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Smell the Coffee: Cases of mistaken identity

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- You might think writers pay attention to the little details, that they probably notice things the average person might miss.

How much better my life might be if that were the case.

For a little over a week, I've been fighting the most horrible case of dry skin all over my body. It was so bad I was itching constantly, tearing at myself like I was covered with fleas.

So desperate for relief was I that every morning, after stepping out of the shower, I would slather myself with lotion from head to toe. The lotion I was using, a vanilla-coconut concoction, was thick and rich and smelled wonderful, but after a full week of using it, I was still as itchy as ever. So I looked at the label.

It wasn't lotion.

It was body wash.

Unfortunately, with me, this kind of thing is almost more the rule than the exception, especially at night. Without my contacts or glasses I'm pretty much blind, and since my nightstand is often so cluttered that my glasses can be tough to find in the middle of the night, I've had a few mishaps, and one major near miss.

For instance, one of our dogs occasionally gets ear infections, so I keep Murry's medicine on my nightstand so I can treat his ears when he's mostly asleep. It's in a smallish squeeze bottle, one that's shaped to feel almost identical to a nasal spray my doctor prescribed.

It's been almost a month. I can still taste Murry's greasy eardrops in the back of my throat.

Another time, while dealing with a particularly slow-to-heal eye infection, I had to put a gooey prescription eye salve in my eyes every night. I kept it on the stand by my bed. The tube was the small, skinny metal type with a plastic cap to unscrew. Almost identical to how Super Glue is packaged.

That was my near miss.

A newlywed friend wasn't as fortunate. His wife kept a tube of Bengay on her nightstand. Right by their identically shaped tube of K-Y.

One time, a few years back, I mistook a bottle of low-quality fake tan for regular sunscreen. I slopped it on myself pretty heavily without paying the least bit of attention to how thick I was applying it or to the places I missed. And I didn't wash my hands well after putting it on. I ended up looking like an Oompa Loompa with gorilla hands.

This problem of mine isn't new. As a kid, I once made Kool-Aid when my friends and I were having a lemonade stand. Instead of a cup of sugar, I scooped in flour. Didn't realize the mistake until a customer gagged.

Not too long ago, while painting some signs, I was using an old coffee cup filled with water to clean my brushes. Got to talking. Wasn't paying attention. Reached for my coffee and took a big gulp. Not only did the water taste awful, but I nearly put my eye out with a brush that was soaking.

I once mistook a bottle of Jet-Dry dishwasher rinse for a similarly shaped fuel treatment for cars. It caused me to drive way over the speed limit for years. (My husband swears it still hasn't worn off.)

Still, as aggravating and embarrassing as my frequent confusions might be, I know I come by the problem honestly.

Genetically.

My brother once mistook an aerosol can of hairspray for underarm deodorant.

And my grandmother once thought she was misting her hair with hairspray, except she'd grabbed a can of gold spray paint instead.

I suppose if my husband ever wants rid of me, all he has to do is take away my hairdryer. And swap it out for a gun.

Reach Karin Fuller via email at karinfuller@gmail.com.


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