Something in the Water, Part 2

By Shamus Posted Friday Oct 10, 2014

Filed under: Personal 94 comments

The story of Why I Moved continues…


The T-shaped scar in the street is the handiwork of the Dwarves from the water company. It's hard to believe they spent the better part of the summer on that.
The T-shaped scar in the street is the handiwork of the Dwarves from the water company. It's hard to believe they spent the better part of the summer on that.

The water company is still at it. I’m up on the second floor, so I have a really good view of the spectacle from here. As before, they’ve blocked off one of the major intersections and they’re turning perfectly good asphalt into rubble as fast as they can to get at the rottenOne assumes. water pipes underneath. They’ll tear up the whole street, blocking off traffic and making noise and confusion for days. A one-way-street passes right in front of the elementary school, then in front of our house, and then into the waiting arms of the water company’s obstructionist demolition team. This – coupled with the triangular street pattern in this corner of town – creates a really bad case of “you can’t get there from here”. Especially when the school buses show up. It's madness.

I go downstairs to check the mail. I have to walk down the precarious wooden steps and all the way around the house to do this, which makes up 90% of the exercise I’ll get today. If the postal service ever went on strike I’d probably gain 50 pounds.

I’m thumbing through the junk mail and the stuff that’s STILL showing up for the previous resident when I glance up and see a cat looking at me out of Fred’s window. Nice kitty. I’m about to head back home again when I stop in my tracks. Hang on. Did I just see a cat inside the house? I look back. Yup. It's perched on the window still, staring right at me. I wonder how long it’s been living here. Fred's girlfriend – who we'll call Wilma – moved in recently, and I’ll bet the cat came with her.

Hm. Fred is an in-law of the landlady. Does the strict “NO PETS” rule apply to him? Did she even bother telling him about my condition? Does she even remember herself? I've never shared a building with a pet like this. How much animal dander can travel from Fred's apartment to ours?

I guess we’ll find out.


This is our "garden". It's small, but it makes me happy.
This is our "garden". It's small, but it makes me happy.

I sigh as I step into the piddly little stream of water in the shower. I guess the water company has turned down the pressure? I lean my head against the wall and think, which to me is the real reason to shower. The hygiene stuff is just a bonus side-effect.

The odd thing is that I don’t remember the specific point when the water pressure dropped. It used to be really good, and now it’s a pathetic dribble. It seems like a sudden change like that would have caught my attention. Have they been gradually reducing the water pressure? Why would they do that?

And hang on: Now that I think of it, the bathroom sink seems to work as well as it always has. It’s just the shower and the kitchen sink that seem to drool more than spray.

I get dressed and find some tools. I feel all manly, using a wrench like this. I half expect to suddenly grow a voluminous lumberjack beard during the attempt. I manage to figure it all out and I pull the shower head free. Sadly, no beard is forthcoming.

I turn the shower-head over in my hands, pouring water down my front like an idiot. Damnit. Stupid newbie stuff like this is why I’ll never have a lumberjack beard. But mixed in with the water are these little white granules, about the size of BB’s. I’ve been seeing this white stuff floating around in our water for a while now. The stuff I saw wasn’t this coarse, but was the size of sand or dust motes. I assumed they were “calcium deposits”, because I had no idea what else what they could be. Now that I’ve got a chunk large enough to hold, I have to say it doesn’t feel like a mineral deposit. It feels like PVC.

Our water pressure wasn’t reduced. Our water fixtures have been gradually getting clogged with bits of pulverized plastic. The bathroom sink didn’t get stopped up because it’s a really old no-nonsense faucet without any filter on it, so there was nowhere for the material to accumulate.

How long have we been drinking this crap? Is everyone in the neighborhood drinking it?


That's what my inhaler looks like. (On the right, smartass.)
That's what my inhaler looks like. (On the right, smartass.)

I breathe out, clearing my lungs. Then I suck in as I squeeze down on the inhaler. The squeezing depresses the stem of the pressurized canister, which aerosols a measured dose of Albuterol into my mouth. I keep breathing in until my lungs are full, and then hold it. This is a motion that I’ve been performing since I was nine. I’ve been doing it for over three decades, but I still don’t feel like I’m doing it right. If you breathe too late, you just spray the medicine all over the inside of your mouth, which is gross and unhelpful. If you breathe too early, then your lungs will already be half-full when the medication gets there and it won’t get down into the deep areas where it’s most needed.

I frown at the inhaler. It felt a little flat. Am I running out already? This thing is less than a month old! How often am I taking it? I have no idea. It’s like asking someone how often they stretch or yawn. It’s a completely reflexive action. I do it when I need to. The fact that I’m going flat after a month means I’m huffing on this thing like crazy. I haven’t taken it this fast in years.

It’s the cat. And the smoking. Downstairs, Wilma has been smoking. Even with my addled sense of smell I can tell as soon as she fires up.

