A friend responds to a friend’s request for help moving, July 17, 2006

“My throat starts to tickle if I so much as walk past a UPS store.”

Hi Nance,

Just got your message about helping you move tomorrow, and I know this is going to sound made up, but I’m allergic to packing tape so I can’t help. There’s some kind of enzyme that gives the tape its stickiness and if I even touch the tape, my throat starts swelling up and I can’t breathe. I carry an epipen but I’d rather not use it.

I’d help move things that don’t have packing tape on them, but you never know if something was touching packing tape and some of the glue rubbed off on it and then it gets on my skin. Also just being around all that packing tape is probably not a good idea (that’s what my doctor said when I asked about helping you move).

I guess if you’re really desperate for help, I can load up on benadryl and hope for the best. I’ll just give you a list of the signs of anaphylaxis so you’re ready to stab my leg with the epipen (you cannot hesitate). Or if you think that’s too complicated, I completely understand. I’ll just stay home and come visit when you’ve gotten rid of all the boxes.

Also, I can’t drive the truck because I want to sleep in.

See you soon,

Tom

Analysis:

Letters are a virtual catalogue of fake allergies, beginning with Hammurabi, who explained in a letter to his most trusted advisor that he could not help with the physical hammering of his code into stone because he was allergic to physical labor. Since then Alexander the Great (letting people not be conquered), Queen Victoria (non-mourning clothes), and Albert Einstein (hair gel) have all claimed one or more allergies in order to defend their eccentric behavior. 

Interestingly, Tom wasn’t entirely lying in his letter. He didn’t have an allergy to packing tape, but his doctor did suggest he might have a packing tape sensitivity and suggested avoiding “licking the sticky side.” Tom took it upon himself to spread the word about this little known dietary issue and ended up spawning three books on the subject, including his first, It’s Not You, It’s Glue (Random House 2010). Today, millions of people believe they have a packing tape sensitivity and avoid helping their friends move or packing their own belongings or mailing things. It’s really tiresome.

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