Archived Story

Ever have an itch you just cannot scratch?

Published 9:38am Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Column: Tales From Exit 22, by Al Batt

I was in a small seat on a large airplane.

I had folded into it like human origami.

Then it joined me.

Al Batt
Al Batt

Have you ever had an itch that you can’t reach? An inaccessible itch? It was right where it was supposed to be, just out of my reach.

It was an acnestis. That’s pronounced ak-NEES-tis. It means a part of the body where one cannot reach to scratch.

I had one. It was bothering me. Right in the small of my back. It was in that elusive spot. Too far away to reach. It drove me nuts. It set my brain on fire.

As the soundtrack to the movie, “Dumb and Dumber,” played in the background, I rubbed my back against the seat as if I were practicing to march in a parade, but found no satisfaction. The only thing I accomplished was to make my seatmate think that I’d contracted some sort of disease while studying the fleas of camels.

I feared that I’d become like an erupting volcano that causes the villagers to flee.

I yearned for a backscratcher, a long-handled scrub brush, or a wooden spoon. My wife’s fingers would have been an even better choice.

I once watched a fellow use his fork to scratch an itch without missing a bite of mashed potatoes at a rural cafe. He had combination skin — itchy and not itchy.

I tried ignoring the itch as I squirmed in the airline seat. I didn’t squirm as much as I’d have liked. There wasn’t much room for squirming. I was hoping that the brain would delete the itch. I tried that whole mind over matter thing, but even when I didn’t think about it, I could still feel it. I tried befriending the itch. We can put up with a lot from something or someone we like. I recalled a day my wife and I gathered with some friends to eat at a local den of fine dining. We peered up from our chairs to a white board where, written in an erasable form, were the day’s specials and desserts. One was chocolate cake with brown sugar frosting. The space between “brown” and “sugar” was tiny. My wife looked at it and saw “braunschweiger frosting.” It caused her to give her order some additional thought, but being as how it was chocolate cake, she’d have ordered it even with braunschweiger frosting. She likes chocolate cake.

The idea of befriending the itch was brilliant. I’m often compared to Albert Einstein. Well, maybe not often. OK, never, but Albert would have been proud of my brainstorm. Alas, the friendship between the itch and me never materialized.

I grabbed the headphones and decided to listen to some music to take my mind off my misery. The song playing went like this. “She comes on like a rose but everybody knows. She’ll get you in Dutch.

Now you can look but you better not touch. Poison Ivy, Poison Ivy. She’ll really do you in. Now if you let her under your skin.

You’re going to need an ocean of calamine lotion. You’ll be scratchin’ like a hound. The minute you start to mess around.”

That was of no help.

I suppose it could have been worse. It could have been the old country song, “How Can I Miss You, If You Don’t Go Away?”

It’s both funny and sad how something as small as that itch could make the world a very uncomfortable place.

I’d have screamed, but I feared I would’ve been put off the plane without it bothering to land. And no one would have protested.

If I had been at home, I would have employed a doorframe that works well as a scratching post. A house isn’t really a home unless it has some sort of scratching post that has evolved from its initial purpose.

I talked to fellow once who said that he was taking yoga classes in the hopes that he’d be able to reach more itches.

Rene Descartes might have said, “I itch, therefore I am.”

I told myself that the itch couldn’t last forever. The longest I’d ever heard of was the seven-year itch.

The itch didn’t last forever, but it lasted long enough.

When I got off the plane, the itch stayed onboard, waiting for its next victim. It was fun to have it go away.

The itch went from mouse-sized to moose-sized to missing.

I hoped it had moved to the first class section.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.