I have no idea what to do about it. I mean, sure, I could go to the landlady and complain. There are many, many possible outcomes of that course of action. I’m sure that, “Neighbors get rid of the pets and everyone quits smoking” is probably the least likely. I could piss them off and cause a bunch of drama and strife, but that’s not going to fix the problem. The frustrating thing is that there's no way to make them understand. They'll just assume I'm whining because I hate the smell or whatever.

I don't have a picture to go with this section. Here is whatever.
I don't have a picture to go with this section. Here is whatever.

That's the thing about my health problems: They're weird. People don't get it. If I was in a wheelchair or missing an arm, people could wrap their heads around my needs. We know what a proper handicap-accessible building looks like. But my health problems are exotic, counter-intuitive, and at first glance they come off like harmless allergies. Some people think my problem is horseshit. Or psychosomatic. Or they think I've got simple allergies and I'm just a big baby about them. Or they think I'll be fine as long as I don't have line-of-sight to the animal in question. Or that the problem can be solved by having really “clean” pets and vacuuming a lot. Even if you find someone willing to sit still for the whole explanation, it's hard to get them to mentally connect the idea of owning a cute little animal with blue-lipped suffocation.

I want to make it clear that I'm not saying I've got it worse than someone in a wheelchair. That would be silly. I'm just saying there's something vaguely embarrassing about having a condition that nobody understands and is caused by tiny adorable pets. It short-circuits people's ability to reason and understand. I suppose the preponderance of movie kids with plot-driven asthma hasn't helped.

The water company is still at it. They block all traffic, dig up part of the street, replace some pipes, pave over their handiwork, then the next day they move four paces up the street and repeat the process. At this rate I suppose they’ll be done by the year 2100 or so. I don’t know. Maybe this whole water pipe business is a cover and they’re actually looking for mithril.



[1] One assumes.

From The Archives:

94 thoughts on “Something in the Water, Part 2

  1. Steve C says:

    I know you aren’t done with your story yet so there could be a great reveal coming up of something the water company is doing. But I instantly thought “dip tube” soon as you said, “white stuff floating around in our water”.

    Years ago I had plastic bits in my water. It was the failure of the hot water dip tube. The dip tubes for hot water heaters were made wrong in the late 90s. There was a class action lawsuit and there’s tons of info about it online. The plastic tubs inside the heater perished over time and ended up in the pipes- especially the shower. If your hot water heater is older than 2001 and you ever find plastic bits in your water then it’s most likely the dip tube. If someone didn’t realize the defect and had old inventory around it’s conceivable one of these crappy plastic pipes survived to this decade. Alternatively whatever the water company was doing could have dislodged a bit of old dip tube that’s been lodged in the house pipes for the last decade.

    1. Joe Cool says:

      Yep, I remember that. My parents had the house re-piped in the late 90’s, which included a new hot-water heater. I remember the plastic pieces””which we thought were calcium, too””coming out of the faucets.

  2. ACman says:

    Damn cliff hangers….

    You’re worse than TV sometimes, Shamus.

  3. spelley says:

    Definitely Mithril. You’ll know for sure when the Water Company people are wearing silvery-looking chainmail shirts.

    1. shiroax says:

      Or at the latest when a demon kills everyone in the water company. In which case, I’m afraid the street’s never getting repaved.

      1. ehlijen says:

        I don’t think you’ll find any balrogs by digging ‘too everywhere and too just a little’.

        1. DIN aDN says:

          The little-known disaster at the dwarven settlement of Lessria, caused by the dwarves digging too distractedly and too widely, was excised from most books of dwarven history due to the sheer embarrassment factor of awakening – and then being forced out of their settlement by – a horde of fluffy ducklings.

          1. Veylon says:

            I dunno. Maybe if they were zombie ducklings we wouldn’t be embarrassed. I lost a fort digging by single-mindedly for clay that the place was bereft of defences when the zombie bluefin tuna flopped up out of the sea and bludgeoned everyone to death with their scaly bodies. Never forget.

            1. Scourge says:

              Atleast they haven’t broken any euclidean geometry laws by digging… Yet.

    2. Paul Spooner says:

      You know those reflective construction vests? Lots of silvery bits huh?

  4. KingJosh says:

    Where did everyone get this ridiculous notion that dogs and cats are adorable, anyway?

    Yeah, I’m not really a “pet person.”

    And, for added fun and hilarity, I’m not exactly a “people person,” either!

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “Where did everyone get this ridiculous notion that dogs and cats are adorable, anyway?”

      From youtube,of course.

      1. Thomas says:

        Youtube is just ancient Egyptian cat worship for the modern age

    2. MadTinkerer says:

      While cats are indisputably adorable, especially my sweet little girl who was sitting on my lap just an hour ago, I do sympathize with allergy sufferers.

      I have an allergy, my only allergy, to grass. When I explain to people that I can’t mow lawns, I have to go into a long, long story about how I really can’t mow lawns anymore and can’t stand to be exposed to grass-juice that gets launched into the air when people mow their lawns or I’ll get a rash. I can stand in grass just fine. If I rub grass on my skin it will make my skin burn and possibly cause scarring.

