of the first day, I awoke to a slight discomfort. It was just the slightest sensation that the family jewels may have been bumped around a little. On the morning of the second day, the pain had managed a crescendo to a relatively stable mezzo piano. I began to suspect that the boys in the basement might have been in a scuffle. On the morning of the third day, I awoke to an entire symphony of pain. It felt like someone had tightened a vice grip onto my left nut – or at least what I imagine that such a thing would feel like. I was beginning to have difficulty walking in a proper fashion. I thought to myself, "I should like to die rather than limp around with a vice grip on my left testicle. I’m calling the urologist.”

I walked - or rather - waddled into the office and signed in. I gingerly placed my aching gonads in a chair, and glanced around. The waiting room was full of old men who were clearly having problems with erectile dysfunction. Their wives stared back at me with pity. The empathy in their eyes was palpable. Their faces all said, “He’s so young, and he’s already having problems. How sad.”

After waiting in pain for thirty minutes, a nurse called me back to a room, but the room wasn’t empty. When she discovered her error, she turned to me and said, “Wait in here.” She opened a door that led to a small closet that had been converted into a waiting area. The closet had a chair and a desk that was full of pamphlets on erectile dysfunction. I sat at the desk and waited for another twenty minutes. Having nothing to do, I began to peruse the pamphlets.

I looked in vain for a pamphlet entitled, “What to do if you have a vice grip on your left nut.” Not finding it, I began reading, “What to do when your soldier is no longer able to stand and salute properly.” I found that a considerable amount of ingenuity and resourcefulness has been given to the issue. There are a cornucopia of cures for appendage problems. Modern day DaVinci’s have developed all manner of medicines and machinations for lethargic erectile tissue.
One solution proposed a reverse balloon technology whereby a device was used to create a vacuum. As soon as the balloon was filled, you had to tie it off with a special piece of elastic that your doctor could prescribe. The cure that really fascinated me was the pump. Two balloon devices could be inserted down each side of your member. These were connected to a valve and a little "testicle" device that you could squeeze. When the “third testicle” was compressed, fluid would fill the two empty balloons and provide instantaneous results. The valve could then be switched to the “off” position, and the fluid would rush back to its poly-orchid home. I attempted to maintain an air of scholarly disinterestedness when the nurse found me engrossed in the pamphlet. I’m not sure that it fooled her. She was simply added to the list of wives in the waiting room who felt pity for the young man with problems so early in life.

When meeting a urologist, I always want to have a clear plan of attack. We both know that we are getting ready to do something intimate, but I’m never sure who is supposed to make the first move. There is a brief period of courtship, but it always smacks of dishonesty. He makes a little small talk, but I know he’s just trying to get me to drop my pants. The signal for the end of the courtship is when he moves to the short little stool that all urologists have. The stool always makes me uncomfortable. This time, he went for the stool early. “Wait!” I thought, “You just learned my name, and your already going to do that! How about a little chat first?” My mind was racing. I tried to act calm. “Make small talk,” I thought. “Talk about something he likes to talk about.”

As he began to roll toward me, I blurted out,

“So, I’ve been reading your pamphlets on erectile dysfunction.”

“Are you having problems?”

“No, no. I was just in the closet. I was waiting for a room, and there was nothing else to read.”

“Oh. Drop your pants for me.”

My pants hit the floor like a four year old had grabbed them and shanked me in an Albertsons grocery store.

“I was particularly fascinated by that pump thing.” I said, “Does it all really go on the inside?”

To my horror, my small talk plan completely backfired. The good doctor, finding a subject upon which he was well versed, began to explain the whole procedure.

“Well, first we insert two balloons here along the shaft of the penis.”
I looked down to see him indicating the insertion points on my body with his fingers!
“Next we place the valve here.”
He actually moved my junk around and used his other hand to point out the location of the valve. He then continued to describe the entire operation in great detail by pointing out all the various parts of my body.
All the while my brain was screaming, “I WANT YOU TO USE YOUR WORDS! DON’T USE YOUR HANDS TO EXPLAIN IT! USE YOUR WORDS!”

“But all this is really a last resort for people who can’t make anything else work. Are you having problems?”

“NO! I’m not having those kinds of problems! I just feel like there’s a vice grip tightened down on my left nut!”

“Let’s check you out.”

He formed his hands into a cupped shape and felt around while I became suddenly fascinated with the whiteness of the walls.

“You’ve definitely got something going on back there,” he said.

“Great,” I thought. “I had to go to the doctor to learn that.”

“Let’s get you up on the table and take a look,” he said.

