Reluctant Townie: Thermometer protocol: A family dilemma

Reluctant Townie: Thermometer protocol: A family dilemma

We had a system in place to distinguish between the rapidly accumulating stockpile of digital thermometers in and around our kitchen's first aid drawer — those that were safe for general use and those that were strictly for The Kid — and that system entailed drawing a small, free-floating cartoon butt on the blunt end of The Kid's thermometers with a Sharpie.

I was diligent at first about preserving the method, having been the one to nurture the classification system from its infancy to its position as the foremost authority on thermometers in my apartment. Whenever I opened a new thermometer for The Kid, I always took an extra 20 seconds to tattoo a buttocks symbol on the handle.

But somewhere along the way, I lost track, and now there was at least one unmarked butt thermometer floating around the apartment, masquerading as an everyday thermometer and plotting its revenge.

I was reminded of this fact after shoving a mystery thermometer into my mouth (Kroger's brand — but when was the last time I had been to a Kroger?) to settle an argument with my wife over whether I was indeed suffering from a fever.

"That's awfully brave of you," she said, eyeing the thermometer suspiciously.

I had been trying to dodge the flu for the better part of a week, but it was leaving me threatening voice mails. I had begun to see it around every corner.

"My temperature is 98.4," I said, reading from the digital display.

"That's not a fever."

"It's a fever when your usual temperature is 97.6."

"No, it just means for once you're close to having the right temperature."

If you've never been in a position where you had to take care of a sick baby, you probably haven't considered the nuts-and-bolts logistics of obtaining a baby's temperature. I know I didn't.

As it turns out, you can't just ask babies what their temperatures are, and they are generally uncooperative when asked to sit still and hold a thermometer under their tongues for any duration of time. So, alternative methods must be explored.

Modern advances in technology have provided us with cool digital options like ear and forehead thermometers, and while they seem to work great at the doctor's office — where all the equipment is supplied by "Star Trek" and Bill Gates — a quality home-use rig is more than I am willing to spend on something that, statistically speaking, will be lost in my couch two months from now.

This leaves the tried and true method of taking your child's temperature via rectal thermometer.

When I was a kid, this was the only option; there weren't any fancy digital thermometers or iPhone apps. You got the butt thermometer until you were old enough to ask not to get the butt thermometer. It was a rite of passage, and it pretty much guaranteed you were using a grown-up thermometer as soon as your motor functions allowed. In science, I believe this phenomenon is called motivation.

My kid got a rectal thermometer until the time when I convinced myself it was causing her long-term emotional trauma. She had reached the transition stage: old enough to scream, "No Dada, Nooooo!" when held down, but not yet evolved enough to reason with. (I am told the reasoning stage is sometimes delayed until late adulthood.)

The night after my questionable run-in with the unmarked Kroger thermometer, we purchased a forehead thermometer with digital read-out. Fancy, yes, but also of the $10 Walgreens variety. Later that evening, I again felt the presence of flu-like symptoms, although the day had passed without incident.

"Maybe you're pregnant," my wife suggested.

The forehead thermometer beeped.

"Ha," I said, pulling it down from my forehead to examine the readout. "101.4! Booyah!"

"Best out of three."

I swiped my forehead again.

"Huh? 94.6?"

"That sounds about right."

"So much for accuracy."

"Well, if you're really desperate to prove your point, there's always the old-fashioned method."

The rectal thermometer land mines littered around the house aren't the only changes I have experienced in the last year and a half:

— The other day, I answered the door for the UPS guy with pink and purple barrettes in my hair ... and didn't notice for half an hour.

— Occasionally, I will wake up to find myself cuddling a plush baby doll and/or unused diaper.

— My body has begun producing more tears (in what I can only assume is a biological need to emote with my daughter). The other day we watched "Frankenweenie" and I man-cried a confirmed four rugged man-tears. (SPOILER ALERT: They kill the dog. Twice!) But I have also recently caught myself choking up during episodes of "Modern Family" and commercials that feature the music of Sarah McLachlan.

On a more macho note, my forearms are super-ripped from The Kid using me as her own personal container crane. Too bad I only put them to use opening my "Sex and the City" box set.

Ryan Jackson typed the word "thermometer" 21 times in this week's column, and he can reached at

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