      But it’s not a common thing, so people just don’t get it unless I tell the full long story. It’s so bad, my own mother keeps forgetting that it’s a real allergy and not something I’ve made up.

      Thank goodness I don’t have a cat allergy, though. My sweet little (16 year old) baby girl needs me!

    3. Ilseroth says:

      Well originally Cats and Dogs were domesticated purely for utilitarian purposes, however years of breeding and domestication has turned them into animals very reliant on a person taking care of them.

      People want to feel loved and the reliance of the animal on the person validates them. Combine this with the emphasized traits from breeding similar to human babies (large eyes, big heads) and people anthropomorphize the animal into their “kid.”

      As someone who loves dogs/cats I recognize it is a biological impulse related to physical features and reliance combined with a positive feedback loop as the more attention is paid, the more attention is generally returned.

      1. purf says:

        Yeaaah, but no. A cat that has the possibility to go out can easily develop a not-giving-a-crap mentality. It will appreciate having its homebase and the availability of a warm lap every now and then but when it gets the slightest chance to connect with the still wild animal inside it will take it (thus, imho and from my experience, keeping a single cat indoors is borderline animal abuse).
        Why am I writing this? We moved into a new place this summer which allows “small pets” and with this place being a=our house – meaning we are in control of the front door and even though we live in what could be described as ‘downtown’ the immediate surroundings are almost car-free and green – the thought of getting a cat has very much come up. Here’s the thing: I already have a proper kid ;) But cats are cool and I’d like to give one a home. (Some/most dogs are cool as well but too much work)

        as for allergies: I’ve got nothing severe but frolicking around in a late spring field of grass and wildflowers still isn’t the best of ideas.

        1. Scourge says:

          Even stay at home cats (is that the proper term?) can develop a not-giving-a-crap attitude.

          I remember one of my cats when she went out the first time and explored the garden. 2 hours later I get distracted by loud honking from the street. What do I see there?

          My cat, laying happily in the middle in the street and enjoying the sunshine while a car (fortunately) stopped a few meters away and is now trying to get her to move. And scare her away, as far as I could tell by the arm waving and shouting of the driver of the car.

          My cat wasn’t the slightest bit bothered.

    4. ET says:

      What about this cat getting into a box! So cute! :D

  5. Mogatrat says:

    Oh man, I have to say, smoking cigarettes inside is a thing that I thought was restricted to coke-addled college students (since those are the only people I’ve met who do it in this day and age). The cat I can understand, but basic common decency and experience has taught everyone that cigarette smoke clings unpleasantly to everything it touches and will linger long after you pass away, so we don’t fucking do it inside anymore. Eurgh.

    1. tengokujin says:

      You would think that to be the case.

      Except it’s *cooooold* outside. And it’s a private residence! And besides, Febreeze works wonders, amirite? /s

    2. DrMcCoy says:

      Many people don’t even mention they do it when selling stuff on ebay and the like. And then you buy a piece of hardware, a book, anything, and it’s yellow and reeks.

      1. Mechaninja says:

        I have literally* punched someone in the face for smoking in front of a computer.

        * In the sense that white girls who can’t even use literally.

        1. Joe Cool says:

          Don’t feel bad about using literally in that sense. Merriam-Webster says it’s A-OK to use it as hyperbole.

          1. Mechaninja says:

            I only do so intentionally, I assure you.

          2. ehlijen says:

            And I find that worrying. Anything equating a positive with a negative meaning is only going to undermine the no means no message.

          3. Ivan says:

            Don’t say that! I literally thought this was a safe place to use the word “literally” literally! Now I’ll literally never be able to tell if someone is literally or figuratively punching someone in the face!

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              You should figuratively join the figurative army and literally say figuratively when you literally mean figuratively.

              1. Veloxyll says:

                This thread of discussion literally made my asthma flare up a little. Also, sometimes when using literally, the correct word is practically, not figuratively. It depends!

                Someone needs to make a collapsible spacer too. Those things are HUGE. Which is not ideal for something you need to carry around with you all the time or you’ll literally die.

      2. Hitch says:

        I worked in PC repair for a while. It was always a delight[/s] to open a smoker’s computer and find that thick yellow film coating everything inside the case, “You say it’s been overheating?”

        1. Mechaninja says:

          All of my this.

    3. Daemian Lucifer says:

      People who drive cars,or use public transportation to get to anywhere,and dont have serious breathing problems like Shamus,have no right to complain about cigarette smoke.

      1. Thomas says:

        It smells disgusting and makes you cough. That’s not good grounds for snatching a cigarrette out of someones hands, but we complain about all sorts of things all the time and that’s seems like a fine thing to complain about if you want to.

        And you only need moderate _occasional_ exposure to other peoples cigarette smoke to be at increased risk of tons of diseases later in life. Its not hanging round with a smoker all the time, it’s every now and then going into a smoky room.

        EDIT: I had an early comment that I hope will be deleted, I was being way too inflamatory

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          All that youve said(and more)goes for vehicle exhaust.The only difference:Weve gotten used to it.

