I recently bought a newly developed salve to deal with an annoying rash on both elbows. It seems to be working, but it’s going to take time and I’m worried about that because last night I watched the product’s TV commercial. It started with some fellow scratching his abdomen vigorously and his wife looking concerned.

In the next scene he was applying the salve and was soon frolicking on the beach in a bathing suit with no sign of any skin problems.  I found this encouraging, but then they started reporting the possible side effects.  I can deal with a temporary lack of appetite and energy, but then, and I thought they were kidding when they said, “In very rare cases, after prolonged use,  the patient will experience an uncontrollable urge to dance the fandango.”.

I checked their website and there was that same strange warning, and I’d been using the salve for a week. I mentioned this to my friend Larry and he was stunned. “I’ve been putting that stuff on my ankles for two weeks now, and would you believe it, every now and then I think I hear a guitar playing someplace.”  Poor Larry. He’s got two left feet. He’s an Arthur Miller dropout and he won’t be able to do the fandango without falling on his face.

I did some Google research and found this odd symptom is not so far-fetched.  Starting in the 13th century and lasting over 300 years there were widespread epidemics of the dancing plague or choreomania across Europe with hundreds of victims suddenly dancing erratically in the countryside, two-stepping from one town to another until they dropped from exhaustion.  There were some fatalities.

The modern Italian dance, the tarantella, began as a type of choreomania.  The victims blamed their irrepressible urge to trip the light fantastic on perceived tarantula bites that had poisoned their blood and hysterical dancing with trailing musicians was the only antidote.

Larry and I decided to quit using the salve. Fortunately he learned that the kid next door had just started taking guitar lessons, so he’s probably going to be okay. But we’ll stay close and if the worst comes to worst, we’ll do the fandango together.  I’ll have to lead.


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