THANKS, SANTA
December, 2010

Thanks a whole pantload, buddy-- you sick practical joker!

It's not like there are other things I need to focus on, like gift buying and meal-planning and decorating Stately Hyde Manor for the holidays-- to say nothing of my constant effort to refine the various programs I employ to keep my teeming minions in utter thrall, the better to accomplish my Plan For World Domination...You had to bring me a bitch of a pre-Christmas cold to distract me, didn't you, Santa?

Since I quit smoking over eleven years ago, I've had maybe... three colds? Four? I'm serious. I used to get at least 2 a year, and they'd start as runny-nose, scratchy throat kind of things, and after a couple of days, they'd slide into my bronchial tubes and wind up as pneumonia, bronchitis or just some hideous upper respiratory infection. They'd hang there for at least a couple of months. Every morning started with me doing shitty Louis Armstrong impressions, trying to clear the airways enough to breathe more easily, and offloading quarts of vile bodily fluids I'd manufactured in the night.

I coughed until my ribs felt broken and I thought my skull would burst along its seams from the sheer pressure. Miserable, but expected. Bronchitis and I were old acquaintances. All that disappeared once I quit smoking. The few colds I've had have been fairly mild, and short-lived. I have been so immensely grateful to see this benefit I created for myself simply by quitting the cigarettes.

Just lately, though, I've been hit with this weird cold that-- until last night-- refused to manifest itself completely. It began with a tickling high in the nostril-- almost up in the sinus cavity, not quite in the soft palate, but ... right... there... in that neighborhood. Tickle, tickle, itch, itch... I blow my nose, and it's fine for a moment. Then it returns, as though the act of blowing my nose had simply angered the Tickle God, and he will now show me who's the  boss! The itch and tickle is now accompanied by post-nasal drip. I can choose to blow this out or try and snort it back up. Either way, all it will do is exacerbate the situation. I cough very gently and clear my throat, in an effort to dupe my nasal territories into a false sense of security. Just to be sure I don't get the upper hand, it now sends out signals to make my eyes water uncontrollably.

FAAAAABULOUS! More liquids arrive at the party! Coughing, sinus pressure, dribbleage, raw nostrils and projectile tears are all on flattering display. I do the only sensible thing and decide to give in to it, and to just sit very quietly. I drink a lot of water, I take some Vitamin C and one of those 12-hour Sudafed tablets that's supposed to keep symptoms under control for the better portion of your waking hours. I keep hoping for that calming, "Desert Sinus" sensation. What I've got, instead, is the opposite end of the spectrum-- "Head Full of Jellyfish" syndrome.

That 12 hour coverage is absolute  crap. It's the product of Wild-Assed Guesswork, hopeful marketing or a completely cruel lie. "How long do we tell 'em it works, Bob?" "Uhhh... I dunno, six... no-- twelve hours. Yeah TWELVE HOURS. Write it in big letters. Let's get this stuff shipped out!"

Bad enough that every 20 seconds you're blowing your nose, wiping your eyes and coughing-- all the while hoping your eyes (which now feel like dirty tennis balls in their orbits) will not shoot across the room and knock your last box of Kleenex under the furniture where you'll never find it again... but you can't even rest! Forget sitting back in the recliner, much less lying down to grab a few winks. The nasty gargleage interferes with any attempt at horizontality.

Lean your head back or try to lie down, and you choke. Sit upright, and the flow is impeded only by the slight upward turn of the outer edge of each nostril. The tide soon finds its way past the nasal embankment and floods your entire lower face. Leaning forward only encourages a disgusting couple of rivulets to pour out. Sitting with a wad of tissues or a bucket of sawdust in my lap and trying to wait it out until the well runs dry-- amusing as it might prove to be-- just isn't going to fly. The phrase "heavy duty nose tampons" comes to mind. I also wonder, rather abstractly, if the human body's percentage of water is so high at the best of times, why I can't-- aided by this hyper abundance of fluid--simply liquefy and flow under the door or down the stairs and save myself the thumping pressure of actually walking? It now hurts just to move. Add to all this the fact that I haven't slept at all well, have a headache, my ears are clogged and keep popping, and my powers of concentration are virtually nil, and it's a pretty non-productive day, here.

I go into the kitchen to get something to eat, and debate what to make. My stomach is rumbling and gurgling, and I just haven't felt well enough to focus on solid nourishment for a while. Gotta do something about it. Something light, but comforting. Anything creamy or dairy-based would only stimulate mucus production. Anything too acidic would probably irritate my gut. I don't want something heavy like meat or cheese, or anything sweet... I look around. No cookies, no nuts, no yogurt, no frozen dinner entrees, no eggs... Sigh!

Marsha makes the best coffee going. I know-- I'm biased-- but I can never make a pot as well as she does. We use freshly ground Foglifter beans, from Millstone, and drip-brew it in a Mellita pot. There's half a pot left, and I decide I want a cup of coffee. It ought to perk me up a bit. What's coffee without a nice piece of toast? There's a fresh loaf on the counter from our local bakery, Great Harvest-- their nice chewy, honey whole wheat bread.  All  have to do is pop some bread in the toaster, pour some coffee into a mug, heat it in the microwave, butter the toast, splash a little cream in the coffee and I'm all set. Simple. Civilized. Comforting, Easy. Really? You think so?

I cannot, however, sort and process the necessary tasks by importance or place them in any appropriate order in such a fashion that I can get the job done. I have a mental image of a plate with hot, buttered toast, and a saucer with a steaming mug of coffee in front of me-- and not a damned clue how that's accomplished. Really. I'm blotting at my face, shuffling around the kitchen, lifting and putting down various objects. I wander from counter to stove to refrigerator to sink and back again. After 15 minutes, I have a butter knife and a teaspoon in my bathrobe pocket. I also am holding the plastic filter cone for the coffee pot under one arm.

I *CAN* simply put this down, as I won't need it; the coffee is already made-- but I do not. I pick up other things and transfer it from hand to hand and clasp it against me with one forearm or another... There is a loaf of bread on the refrigerator shelf, now, and a container of half-and-half on the sink, next to my coffee cup. I have to get some bread into the toaster-- which has a plate set atop it. Did I put the plate there, for my toast? If not, who did; if so, when? I move the plate, get some bread out of the wrapper, and then become engrossed in trying to close it again with the twist tie supplied.

This task completed, I turn my attention to toasting my coffee. I don't know what's become of that plate, but I've filled a coffee cup with coffee, and set it down on top of the toaster. Heat rises from here, so it may take me... how long, to make the coffee palatable? No--wait... Coffee cup goes into the microwave. Once I heat it, I'll add sugar and then pour half-and-half into it like this... and I'm pouring half-and-half into the coffee pot. STOP! I take the coffee cup off the toaster, place it in the microwave-- where the two slices of bread on the plate have come to rest. I put the plate next to the toaster. This feels like progress.What else do I need? I can see the coffee, sugar, half-and-half, bread... I need utensils to... AHA! The spoon and knife in my robe pocket clatter and remind me of their patient wait to be of service. I finally put down the filter cone and reach for them.

The stick of butter which has melted in my other pocket has been silent all this time, though. It mutely mocks my efforts to provide myself with the simplest of sustenance, as it slowly slides down my thigh.
I think maybe I'll take a walk. It's about 20 degrees out there; maybe I can turn this into (*) pleurisy, lapse into a coma and be fed intravenously for a while...

(* Be careful what you playfully wish for. 24 hours after the last paragraph was written, I have a 102 degree fever and a raging sinus infection plus-- a visit from my old pal, Bronchitis!)