One joy of this blog is that I can read posts I wrote back when I was still young and naïve—specifically the post I wrote last week about appreciating llamas up close, because said llamas are quite possibly why I contracted the bubonic plague or whatever this is. It’s all conjecture at this point anyway.
An essential stage of illness is reflecting on the times you took not being sick for granted, except I didn’t experience as many of those occasions as you’d think. This past year, I got sick every full month I stayed on campus—five, with each bout lasting about a week, making them 1/6 of my college experience. Considering how infrequently I saw even people in my academic programs, it’s likely that some acquaintances assume my voice sounds like a chronic goose impression. (More importantly, do they think I’m any good?) I wouldn’t say that my recurring cold ruined social interaction for me because you can’t ruin something that’s numb to existence, but the cold definitely didn’t help.
My fondest sick-in-college memories
- Sitting miserably through lectures, pointedly not clearing my throat so the irritation wouldn’t trigger unstoppable coughing, only to be called on and then have to quickly and audibly clear all the phlegm from my throat like I’d been storing a reservoir just for that moment
- Witnessing the skin beneath my nostrils accelerate 40 versions ahead of the skin on the rest of me
- Stomaching entire packets of Ricola lemon cough drops that roughen the roof of your mouth and so many ginger squares (the instant kind that, added to hot water, makes tea)
- Someone commenting that I was “always popping things” in class. I assured him they were Altoids to stop me from coughing, but I wouldn’t have believed me either.
- That one time I walked into my professor’s office hours, told him I was sick, and then went over a test with him sitting across the room, thirty feet between us, because he’d “never gotten sick in his 30+ years of teaching.”
So, given all the precedent, catching a cold during the summer was a new development but not much of a surprise. I woke up at 3AM the first day with a sore throat and sat at the kitchen table trying to calculate whether I could afford to call in sick, in other words doing more math than I’d done all freshman year. It was only Wednesday, but I budgeted a week for the cold to run its course and didn’t remember if symptoms usually worsened by the second day. I ended up going to work, single-handedly exhausting the office’s supply of paper towels, hardly able to keep up with my running nose on account of my regularly skipping cardio. (Because… running. Ha.)
Day 2 felt like an invisible hand had planted itself in my hair and was squeezing my head to pulp. I let my supervisor know I’d be working from home. In context, it typically takes a lot for me to call in sick, because doing so feels like losing. To rationality. Except usually, I didn’t have splitting headaches that woke me up in two-hour intervals so I could get up and stuff sandwich bags underneath my pillow like some sort of vomit ward and resume dreaming about something I was trying and failing to do (obviously not specific enough parameters for me to remember my dream.)
Mom also insisted on drawing me a “hot bath with ginger.” She’s adamant that taking scalding baths and drinking nasty ginger tea are the one true remedy, the logic being that taking these steps make you lose all the will to live, at which point the virus realizes its presence is no longer needed and departs.
This time, though, when the bathtub had become half full, Mom emerged not with the typical mug of ginger tea but a pot of boiling water. Forgetting that she must have had countless opportunities to kill me up until this point, I panicked as she approached. And then I saw what was in the water.
Ginger. Like, just slices of raw ginger. I watched the slices float into the tub and was filled with an ineffable frustration partly from the utter lack of scientific basis and to an even greater extent the high probability this quack cure was going to work. Probably the worst part of Mom’s method is that it’s so far always coincided with me getting better so I can’t even say anything.
I was right. The next day, my sore throat and migraine had subsided to a stuffy nose and ringing ears. Privately I considered a more likely explanation than the ginger bath. Maybe taking a day off and resting instead of struggling through a week to not miss classes had sped up my recovery. Or maybe I’d succumbed to DART germs and touching llamas had actually gifted me faster healing powers.
I’ll investigate further the next time I get sick… in about a month.
If you ask me, the problem is how affirmative the word “catch” is. “Catching” makes it sound like you’ve put forth effort to seek something out, when it should be the other way around if there’s any hope of discouraging me. Russia’s got the right idea; there, colds catch you.
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Also, if you’re still reading this, check out this Postillon article, “First intensive care unit opened for men suffering from cold,” I found while researching cold symptoms. It’s like the German-based Onion, I think. Happy Sunday.