This has happened twice before and twice we've had this conversation with a doctor:
"The ear's a little infected, but it may clear up on its own. Come back in two days."
"In two days we'll be on a plane."
"We'd better not risk it. Antibiotics."
But this time two molars have just appeared, with another on the way, and that would make anyone pull on their ears, wouldn't it? It must be the molars, we said.
It wasn't the molars. So here we are on the morning of day three of our five day trip to Miami, planning a visit to a doctor. I grab an appointment with the nearest pediatrician on the map at zocdoc.com, just a couple of miles away, and Joel rents a car and a car seat to take us there. But actually, when I look closer, I realise that the address doesn't match the map. Same street address; different city. We're booked a doctor in Homestead, a city fifty minutes to the south-west, beside the Everglades. That works: we'll go to the doctor, then see some alligators.
Joel texts from the car rental place asking me to pack a bath towel and my heart sinks, because I know what that means: the car seat is the Terrible Bolt Upright Baby Hating Car Seat, a model we've had in rental cars before. With a sufficiently fluffy towel, you can make it recline a few degrees, but not enough to sleep in. These things are also hell to install. After a lot of practice and some YouTube videos, Joel can usually do them in fifteen minutes.
Skip forward and we're finally in the car and we're late. The traffic got worse: the 50 minute drive is now 65 minutes and we didn't have any to spare. I pick up the phone to tell the doctor we're late and, as I find the number, Elizabeth abruptly throws up breakfast berries, yoghurt, tomato soup and something gelatinous I don't recognise. There's a lot of it. We're on the motorway.
I mop up what I can. I pet her hair. I get through to the doctor. No, they can't postpone the appointment by 20 minutes and actually the doctor is leaving now, 17 minutes before we're even supposed to be there. Can we come tomorrow instead? No we can not.
E would really like to sleep now and the TBUBHCS prevents that, so I set my arm up as a headrest and futz with Zocdoc on my phone with the other hand. No morning appointments, but I accept a nearby 3pm, then call the doctor's office (still one-handed: phone under my chin as I fumble in my bag for a pencil) to see if they have anything earlier. Nope, actually the doctor has left early today. Well.
We abandon Zocdoc and park outside a pharmacy where Joel starts cold-calling pediatrians in the area and I go look for wet wipes and a plastic bag and scrape the rest of the vomit off the car seat and the baby. Joel is having the kind of painful conversation that you always do with doctors' offices (repetition, clarification, polite incredulity), but he eventually finds an office that will see us in half an hour. Elizabeth chucks again.
Half an hour later. I'm in a small but very crowded waiting room, filling out paperwork ("Does the patient drink coffee?" "Not... directly?") while Joel is in the car attempting to hose down the baby. He changes her too, but the nappies are in my bag, so he uses one designed for swimming in. That's important later on. That's a gun that goes off in a later act.
Joel goes off to buy a car seat that reclines and isn't covered with vomit. Almost everyone in the waiting room is speaking Spanish. We read My Many Colored Days five times. We read Oh The Thinks You Can Think six times. Elizabeth's name is called and I shuffle through the door, walking cautiously because I left the hotel without my belt this morning and for the entire day I've been preoccupied with making sure my trousers don't fall down. The administrator asks some questions and types some information about us. She doesn't ask my demographic; I see her choose "non-Hispanic". True.
Another hour. I find a place to dispose of the bag of vomit I've been carrying around. (What, you think I left that in the car?).
Joel returns with a Kiss Me I'm Irish shirt in toddler size. E finds some babies to play with. At first I try to police whose hands go in whose mouths -- we're in a doctors office -- but it's futile. She catches whatever she catches and shares whatever she shares. She also falls and raises a welt on her forehead and I hope the doctor doesn't think I beat her.
The doctor comes in. Elizabeth, sitting on my lap, pees effusively. The swim-diaper doesn't even try. I am now wearing vomit and urine. Today is going well.
The doctor diagnoses infections in both ears. Antibiotics, see our own doctor in a week, don't fly. Luckily we have train tickets home.
It's now 5pm. I've eaten one croissant, one cappuccino and a piece of cheese that I stole from the child. I am splashed in vomit and liberally soaked in pee, my trousers are falling down, the small child on my hip is bellowing and I don't think we're going to the Everglades today. At least Joel has installed the better car seat.
First stop: Walmart for shorts and t-shirt. I change in the car on the way to the second stop: food. I'm hungry enough and the options are limited enough that I declare that Joel can pick any crappy chain place and I won't be obnoxious about it. He doesn't believe me and turns in to a Burger King to prove the point. Ok, I won't deny that I wince. Starbucks provides a protein plate: egg, cheese, peanut butter and fruit, and I don't need to order anything when Joel stops at Wendy's for a chicken sandwich.
An hour later. Almost home. Do we miss the exit for Miami and need to take a circuitous route? Of course we do! Is the kid screaming the entire way? Not quite: she stops when I read to her. We read My Many Colored Days another four times. She's been saying "duck" at the page with the blue bird, and over the four readthroughs she adds a convincing "horse" and "fish". The rate at which she picks up vocabulary right now is unbelievable. I should probably stop swearing around her soon.
South Beach! It takes a couple of pharmacies before we find one with a pharmacist and I join a long queue of people waiting to fill prescriptions. The woman in front of me is on the phone loudly bemoaning the morals of people who cut in line to ask the pharmacist a quick question and then stay ten minutes. The man behind me is not on the phone so he loudly tells me about it instead. The woman who is at the front of the queue pretends not to hear and stolidly continues her conversation with the pharmacist.
The prescription will take 40 minutes. We drive to a fancy hippy organic smoothie and sandwich shop and I run in to get us fancy hippy organic sandwiches. On the way back we take a wrong turn and accidentally get on the bridge back to Miami. I find this impossibly hilarious.
Back to the pharmacy. They've got the antibiotics but the nausea drug the doctor prescribed doesn't exist. They've faxed for clarification. It's 8:30pm. We'll do without the anti-nausea drug. The pharmacist says that flat 7up will do the same thing anyway. I always thought that was an Irish thing, like whiskey for toothache and poitin for everything.
Hotel, oh thank god. Milk and drugs into the kid. Sandwiches into everyone else. Joel and E are asleep before they're fully horizontal. I open a beer and tell the internet about my day.