          1. Well, when I meet someone whose livelihood depends utterly on smoking where it will annoy me, I will complain about their bosses or the system putting them in that position rather than about them.

            For all those other people whose smoking is optional, I will not consider it equivalent to the commuting the system forces me to do in order to not starve to death in the cold.

          2. Confanity says:

            The other difference: vehicle exhaust is a byproduct of transportation, without which our society would collapse and you’d be left trying to feed yourself with whatever you can grow with your own hands.

            In contrast, there is literally zero benefit to any human from tobacco: yes, consuming more gives you temporary relief from your withdrawal symptoms if you’re addicted, but any possible benefit to the smoker is canceled out by the increased chance of cancer plus any number of other diseases.

            In short: cars are a necessary evil. Tobacco is a known toxin that used to be used as a pesticide before they banned it because it was too poisonous.

            In short – yes, we do have a right to complain about cigarette smoke. We also have a right to complain about car exhaust, and to work for a future of clean energy where cars don’t pollute the roadways by simply driving. But knowing what we know about nicotine (not to mention the other ingredients in cigarettes) is is simply immoral to smoke, for the same reason that sneaking a cat into a no-pets apartment is immoral: it does unnecessary, easily-avoidable harm to innocent people.

            1. Trix2000 says:

              Also consider that car exhaust tends to restrict itself more to outside/roads, since that’s where cars tend to be.

              A person can theoretically smoke anywhere, and I think for larger cases CONSTANTLY.

            2. Ivan says:

              “In contrast, there is literally zero benefit to any human from tobacco”

              Don’t say that! Think of all the poor poor tobacco executives that would be thrown out on the street without food or water if the tobacco industry were to dry up!

              1. Taellosse says:

                *smiles and sighs wistfully*

                Oh, wait, you meant that to sound like a BAD thing (even sarcastically)? Weird…

                I’m not a fan of smoking, but a lot of people that do it were duped when they were kids and now find it almost impossible to actually stop – nicotine is incredibly addictive. But tobacco company executives? They’re drug kingpins in expensive suits, with the veneer of legitimacy because the poison they sell isn’t actually illegal. Seeing them driven, suddenly penniless, into the streets would be pretty great, I think.

          3. Abnaxis says:

            I don’t know about the locale you live in, but where I am there are stringent regulations on the ventilation required at any location that has motorized vehicles on it. If vehicles are allowed indoors, you can be there are banks of room-sized fans constantly running to make sure that exhaust gets removed from the immediate environment in short order. This is before even considering the slew of devices required by regulations to be installed on every new vehicle that–while far from making exhaust “safe” for direct inhalation–reduce the toxins enough to allow for safe operation within well-ventilated or outdoor areas.

            In short, people aren’t “just used to” vehicle exhaust, thousands of engineering man hours, billions of dollars, and reams of regulations have been dedicated to make that exhaust less offensive to the health and sensibility of the public at large. I have experience in working with pretty much every component of these systems when they cease to function, and IMO it can rank as bad as putting up with an indoor smoker or worse.

      2. MelTorefas says:

        The more I read your comment, the more the core assumption seems like a false equivalence ( I am no expert on logical fallacies, so I could be wrong, but either way I definitely disagree with your comment.

        While overuse *is* bad, there are legitimate reasons to use motorized transportation, even over short distances, and it can serve a useful purpose. Neither of those is true of smoking cigarettes indoors (except perhaps in some isolated and EXTREMELY rare medical cases).

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          There are legitimate reasons for every vice.The most important ones being “it feels good” and “its my body and my house”.

          1. Confanity says:

            The “it’s my body” argument is only valid up to the point where it affects someone else’s body. Look up the statistics on second-hand smoke. Smoking is simply never acceptable. If you want to eat a cigarette to ensure that it only affects your body, feel free – but be aware that statistically, the amount of nicotine in two cigarettes is enough to have a 50/50 chance of killing you. That’s how toxic they are.

            1. Exasperation says:

              Don’t forget about third-hand smoke. Basically, any object/surface that’s nearby when someone is smoking can become a long-term biohazard.

          2. Felblood says:

            Right up until your vice effects LITERALLY ANYONE ELSE, at which moment this argument becomes moot.

            Unless you do all your smoking in your personal hermit cottage and you avoid all human contact 24 hours afterward, and you have separate outfits for smoking in and being around other humans, and you chemically clean them yourself, this line is total BS.

            If your vice only effects you, I don’t care about it; if your vice effects my heath and happiness you can stick it right where the sun doesn’t shine, thanks.

      3. Mechaninja says:

        Eh, everyone has the right to complain about anything.

        I have the right to not listen to them, or scoff at their complaints, or etc., but you can’t take away peoples’ right to complain, even if they are ironicing themselves right out of existence.

      4. Zak McKracken says:

        Try running a combustion engine on tobacco and then repeating that statement.

      5. krellen says:

        I have a low-emission vehicle, so I’m going to keep complaining, thanks.

