Recently, my wife has been a bit under the weather. It started a week ago with an excruciating earache, joined the next morning by a rasping cough that would put a chain-smoking chimney-sweep to shame. After a sleepless night and realizing that she had developed the voice of the very roughest whiskey and tobacco loving Snack bar mama-san, she thought it prudent to visit the local hospital. The doctor examined her ears and throat, checked her hearing and did a few other tests. He told her she had no allergies but that one ear and her throat were very inflamed. He prescribed some medicine and told her to come back if things hadn’t improved by next week.
Well, the ear pain lessened considerably but the cough and a very sore throat remained, so this morning she returned to the hospital as requested. The doctor examined her and said things looked better and that he couldn’t understand why the throat was still causing problems. He suggested painkillers and gargling. Fine. He is the doctor, he knows far more about medicine than either of us, and I hope he is right. But my wife, perhaps influenced by my interfering western ways, wanted to know more about why she was still suffering so.
‘Last week,’ she said, ‘you mentioned I had no allergies. What allergies did you mean?’
‘The main ones,’ said the doctor. ‘You don’t have any of the main allergies.’
‘I see,’ said my wife. ‘What are the main ones?’
The doctor looked a bit put out. ‘You don’t have gogatsu allergies,’ he said.
My wife wasn’t much the wiser. After all, that simply means ‘May allergies’.
‘Right,’ she said, before gently venturing. ‘Sorry, but what does gogatsu allergies actually mean. What am I not allergic to?’
The doctor was quite curt. ‘Many people have allergies in May, but you don’t have them.’ At this point his loyal nurse joined in. ‘You have no gogatsu allergies,’ she barked, clearly annoyed by a patient who had the impudence to ask a question about her own health.
‘I understand that,’ said my wife. ‘I understand that I don’t have gogatsu allergies, but I don’t understand what that means. After all, nobody is actually allergic to May, are they?’
The doctor said that different allergies become prominent in different months, and that my wife didn’t have any gogatsu allergies, a point which, I’m fairly certain, she had already managed to grasp.
And that was that. My wife is still coughing, she still doesn’t know exactly what she is not allergic to and it is scant comfort to be told in June that you are not allergic to May. Well done that doctor!