I climbed into a chair that was not unlike the stirrup chairs that ob/gyn doctors use. He whipped out a disposable razor and started dry shaving me. Normally, I would expect an announcement or a request for permission before a shave, but urologists tend to have few hang-ups about social mores. A quick gel application later, and I was experiencing my first sonogram. I had witnessed others getting a sonogram. Now, I was watching the insides of my nads crawl around on a screen while a strange man I didn’t know was moving the camera. I started scanning the image for something that looked like vice grips. I was beginning to feel uncomfortable and awkward again. I decided to make another attempt at small talk.

“Um, do you like your job?”

“It’s really a shame. I was trained as a surgeon. I like to work with my hands, but I spend all day dealing with urinary tract infections.”

“Oh. That’s too bad.” I mumbled.

The probe continued in silence as I reflected in despair on my two failed attempts at casual conversation with a urologist. Finally, the electronic exploration was completed, and he broke the silence.

“You’ve got epididymitis.”

“Epididi-what?”

“Epididymitis. It’s a bacterial infection in your epididymis.”

“I didn’t even know I had one of those. What is it?”

“It’s a little tube that attaches to the back of your testicle and carries spermatozoa to the vas deferens. A bacterium managed to find its way there and you’ve developed an infection. It’s swelling and putting pressure on your testicle.”

“Well, how did it get there? I desperately want to cease whatever action I did that allowed this bacteria and its ball crushing might into my body.”

“We don’t know how it gets in. Some think that heavy lifting may cause some urine to go backward and carry bacteria in to the epididymis, but no one really knows.”

“What can I do to make it stop hurting?”

“I’ll just prescribe some antibiotics for you, and it should clear up in a couple of days.”

“Is that it?”

“That should clear it up.”

I walked over to the front desk and signed out. I walked past the old women in the waiting room and drove to work. When I arrived, I wandered in to talk my department chair, Terry. Terry is one of the most astute observers of anything aesthetic that I have ever encountered. He also, as I found that day, has the ability to notice peripatetic problems in his faculty.

“Kurt, are you alright? You look like you’re walking kind of funny?” he said.

“Well, …um…I’ve got this thing. It’s called epididymitis.”

“You’ve got THE THING! Oh no! I had THE THING for the first time last year.”

“Really!” I said. I was excited at the possibility of finding someone else who had contracted the rare and powerful gonad “racking” bacteria.

“I actually woke up in the middle of my kitchen floor staring at the refrigerator grill. I had passed out from the pain. You know David’s had the thing, like, three times. Hold on…”

He disappeared for a moment and returned with another professor. When the office door was closed, Terry looked at David and said, “Kurt’s got THE THING.”

David turned to me in pity saying, “Take care of yourself. I had a reoccurring episode, and I kept asking the doctor, ‘Why is this happening to me?! What did I do to deserve this?!”

“I woke up on my kitchen floor,” repeated Terry.

David absquatulated saying, “I’m serious, take care of yourself.”

Terry encouraged me to go home and get rest. I waddled out of his office a little bewildered at the fact that they too had had THE THING. I had never heard of THE THING before. I mean, no one ever told me about THE THING in health class. My dad never pulled me aside and said, “Son, I have to warn you. There is this THING you can get that will make your left acorn feel like it was hit with a hammer.” Before, I was suffering alone. Now, I had two comrades! I was in a secret club. I began to ponder whether this particular affliction was something that singled out musicians.

After going home for some rest, I went to choir practice at church. I was slowly perambulating through the fence when Bill called to me. Bill was an eternal spring of South Carolinian humor and anecdotes. I limped toward him to hear one of his stories.

“Kurt, are you alright? You look like you’re walking kind of funny?” he said.

“Well, …um…I got this thing. It’s called epididymitis.”

“You’ve got THE THING! Oh no! I had THE THING back in ’76, and I can still feel a bit of pain when I think about it. You take care of yourself. Hold on…David come here.” A different David than the one mentioned above walked over.

“David, Kurt’s got THE THING!" Bill said.

David turned to me in pity, saying, “I’m serious, take care of yourself. I remember when I had the thing. Hold on…” They proceeded to call all the rest of the men in the choir over and the mantra resumed.

“Kurt’s got THE THING.”

“I’m serious, take care of yourself.”

“I remember when I got THE THING.”

“Me too. I still think about it sometimes.”

“You take care of yourself.”

I have written this cautionary tale as a warning to those men who have not heard the news.
There is a bacterium of momentous evil in this world. Should you get THE THING, it will subject a testicle of its own choosing to its horrible, compressing jaws. At times, you will be tempted to emasculate yourself to end the pain. Don’t do it! There is help. There is a secret club. You cannot gain admission by an application. THE THING chooses you. You do not choose it. Once you are “in,” you have the sympathy and support of us all. You can hear the stories of when we came through the ordeal and emerged victorious on the other side. If you find that you have become an unhappy member, I would simply say to you, “I’m serious, take care of yourself.”

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