    4. Icedrake says:

      Oh, if only. We bought a house from a couple who
      1) did not open windows; they had in-window AC units, instead
      2) had blackout blinds on most of the windows, since one of them worked nights
      3) smoked — heavily! — indoors. See 1.
      4) had four small dogs. I feel for the poor dogs, more than anything.

      All this for five years.

      We had the carpets professionally steam-cleaned, and expended at least two gallons of vinegar on washing tar off the walls (quite an effective method, incidentally). Four years later, every once in a while when I light the gas fireplace, there is still a whiff of stale tobacco.

      1. Mechaninja says:

        The house my family moved into a year ago, has a not completely dissimilar problem. Whenever we light the fireplace, there is a scent of cooking bacon.

        I assume there is a corpse lodged in the flue.

        1. Bacon?! Wow. So did you pay extra for this feature?

        2. syal says:

          I like the idea that this is the result of the previous owner cooking bacon non-stop for five years with all the windows closed.

    5. blue_painted says:

      My mum, who was then in her late 80s, and I stayed in a non-smoking house. She was more appalled at the idea of smoking in the street than stinking up the non-smoking house. It was a generational thing.

    6. John the Savage says:

      The thing that I can’t stand is that the people who smoke inside carry the stink with them. I have literally thrown up on people because they reeked of tobacco. Sure, I could have turned and vomited away from them, but what lesson would that teach them?

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Man,I wish I did that to someone that drinks bear or to someone who puts too much perfume in a bus.Oh wait,no I dont,because Im not an asshole.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “who we'll call Wilma”

    Ooooh,now I get it.

    “I half expect to suddenly grow a voluminous lumberjack beard during the attempt.”

    You need to kill some serial killers first in order for that to happen.

  7. Daimbert says:

    Have you tried explaining this focusing more on your asthma and less on your allergies? Something like “Pets and smoke trigger my asthma”, and then if they press for more details add in that you’re allergic to dander and that kicks off your asthma? People definitely consider asthma as a much more serious problem, and so won’t be as likely to dismiss it as just whining. I wouldn’t mention this, because I’m sure you’ve thought of it, but in all of your other posts you tend to start from the allergies, and then mention the asthma later, despite the fact that here your big sign that there’s something really wrong is that you’re hitting the asthma medication too much. Even my reaction to the first post was “Wow, you have really extraordinarily serious allergies … oh, it triggers the asthma, that fits so much better.”

    1. Deoxy says:

      I have to agree with this. People do seem to generally understand the need to breathe.

      Starting with allergies makes them think of whiny people who just don’t like it when you ____, as there are such people who claim “allergies” as the reason.

    2. LadyTL says:

      The problem with this is most people, not all but definitely most still do not take airborne contaminants seriously when it has anything remotely to do with something they like. Perfume, pets, smoking, febreeze, dust, pollen, all get you ragged on if you mention you are seriously allergic to them and the other person isn’t. Honestly I blame it as a cultural thing that airborne allergies can’t be *that* serious, after all the person doesn’t live in a hermetically sealed bubble right?

      Except for the minor part where you can live and go around in diminished capacity, but you don’t have to like it.

      I deal with this all too much as well since I have severe perfume allergies that have only gotten worse with exposure to more things setting them off (mostly because it is very hard to get a break for my body to recover). But trying to push my allergies off on some other thing regardless of if it is true, does not help the attitude that allergies can only be really severe if it is food based.

      1. Akri says:

        People don’t always understand the severity of food allergies either. If you’re allergic to peanuts then sure, everyone knows that’s a big deal. But half of my family is allergic to milk, and they sometimes have a hell of a time trying to get people to understand. The idea that food can trigger asthma (which is what happens when my brother has too much dairy) baffles people.

        On top of that, a lot of the time allergic reactions are annoyances rather than major health issues. If someone says “I’m allergic to this” it tends to be of the “it makes me feel kinda crappy” variety, not the “this will kill me dead” variety.

        The best solution, then, is for Shamus to give people first-hand experience with what his allergies are like by strangling them. They’ll appreciate the learning experience!

        1. Yeah, we don’t differentiate well between “my body doesn’t like this much” and “this’ll kill me”, language-wise. For example, I’m “allergic” to two medications. One caused a minor skin reaction, doesn’t sound bad until you consider that there’s no telling how my immune system’ll react next time it sees it and that could kill me. The other is more a sensitivity, and while I will be in so much pain all I can do is breathe, it is very unlikely to kill me (okay, it would eventually because it basically stops stuff moving through my digestive tract but it’d take a while). And yet, as far as my medical records are concerned, the two meds are the same.
          There’s also the problem that most people are vaguely allergic to something (poison ivy, dust, whatever) so they tend to think, “oh, it’s just like when I sneeze occasionally during pollen season, he’s just being a baby” instead of “oh crap, where’s the epi pen and the ambulance?”
          I’d lead with the asthma for that instead of allergies, because most people have some idea asthma can kill you whereas they seem not to where most allergies are concerned (and also seem to like to test them because some people are crazy. I have a friend who’s gone to the ER twice because someone thought “oh, she’s not really allergic to pine nuts she just doesn’t like them”)

        2. Ivan says:

          To add to the list of weird allergies, I have a friend who is deathly allergic to cinnamon. I believe it’s a touch allergy, although if he were to ever eat it I believe his throat would swell shut.

