Ear ye, ear ye

So, I’m driving down to the college the other day and on the radio I hear a report that “cotton swabs” are responsible for 250,000 (yes, a quarter of a million) ear injuries every year, mostly in children, and my mind races in several directions.
One is, what’s with the “cotton swabs?” We’re talking Q-tips, right? Hasn’t that term become generic by now? Actually, wasn’t it generic right out of the shoot? All tissues are Kleenex and all “cotton swabs” are Q-tips.
Another thought is, while I know what it says on the package, and so do you, is there a living being who has not poked a Q-tip into his or her ear to a marvelous feeling of comfort? One might even ask, if not for sticking in the ear, what’s a Q-tip for?
Yet another thought was how I miss the original Q-tips, the ones made of wood. I remember when the change took place. The new ones, the ones with the stick part made of tightly wound paper, like the stick of a Tootsie Pop, are supposed to be safer because they are more flexible. I get that. Both those hard wooden sticks really did the job.
Oh, and I just remembered those ones with the really flexible soft plastic sticks. They were worthless.
But the biggest thing on my mind after hearing this report was how badly I wanted … no, needed a Q-tip right then and there. God, my ear canals were never as itchy as in that moment. I debated a good while about risking being late for class by stopping at a convenience store. I wound up doing the right thing but promised myself to start keeping Q-tips in the console.
Oh, and one other thing came to mind.
I remember once talking to a friend who had graduated from the CIA, the Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park. He said the days he hated most when he was a student there were the days when a busload of Q-tips pulled in.
Q-tips?
“Yeah,” he said, “Q-tips. You know, a bunch of old ladies.”
Think about it.

Ed Ackerman