In basements, safe rooms, and carefully-sealed portable battlefield surgeries across Canada, sufferers of the annual Scourge Of Earth (aka hay fever, allergic rhinitis, or Curse Of The Plants) are being treated by an annoyingly unaffected force of clear-eyed volunteers.
As part of a new program developed by the Red Nose – a large, sore, and always running spin-off from the Red Cross – the volunteers assist the pollen-afflicted incurables by bringing them groceries, antihistamines, and new heads; and telling them about the beautiful spring day that has finally arrived that they are unable to enjoy in person, or even see through all that inflammation.
“It’s just that perfect temperature out today,” says Milly Vanilly, a volunteer from Burnaby, BC, after passing through a decontamination room, multiple air locks, and laser scan for pollen before meeting with one of her patients, who – like many Canadians – is greeting spring with burning coals for eyes, scratch marks on his cheeks, and absolutely no sense of humour.
“It’s not cool enough to need a sweater, but not hot enough to make your shins sweat. The patios are full, people are driving their cars with the windows down and the music on, the birds are chirping, there’s a gentle breeze, and the midday sunlight is filtering through the trees, shit I’m sorry.”
Her patient, a man named George Staid, turns unseeing eyes towards her.
“Trees, Milly? Trees? How could you say that word in this place? Look at what the fibrous pollen factories have done to me. All those months of winter and now, as soon as the sun comes out, those bark-clad weeds and their little green grassy friends make this planet unliveable for millions. And you dare to speak their name? Leave this house at once.”
Milly packs up her things as quickly as she can in her cumbersome hazmat suit, and disappears back through the fourteen air locks in a protracted, embarrassing, but ultimately clean departure.
Back outside she takes a deep breath of probably pollen-laced air, unconsciously showing off, and admits her patients can be a little difficult sometimes.
“And I get it. It must suck to not be able to enjoy all this sun and warmth, especially after all those months of cold weather. That’s why I volunteer, to help the many people who can’t afford a new head, or don’t happen to have a spaceship waiting to take them to a planet that doesn’t have airborne plant semen.” She stops and peels off a layer, revealing a ‘Run To Beat Hay Fever’ t-shirt.
“Maybe someday we’ll have a cure.”