          I’ve never seen it in action, and I can’t remember which allergy I first heard of that made me realize that all bets are off when it comes to allergies, but somehow I can never stop myself from being surprised when I hear of a new allergy. Like another friend is allergic to gold jewelry, though I think we decided that this was actually an allergic reaction to another metal in the gold alloy(I think it was nickle), because gold in particular is famous for it’s longevity. It’s not a very reactive metal.

          1. Akri says:

            Half my family is allergic to milk. Not lactose intolerant, but actually allergic to certain proteins in the milk. In my brother’s case it can trigger asthma attacks (he used to go to the ER ALL THE TIME before a doctor went “hey, maybe we should check him for allergies”).

            And just to make things super fun: my dad is allergic to soy, which is one of the common substitutes for milk. Cooking in my family was interesting :D

          2. ET says:

            I worked with a woman who was allergic to – get this – the orange dye used in candies. All other artificial dyes were fine. Yellow, red, green. At least I got to eat her orange M&Ms. :)

      2. Daimbert says:

        That was kinda why I suggested starting from “It trigger my asthma”. Everyone knows that asthma is serious, and people are likely to believe that if it triggers it and the doctor told you that, then you really do have reason to avoid it like the plague … even if it only might trigger it or make an attack worse. If pressed, saying that the allergic reaction triggers the asthma sounds reasonable; if people with mild allergies can have a hard time breathing, it’s easy to imagine what that might do to someone with asthma, or having an attack.

        And it does seem to be the major issue as well, so it’s even true.

        1. Decius says:

          Rather than offer a problem, might offering a solution be better:

          “Your house doesn’t meet my explicit requirements, which were explicitly concurred. Here is the filtration system which will bring it back in compliance without changing the behavior of your other tenants. Would you rather try to change their behavior or make an uber-expensive change to your building?”

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    You most definitely need this,and the full set not just the vacuum.Sure,the vacuum is nice to dig under the carpet,and disinfect the place from any former pets,but the air cleaner is what will remove any outside threats from you,no matter when and where they come from.

    (no,Im not working for the company,I dont even own one(because of the price),but Ive seen what it does and it really helps people with breathing problems)

  9. AR+ says:

    Would positive pressurization of your house w/ filtered air work?

    1. ET says:

      Is that even possible in a normal house? I’ve only ever heard of that in level X biohazard research facilities.

      1. AR+ says:

        Biohazard facilities use NEGATIVE pressurization, which is to say, the inside is a lower pressure than the outside, so that if there is a leak, the contents will not go out.

        This would be the opposite. Higher pressure on the inside, smoke and dander won’t get in. Doesn’t take a lot of pressure, but you’d need a lot of flow, so that there is only outward air flow even when you open your door wide open.

        Not actually very hard. You basically just need a big fan w/ a filtered suction from outside blowing into the house. Could probably get the required air flow w/ something rigged to one or a few of you windows.

        1. Decius says:

          The problem is getting that volume of air filtered.

  10. Dinsdale says:

    I feel your pain on the water system. Every time there is water work done in our neighborhood we get greenish gravel coming through our water lines.

    If you are concerned about the timing of your inhalation with the albuterol inhaler, you could try using a spacer (without a mask) if you haven’t already.

    They are pretty cheap and remove some of the guesswork about timing the breath, though they are an extra thing to have to carry around.

    1. Aitch says:

      I have to use the same medication and while the conclusions Shamus drew are most likely the cause of his using it more, I can tell you it’s possibly not all of the causes.

      Back around last January the FDA decided to take literally all of the asthma rescue inhaler medication off the market, apart from Albuterol. Because they were dangerous? Because they weren’t as effective as Albuterol? No, because in the medication’s propellant was a miniscule amount of CFC’s, and because of a global warming bill footnote slipped in years before, every single asthma medication was taken off the market and Albuterol was packaged instead with a hydrofluoroalkane propellant. All other medications were discontinued.

      Trouble is, if hydrofluoroalkane was as effective a propellant they would have used it from the start. It causes the solution to gum up the plastic atomizer, it doesn’t travel as far as an aerosol, and as a delivery method it is in every way inferior.

      I’m no global warming denier, but when you’re dealing with life and death medication there are certain concessions that have to be made. Especially when it’s such miniscule amounts.

      Needless to say, I’m furious to be living in a future where this is possible – where I’m now stuck with an asthma medication that barely works for me having been invented in goddamn 1968 when there are more effective treatments possible and completely unavailable. And all for what? Inconsequential CFC banning? The amount of CFC’s released by my asthma meds in a year can’t equal what a can of hairspray could put out in a single morning. But people can eat all the factory farmed meat they want, regardless of the amount of methane released by those animals having to live on corn? That’s an undeniable volume of greenhouse gas, go look it up. I call shenanigans and cruel and unnecessary punishment.

