The Funny Thermometer

Ever use one of those newfangled temperature-takers?

We bought one a month ago. No one was sick, so it was never unbubbled.

Then one night I started shivering. "I need that funny thermometer," I said.

"You're sick?"

"I don't know. That's why I need the funny thermometer."

She climbed out of bed faster than she normally does. Not because she was worried about me, but because she could open up a new toy.

The bubble and scissors. We're at the stage in our lives where we think ahead. It's more necessity than smarts. Unpreparedness sets off chains of calamities impossible to recover from.

The important thing now was to cut open the package, but not cut the directions. She was fuddled. It was difficult to tell where the pamphlet was tucked between the folded cardboard. Or if there were any attachments or carrying pouch you might end up slicing and ruining. She decided to snip slowly around the edges. I wanted to say, 'I might be dying here, ya know. Can you hurry up?' but she had scissors in her hands.

Everything was spread out on the bed. She grabbed the pamphlet and started reading. It was thick.

"Isn't there a quick start guide?"

"Yes, but those never tell you anything."

I picked up the gizmo and put one end of it in my mouth.


I took it out of my mouth and quickly wiped it off on the bed.

"Don't ruin it anymore!" She almost screamed. "And now I have to wash the comforter."


"It has your sick germs on it."

I looked at the odd device in my hand, turning it every which way. "So, what do you do with it?"

"You put it on your forehead, and... I don't know yet. You drag it around."

"Are you sure you don't just wave it around like 'Bones' McCoy?"

She kept reading.

"I might be dying here, ya know. Can you hurry up?"

"...I have scissors in my hands."

She put down the pamphlet. "OK, I think I've got it." She pushed herself off the bed and walked confidently over to my side. "Give it to me."

I did.

She studied the gadget and was now holding it correctly. The flat end, the size of a nickel, was plopped on my forehead. She pushed a button and swiped the thing across my brow. There was beeping.

I lifted my head, checked the digits. My temperature was 43.7 °F.

"See? I'm already dead."

Dumbfounded, she pressed the button a few times. "Hand me the directions."

I did. She studied the pamphlet some more.

"Can't we just get the old thermometer?" I said.

"No. It takes too long. This one takes your temperature immediately."

"Ah, yes. You must be patient if you want instant gratification."

"...OK, I've got it now," she said, flicking the booklet on the bed as if she'd never need it again, although making sure it was still within reaching distance. "You put it lightly on your forehead in the middle, then hold in the button and don't let go of it, and slowly brush it across to almost to your ear."

I reached for it. It was in her hand. She pulled back and said, "I'll do it."

"Why can't I do it?"

"Because I know how to do it."

She started to do it. It felt weird, like something was crawling across my forehead and beeping. It made me shiver and I was already shivering.

My temperature was 62.3. She did it again. My temperature was 71.4.

"I don't like this thing," I said. "It doesn't take your temperature, and it feels creepy when you do it."

"Do you not like the beeping? I can turn off the beeping."

"No, don't do that. Now it feels like one of those toy spiders crawling across my head. If you turned off the beeping, it would feel like a real spider crawling across my head."

She scraped the contraption again, slowly. I shivered again- - maybe from a fever, maybe from fright.

My temperature was 99.9.

"So now it's working," she said. "You have to do it slowly, so it takes two to three seconds to get across your head."

"That's a long time to have to wait..."

"You have a slight temperature. Let me take it again just to make sure."

She did. My temperature was 67.1.

She did it again. My temperature was 99.3. She was about to do it again, but I held up my hand.
"Instead, let's get the calculator out and do some averaging. Maybe find the median temperature. I'm so glad they invented this thing. It makes life a lot easier."

She did it again. My temperature was 83.6.

I resigned myself to maybe having a fever, maybe not.

Call me old-fashioned, but I just don't trust a thermometer that you don't shove in an orifice.