Of Lice And Men


We had a Lice Scare at the old homestead recently.

Frank, a good friend of long standing came to visit for a ski vacation – which, by the way, was completely awesome.  I rarely get to ski with a buddy.  Roy says I make him nervous because I ski faster than he does, which means I spend a good amount of time hanging around on the verge of the ski run, which I totally do not mind, but – because while I am hanging about on the run, what I am doing is watching Roy come down the hill – he hates.  He wants to ski with me anyway because, in his eyes, it is bonding.  So what happens, for the most part, is we go out to the hill, Roy wants to ski together to bond, until we actually ski together, for half of a run, at which point he says “You’re making me nervous because you’re watching me.  Go ski somewhere else.”  and I say “But you wanted to bond. I am respecting that.” and then he says we’ve bonded enough for the time being, and we’ll meet at the base lodge at noon.  Very few of my buddies here ski, or at least, they don’t ski when and where I ski, which is why I was thrilled to entertain Frank, who used to ski (“a million years ago” he says) like a demon. A million years or not, it took him about 15 minutes to pick back up where he left off, and pretty soon we were ripping up the hill.

Now, in addition to the general companionship and all that you get when skiing with a friend, I get the added thrill of having fresh meat for my budding career in Ski Film Cinematography. On that trip, we had two days on the slopes, so I spent the first day filming him, and then on the second day, we switched and he filmed me.

This is where the plot thickens.  As a one-man Ski Film Production Company, I rely on a camera affixed to my person.  Specifically, affixed to my helmet, which has a special mount attached permanently to it for the purpose of holding an HD camera and shooting footage from that position.  Which means, in this case, I wore my helmet on Day One while Frank wore Roy’s helmet, and then on Day Two, we switched – he wore my helmet and I wore Roy’s.

I didn’t think twice about this, other than the several hours I spent editing the footage.  At least, I didn’t think twice about it until I received a Late Night Phone Call about four days later.

“Hi,” Frank said.

At first I thought it was a belated “hey, had a great time, touch base” phone call, but then I remembered he has a couple of kids under 10 and the household keeps hours accordingly.  So I knew it was not going to be good, whatever it was.

And surely enough, the next words were “I have some bad news.”

I held my breath, thinking he was going to tell me of some calamity in the household.

“My son got sent home from school today because he has lice.”

Oh, what a drag, I thought.  But why did this warrant a long-distance phone call at 10pm?

Oh, yeah.  The helmet cam.

“And,” he said inexorably, “I have them too.”

Ah. All is now clear.

I contemplated informing Roy of this turn of events, and just cracked up.  Roy is…I think a fair assessment would be…squeamish.  I had lice once before, which I caught from the small children of another friend. I didn’t think Roy would enjoy the notion.

In general, and with good reason, I regard small children as Self-Propelling Plague Ships.  They constantly seem to have one nasty disease or another, and hand parasites around to each other like lemon drops.  The only thing, in my experience, that comes close to the Active Virulence of Small Children is College Students Living In Dorms.  It seems like every professor on the planet gives an exam in the fourth week of the semester, which means that all of the students are getting hit with four or five exams in one week.  This makes them cut short on sleep, it makes them drink too much caffeine and smoke too many cigarettes, it makes them eat cheap, fast, and low-quality food, and it stresses them out maximally. All of which sends their immune systems directly to sleep.

I don’t think that in 12 years of teaching college, I have ever graded that first exam without coming down with some vicious infection 2 or 3 days later.  I have tried everything.  I have worn gloves while grading.  I have slathered my hands with disinfectant gel after grading every third exam. Nothing works.  The College Plague catches me every time.  At this point, I’m just grateful when it turns out to be nothing more than a wicked cold.  I seriously dread giving exams when I know that truly nasty stuff like a norovirus is going around.

Anyway, Frank – as so many parents of small children do – contracted head lice from the kids and then I traded ski helmets with him.  Which meant I’d been exposed.  And then I’d shared a bed with my husband, which made him exposed.

I headed off (get it?  head-ed off?  hahah) to share the bad news with Roy.  He took it somewhat calmly, which surprised me until he reminded me that his kids had been young once too.

head-ed off to do some research.  A bunch of my buddies have or had little kids at home, so I polled them about how best to proceed.  Never say there isn’t a good use for Facebook.