      Either way, I’ve found myself blowing through inhalers twice as fast since the switch compared to when I was allowed to take Pirbuterol instead. Even people who were on Albuterol CFC report page after page of problems on the Consumer Reports site after having to switch to the HFA brand, complaining the medication isn’t as effective, that it clogs constantly, and that they need to use it more often to get the same relief from their asthma symptoms. The medical industry should be ashamed of itself, but they aren’t ones to know the meaning of the word.

      Though I’m sure the new house and the new neighbors can’t be helping Shamus either.

      1. ET says:

        Yeah, the sensible thing would be to make medical devices exempt from regulations which apply to other products, if it’s necessary to its function.

        1. Tom says:

          Trouble with that is, you just know some slimy corporation would be pushing “medicinal hairspray” within a month of the bill passing.

      2. Ryan says:

        You may be surprised (or not) to know that this was not some overzealous government agency, but another example of the drug companies lobbying. The drug companies wanted the cfc containing inhalers to be banned so they could market new inhalers that were patent protected (albuterol was generic). Blame the drug companies not the government (or at least only blame the government for rolling over to lobbyists rather than being foolish enough to ban inhalers that in almost no way contribute to global climate change)


  11. Matt K says:

    I completely understand, while I’m not as bothered by dander, smoke absolutely sets off my asthma every time. And living in apartment complexes is the worst for it since most residences really just don’t care.

  12. Vermander says:

    I tend to think of smoking cigarettes as something for teenagers trying to look cool, or grizzled elderly people who don’t give a damn. It seems weird to me when I see adults between the ages 25 and 55 smoking. They’re young enough so they definitely grew up knowing how bad cigarettes are for your health, but old enough that they couldn’t possibly think that smoking makes them look cool or rebellious. I knew a lot of people who took up smoking in high school or college but almost all of them eventually quit when they got a little older.

    The only exception I’ve regularly encountered is ex-military guys who use it as an excuse to go outside during breaks. I’ve occasionally gone outside with the smokers when I want to have a private conversation or bitch about work where I know my boss won’t overhear.

    1. Richard says:

      Quitting smoking is incredibly difficult.

      I’ve never smoked, but I work in an industry where about 15-20 years ago almost everybody smoked, so much so that not smoking was considered a bit weird – like not being able to drive.
      (I used to take coffee breaks instead of smoke breaks. I drink a lot of coffee…)

      So, many of my colleagues have since tried to quit, and it’s taken them years and multiple attempts to stay off for long enough, and some have still not managed even though they know damn well that it’s killing them.

      So basically, any teenager starting up to be a ‘rebel’ is going to be effectively stuck on it for at least a decade even once they try to quit.

      Obviously some people “just quit”, but most don’t – like any addiction, a single bad day and “I’ll just have one” easily puts the addict straight back into smoking.

      1. Rodyle says:

        This, so much this. I started smoking when I was 18 during a really stressful semester at university. My first time smoking happened during a bout of pneumonia, after which I was clean for 3 months. Then I went out with some friends one day, had a few drinks and thought: “eh, what the hell”. It took me another year to try another attempt, which triggered the depressive symptoms I had and threw me into a full-blown depression for a few months and ruined any chances of me finishing my masters degree on schedule.

        It’s been a year since then, and while I am smoking a bit less nowadays, I’m not looking forward to trying it ever again.

        1. Isy says:

          I can second this. I’ve never smoked myself, but I have friends who do. I witnessed one of them attempt to stop, which caused him to go from a sweet guy (if a bit of a diva) into a full-fledged, batshit insane, verbally abusive asshole. It was the most dramatic mental meltdown I’ve ever personally witnessed, and there are friends of mine who refuse to even be in his presence because of his behavior during that time.

          Funnily enough, my dad quit smoking cold turkey after accidentally burning his shirt and getting pissed off. I guess some people get hit much harder than others.

    2. Zak McKracken says:

      There are former heroin users out there who found it easier to quit heroin than to stop smoking. The stuff is seriously one of the most addictive things out there.

  13. Ryan says:

    I’m sure you probably know this already, but you will significantly increase the benefits of your inhaler if you use a spacer. More medicine in your lungs and less in your mouth.

    You’re probably already using one, but you didn’t mention it in your post. Also, if your asthma is allergic you might benefit treatment by an allergist. I don’t recommend it for everyone one but in extreme cases where the allergies are exacerbating life threatening medical conditions it might be worth it.

  14. mhoff12358 says:

    Yay Albuterol… Or something…
    I have to use the stuff any time I go biking and totally understand the “never seems to work quite right” thing. I really recommend a spacer for that, it helps me avoid completely screwing up half the time.

