Nose Clams

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July 1, 2012 by drandmrso

It’s been a crazy couple of months. Dr. O graduated (huzzah!), we promptly boarded a plane to Europe (bing!), returned a month later (woopee!), moved into our new house (geewhiz!), and Dr. O started his intern year (kablam!). During this time we also drugged our cats, someone vandalized Dr. O’s car, and we nearly got arrested in London. But none of those stories is nearly as interesting as a conversation over dinner one night in Italy.

Let’s set the scene (because I could write for weeks about how gorgeous this place was): it’s a breezy 70 degrees and the sun has finally hidden away for the evening. In front of us the turquoise waves of the Mediterranean crash against the gigantic, jagged, black rocks bordering the pier. Behind us the hills of the Cinque Terre sweep up and away; vineyards and olive groves blanket the steep hillside. Down the coast twinkle the night lights of Vernazza, Corneglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. And tucked into the valley immediately behind us is the quiet beach town of Monterrosso, our home for four nights.

Scene set? Good.

That night we ate dinner at a restaurant about 100 yards from the shore. After a delicious bruschetta antipasti, we ordered gnocchi with pesto and stuffed mussels. Neither of us had ever had mussels before, but we knew that of all places this seaside village in Italy was certainly going to provide a wonderful introduction. We were totally right. As soon as the waitress presented the mussels, Dr. O said, “Ahhh….nose clams, fresh from the sea!”

“Is that what we’re eating? Clam noses?” I asked, hesitating to devour another salty, bread-and-veggie stuffed morsel.

“No, it’s an ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ reference. Charlie decides he wants to get into drug dealing to make some money, so he finds a dealer and asks for nose clams, but the dealer doesn’t know what he’s talking about because Charlie’s an idiot and he probably just made up the term. But I think it means cocaine.”

“Oh. So these are not nose clams nor the noses of clams, then.”

“Nope.” A pause to savor the next bite. “Did you know surgeons use cocaine during some nose surgeries?”

“What? On the patients or themselves?”

“The patients,” he said with an eye-roll. “It’s an anesthetic.”

“You’re kidding.”

“No, really. I mean it’s not much…you just apply it to the nasal cavity–”

“Gross. No cavity discussion allowed while we’re eating. Especially while we’re eating something that I’m already trying not to judge on a scale of one to uber-sketchy origin.”

“Fine. You apply it inside the nose during surgery and it constricts the blood vessels a little and numbs the pain somewhat when the patient wakes up.”

“Well, yeah, they’re probably high. Do you have to get approval from the patient first to use it?”

“I don’t think so.”

“What if they have a drug test coming up or something?” I asked. He shrugged. “So essentially you can order up cocaine for a patient?”

“Yep. Obviously they can’t take it home with them or anything.”

“And it was probably made by a pharmaceutical company?”


“Well no wonder surgery’s so expensive. Maybe they’d get better prices if they found a dealer,” I said. Dr. O chose to ignore this comment.

Did you have any idea this was a thing? I remembered later that cocaine was also an original ingredient in Coca Cola. Appears there’s a lot more illicit drug action happening under our noses than we may realize.


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Hi there!

Dr. O is an otorhinolaryngology resident. Mrs. O was an English major and is easily grossed out by blood and guts. This is the blog where Mrs. O documents their adventures in (not bloody) detail. Enjoy!

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