Q-Tipping at the TA

Denver, Colorado

“Do you want to get silicone implants,” McGyver asked me over the garlic-perfumed Bruschetta Pomodoro, his birthday lunch, at Bar Louie’s in Denver’s Northfield Mall.

“I can get someone to come to the TA (truckstop) this afternoon,” he said.

On the way to Denver – wind turbines & snow fences along I-80 in Wyoming.

Generally McGyver makes few requests of me, when he does they’re simple, extra leaves of baby spinach in his dinner sandwich, don’t hog all the blankets, can he have the expensive “clean burst” dental floss or the $500 steering wheel for his X-Box Forza racing simulator.

It’s his birthday and I was a little interested, so I thought, sure I’ll try them.

We agreed to meet McGyver’s contact in the TA restaurant. “I’m sure they’ve seen stranger things in there,” McGyver said. “But we’ll have to order dessert or something.”

Just before the local dinner hour we met Berkley T. Griles III. The best earplugger in the world from Ear Inc., headquartered in Boulder, Colorado.

The silicone implants McGyver had in mind are custom-fitted ear plugs. Mine for sleeping and his for earphones.

McGyver is a connoisseur of good sound. In addition to his large and eclectic music collection he listens to hours of podcasts including NPR’s This American Life, The Brian Lehrer Show and audible.com books about Mars and money and the real story behind Christopher Columbus, comedy tracks and more music via Rhapsody.com.

Snow fences along I-80 in Wyoming.

Shortly after acquiring Black Beauty, we invested almost $500 in Ultimate Ears earphones to enhance his listening enjoyment. When we sat down on the plane in Sydney, Australia last February to return home, he snapped the connection off the earphone. I looked at him in horror as his eyes began to, ever so slightly, tear.

“We’ll get another pair,” I quickly burbled. “I know how much you use them.” Thanks to the extended warranty, which he NEVER buys with his gadgets, but this time decided to, they were repaired for free.

Berkley had come to create silicone models of his ear canals then convert those into ear plugs to be attached to the earphones to improve the sound.

“They’re for everyday things,” said Berkley, a History Major he told me, by way of credentials. “Riding motorcycles, shooting guns…”

The plugs, promoted to be more effective than the foam earplugs I currently use, are to deaden the truck sounds while I’m sleeping.

“Whose first?” asked Berkley.

Sitting me in a straight-backed chair, while a cascade of facts and anecdotes about ears and hearing and earwax tumbled out in his soft Virginia-like drawl, he explored my ear canal with an ultra thin pencil probe, tipped with a bright white light.

“I’m going where people don’t even go Q-Tipping,” he said, leaving a dot of foam the size of a pea connected to a four inch string deep inside my ear canal.

He had spread his accoutrements across the table, including samples of silicone ear molds, all colors, some with glitter, next to his salad-bar salad and was intently schmooshing two egg-shaped balls of putty together, one a dark teal, the other the color of concrete, forming one soft mass.

He squeezed the putty into a four-inch long injectable plastic syringe which might otherwise be used by a veterinarian.

Berkley, the best ‘earplugger’ in the world, injects the silicone into the ear.

First he slowly injected the putty into my left ear, the ambient sound faded away. Then my right ear. This time as the putty squeezed in, it seemed to hit something, my eyes, known for their crescent squinty shape bugged out of my head.

“Ah, that hurts,” I wheezed. McGyver is laughing.

“Must be an air pocket,” Berkley said calmly, not missing a beat, backing out the tube, once then twice. The putty settled, the uncomfortable feeling subsided. When all the ambient restaurant sound had disappeared, I could hear his voice and McGyver’s voice and see an older gray-bearded gentleman in the booth behind us, watching me intently, mouthing and looking concerned – earplugs? I nodded my head.

Waiting for the blue silicone to set at the TA truckstop restaurant.

“I’ve done 1,000 people in a month,” said Berkley. “Musicians, bikers at Sturgis. Now industrial types, like the oil rigs are interested in this. It’s important to protect your hearing. It doesn’t come back.”

Ten minutes passed. He reached over, pushed the top of the mold in my left ear against my head and twisted it out, then my right ear.

“Air pocket,” he said examining the blue mold. “See that. You have tiny ears. Probably hit a wax jam. I think it’s still usable.”

He stuffed the mold into a clear zip lock plastic bag about three inches by three inches with the order form and my request for red earplugs, which he’ll add a little glow to so I can find them in the dark if they pop out.

It’s not surprising I’ve got a wax jam, he said, wearing foam earplugs virtually every night for almost three years.

“In caveman days, a bug would fly into your ear and the wax would be created to start working to get rid of it,” he said, indicating when something is in your ear, your body makes more wax.

“Wax jams can do more harm that just mess up your hearing,” he said, having once pulled a three-inch wax bullet out of the ear of a biker during Biker Week at Sturgis, South Dakota. “You don’t want to have a doctor scrape it off your ear drum.”

The sounds of fingernails on a blackboard would be music compared to that operation, he said, advising a specific ear detox remedy at the pharmacy.

“Put the drops in your ear, wait a few minutes. It will start spraying like Mount Vesuvius, then take a blue dropper like for babies and suck the stuff out.”

Four ears in twenty minutes. Berkley promised our ears in a couple of weeks.

“If it doesn’t work, let me know,” he said. “Don’t be stuck with something that you don’t like.”

We won’t.

7 thoughts on “Q-Tipping at the TA

  1. McGyver, love the pics, as usual !!Marlaina, you can make an interesting story out of anything.I thought the time you wrote a whole page on 'lettuce' was unique but so is this one on 'earplugs' !!! Sounds like a wise move for you both to have them.


  2. Wow. This is amazing. I guess I never considered that there's such a thing as custom made earplugs. I don't use earplugs when sleeping, but you'll have to let me know how they turn out. So when McGyver uses earplugs when he drives, does he ever feel like he really can't hear the sounds of the truck? When I drive and listen to music or podcasts, I sometimes find that having earplugs in both ears makes me feel disconnected from the truck. Especially when I'm shifting. When I shift, I usually take one ear bud out so I can hear the sound of the engine. What about McGyver?I love the pictures. Now I don't have to describe you to my friends and family anymore – I can just show them the picture! Chat soon.


  3. McGyver doesn't wear earplugs in both ears when he drives and because of that he doesn't really listen to music, just spoken-word podcasts and audio books. Ear Inc., does make a model of earphone, which allows the ambient noise in, we may give those a try depending on how we feel about the first pairs.There are a few snow fences in Montana, but in Wyoming they are everywhere, that dang wind just doesn't quit. Marlaina


  4. Ohmygawd! I seriously thought you agreed to breast implants and had that been the case, you definitely would have outdone me in the birthday department :)Happy Birthday to both you and McGyver!


  5. My earplugs fits my ears well, but I sleep very hard, pushing my head into the pillow, so I didn't like the feel of the hard mold in my ear. I am still using foam ear plugs and I am continually amazed that for five years I have been sleeping with earplugs.MacGyver loved his and wore them out and had them replaced once. But he's a gadget guy, so he's now thinking about trying someone else, no doubt, much more expensive.


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