  15. silver Harloe says:

    doesn’t work as well for casual acquaintances, but with coworkers and neighbors, I would try offering them training on what to do if they see you passed out and turning blue, “this is where I keep the shot that will save me until the ambulance arrives.”

    1. ET says:

      I never would have thought of that. Makes sense, though. Like if you have an emergency plan prepared, then it will click in peoples’ minds that no, really, this is serious.

  16. Felblood says:

    My downstairs neighbor used to act really entitled and defensive about being asked not to smoke around my wife.

    It wasn’t until they caused an asthma attack so serious that I had to help her with her rescue inhaler right there in front of the building, that it finally sank in that they were going to kill this woman if they didn’t back off.

    Word just can’t reach certain people, especially when those words touch on personal feelings of guilt and inadequacy. It’s very easy to set people in a fighting stance without actually being aggressive, since your external stimulus can be a small part of their inner response without them really realizing it.

    1. Tom says:

      Defensiveness often plays a role, but I think sometimes it’s just a total poverty of imagination. Sometimes it really seems that people can hear the words you’re saying, can even parse them and coherently answer questions about them afterwards, but somehow just can’t (or don’t) make those words into a picture in their head, which is what they really need to “get it” – you have to show them. One striking example I’ve noticed is certain people who apparently have no problem with textual depictions of violence, but then react with disgust when shown an illustration that is exactly as the text described.

  17. Evilmrhenry says:

    Have you tried a HEPA filter? For me, it’s not night and day or anything, but it makes my house much more tolerable.

    (I’ve heard that taking a box fan, and duct-taping a HEPA furnace filter to it will give good, cheap results.)

  18. Nataline says:

    Aw crap. I’d like to sing the obvious song but then I’d probably be forced to eat my own character sheet or something. *sigh* Let’s Not go There.

  19. Chris says:

    I can really sympathize about the asthma. The old adage “you can never go home” has a different meaning for me. I -could- go home but I couldn’t hope to breathe there for long. Dad’s smoking didn’t bother me, that I could tell, while growing up. However after living on campus for years it was readily apparent that being inside my parents’ house for more than fifteen minutes is out of the question. I’m not tremendously allergic to pets, though I do fear I’m becoming more sensitive to them as the years go by. My mom has the worst asthma I’ve personally seen, and how she continues to exist in that house confounds me.

    Side-story about people not realizing the dangerous environment they’re creating:
    My parents have a little house in Youngstown they bought from my uncle. Worked out well for my brother and his friends as a far better option than a dorm while attending YSU. Then the guys graduated, and my parents are now stuck with a house they can’t sell unless ridiculously expensive things (furnace/water-heater) are replaced (these things are about equal in value to the house itself). they got a tenant.
    Said tenant was always months behind on rent and rather uncommunicative of problems that occurred. Most notably the fact that the heater broke last autumn. As a solution the tenant decided to just leave the electric stove in the kitchen on. Fire risk and air pollution all in one, hurray! Its actually a good thing the clothes-washer broke down when it did, which of course needed the landlord’s attention, or who knows what might have occurred.

  20. Alaron says:

    Your final line reminded me of the plot of Earth to Echo (came out this summer).
    Kids have to move out of homes because government is building a highway overpass…but it’s all a cover-up, the construction workers are all G-men who are running around trying to find this underground UFO.

  21. Rick says:

    As a parent with fatal allergies and at least one (maybe two) kids with fatal allergies I can say I understand your difficulty in getting people to take your allergies seriously.

    “Why do you need to buy a new cot mattress for her? Here’s a perfectly good [dustmite, dust, wtf else infested] one.”

    If you start cooking eggs, my daughter will start screaming as everything kicks in (no matter where in the house she is). “What do you mean I can’t cook eggs? I’m not gonna feed them to her”

    Even this weekend we attended a shared birthday part where we took her own food for her to eat (and explained to the host). The host then put it with rest so that she could be the same as everyone else. Nice gesture, but not just near it, but on it. Cross-contamination-crumbs everywhere. Then the host looked at me weirdly when I said she could keep the food and pulled more out of my bag.

    One of the ways I try to explain it to people is that to my body, that peanut may as well be rat poison. I know it’s stupid, but I didn’t choose for it to be this way but it is. A lot of places serve nuts on salads then simply pick them off when you call them out on it. Uh, would you be happy if I dusted cyanide over your food then just brushed it off? You’ll be all good.

    My daughter is almost 2, knows how to use her Epi-pen and we practice with the training one. Many people are ignorant on these too, with movies showing people getting adrenaline straight in the heart.

    I’m sure you get told you’re just being an antisocial geek or grumpy old man for not visiting or wanting to play with the cute furry things. But your write up is a great way of explaining how big allergies are and how much the effect your life. You’re not doing it just to make things harder for other people.

  22. RCN says:

    Hey, haven’t you watched “Signals”?

    Asthma is just the way God came up with for you to be immune to the spores of water-averse aliens! After all, it is at worst just a minor inconvenience when it comes up, but the fact that you can’t breathe will block the spores from entering your lungs! Hilarious!

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