The upshot seemed to be that Roy and I should carefully inspect each other’s scalps for tell-tale signs of lice before poisoning ourselves with lice treatments (and I collected several excellent recommendations for those along the way).

As I arrived at this conclusion, a commotion upstairs arose.


Oh, shit.  Fortunately, life with Huey has inured me to a lot of the drama that might otherwise fill my existence, so I walked upstairs in my own time.  I found Roy in the bathroom, holding his helmet, skin white and eyes wide, trembling like a leaf.

“Let me see that.” I said.

He handed the helmet, shakily, over to me.  I peered into it under the vanity lights, the brightest ones on the floor.  It was at that moment that I realized his helmet liner isn’t wool, like mine is, it’s acrylic.  Has to be, because it was covered with pills.

No lice.  Just pills.

“Roy,” I said. “That is LINT, not LICE.”

He has a distressing tendency to become extremely Yiddish in moments of Great Stress, and did so at this time.

“OY!” he said. “Lice? Lint? Lice? Lint?  What’s the difference?”  You will have to imagine the hand waving and gestures that accompanied this.  Any scene from “Fiddler on the Roof” that features Topol will supply the relevant imagery.

“Lice, lint, what’s the difference?” I said.

“Oy.” he said. “Lice. Lint, who’s to know?”

I waxed wroth.  “No you don’t.” I said. “You told me you knew all about lice ten minutes ago.  Lice and lint are NOT the same thing at all, not on any important or relevant dimension.”

“Oy” he said, casting his eyes up to invoke some Heavenly Father. “They both begin with the letter “L”!”

At this point – and don’t ask me why it took so long to arrive at this conclusion – I realized several things, some of which are unprintable, but the general upshot was that dealing with the Lice Scare was entirely on my shoulders.  And I remembered that Roy had an appointment with our hair stylist Gretel the next day.

“You better call Gretel and let her know you might have lice before you go in to the salon.” I said.

“Oy! Oy! Oy! Oy!” was his only response.  I left before I succumbed to the impulse to start throwing things at him.

Having had it definitively demonstrated to me that my spouse was not at all to be counted upon to inspect my scalp, let alone to inspect it with any reasonable degree of attention or care, I decided to treat my head prophylactically.  After all, I thought, even if I got lice, it can’t have been more than one or two of them.  I’ll just poison my scalp, just in case.

When Roy walked in the next evening, I was doing so in the kitchen sink.  “Gretel looked at my head,” he said. “And she said I don’t have any lice at all!”

“Go away before I throw something at you.” I said.

I had my own appointment with Gretel yesterday, since my roots needed some of her Color Arts.  We discussed the Lice Scare.

“If he’d brought lice into my shop, I’d have had to kill him” she confided.

“You’d have had to take a number and get in line.” I said.

“Well,” she said, “I’ll check your head too while you’re here.”

“Oh,” I said.  “I already poisoned it, just in case. Unlike SOME people I wouldn’t even think of taking lice into a hair salon.”

“Oh, that’s all right,” she said, mollified, “Even if you had them, the color we’re going to put on now would probably kill them.”

The good news is that she checked and said I didn’t have them and hadn’t had them at all.  The bad news is that my head got poisoned twice in one week.

Next time, I wear a bandanna if I decide to swap hats with someone.  In the meantime, here is one of my artistic endeavors, shot on location on MLK Sunday, busiest day of the year on ski hills in New England.  Maybe anywhere.  As they say, “never again.”


About Lori Holder-Webb

I'm a Southern Woman by birth and a Texan Woman by upbringing...and yet I find myself living in New England and married to a New York City boy. Up here we use the same currency as we do at home, and I don't need to travel with a passport, but the commonalities pretty much end there. The language is different, the jokes are different, the people are different, and the weather and terrain sure are different too. I moved away from Texas in 2002, and ever since then, I've been the stranger in the strange land... I've had some questions about the name of the blog - if you were not alive, or living abroad or under a rock, or in grad school during the late 1980s, Oldsmobile attempted to shuck its stodgy image with a series of commercials intended to bring brand appeal to the younger generation: this car, they said, is not your father's Oldsmobile. If you have a morbid curiosity, hit YouTube for William Shatner Oldsmobile...it will take you right there.

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