At the top of the roster of things I hate about winter (besides both Stanford and the 49ers losing to last-minute field goals on the same weekend) is getting sick. It is nothing more than the abject betrayal of one’s body against one’s blissfully normal existence.
It is the nadir of powerlessness. And no matter how well you think you’ve taken care of yourself, some bozos carrying germs decides that even though they’re contagious, they’re too important to miss a meeting. (Here’s an irony – I was at a conference sponsored by a health care company when I got sick.) That’s another part of the aggravation – whoever who made me sick probably wasn’t sick when they got on the plane … but someone else was. The anonymity of it all – there’s no one to blame.
Your body suddenly turns into a car with 300,000 miles. Something that normally runs smoothly … like your nose … starts running and won’t stop, like it’s competing in a perpetual marathon. Your head starts pounding like it’s thrown a rod. All of a sudden it feels like there isn’t enough orange juice and chicken soup in the entire world, but it doesn’t matter because you’re too sick to drag yourself out of bed and head to the supermarket.
Then there are those idiotic barriers between you and your medication. I know it doesn’’t begin to work as soon as you swallow, but it’s still feels like you’re only seconds away from relief, if only you didn’t have to marshal every sharp object in the bathroom in order to tear away the material that’s there “for your protection.”
However, there is compensation. There HAS to be. When I’m sick, I allow myself ice cream. It’s crucial not only for an incipient sore throat, but also as compensation for those aches and chills and sweats that you know are temporary but seem permanent.
It’s also a good time to watch trash, because your head is so stuffy and addled that you can’t pay attention anyway. I was particularly lucky because this weekend there were what seemed like an entire week’s worth of Kennedy assassination memorabilia on the airwaves. Some of them looked back at his childhood; others looked forward at his influence beyond his death. It was like having a history class on the 20th century in just a few hours. Ask me anything, and forgive my coughing in your face while I answer.
If you aren’t lucky enough to take ill on such an anniversary weekend, however, there are always DVDs. There’s nothing like sliding a familiar movie in the DVD player at the same time you slide a sleeping pill down your throat. Those familiar sounds and voices just lull you to sleep, and it doesn’t matter because it’s like a familiar lullaby that your parents used to sing to you.
And that may be the best thing about getting sick – at least if you’re in a relationship. Your spouse or significant other gets all maternal or paternal, and doesn’t mind tucking you in, or dabbing your damp forehead with a washcloth, or going to the store for Haagen-Dazs and drugs. No matter how old we are, we can revert to being cranky children, staying home from school, watching reruns in the middle of the day, and using bendable straws to sip orange juice.
With all that ice cream, television and pampering, you’d think I wouldn’t mind being sick. But the fact is that I’m too far from childhood to enjoy it. I prefer to be a productive adult with clear nasal passages and the ability to speak more than a single sentence without erupting in spasms of coughing. The only thing I’d like more is to find the sonofagun who infected me in the first place.