Island Packet — If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent the last month engaged in some combination of coughing, sneezing, cough-sneezing, whining about cough-sneezing, amassing a pile of tissues large enough to suggest you’re constructing a border wall out of them, waking up feeling like someone poured a couple of gallons of vanilla pudding mix into your lungs and, of course, the always-delightful snort-sneezing, which is something that can make you get a cramp in your sinuses while sounding like you’ve briefly turned into a rhinoceros who is giving birth inside a submarine.
I say this not to turn readers off, but because there’s a good chance that most readers are sick, because everyone is sick, because apparently this area has been made ground zero for a nefarious federal Cold and Flu Experiment of some kind, like a “Lost” thing, only with fewer aliens and infuriating asides.
Now, I have an excuse in the form of a perpetually leaky son who has a cold so often that if there are not small green tributaries of mucus coming out of his nose I begin to wonder if he’s even awake. Like all children, he’s walking scientific proof of the unreliabilty of cold medicine, but also a testament to how children are probably the most regularly damp and leaky creatures on the planet, with the exceptions of some snails and Sean Hannity.
So I figured it was just a kid thing, until the reporter who sits across from me in the office came down with what we all initially believed to be the common cold, but what is apparently some sort of mutant strain of an immortal, virulent Death Cold From Tierra Del Fuego, one that has rendered him the state’s leading producer of snorts and damaged his voice box enough that he now sounds much like Jabba the Hutt’s bodyguard. There has not been one blessed day in the past month that this guy, who we’ll call “Jim,” mostly because his name is Jim, has not appeared in the office looking as though he spent the night being kicked in the lungs by a donkey. We’ve considered shipping him away to a remote island for observation and quarantine, but we can’t find a crate big enough, and also apparently you can’t mail people.
I bring this up also not to turn readers off, although I’m reasonably sure there’s no one left by this point except my mom, who I’m sure is composing an e-mail right now imploring me to use something called Airborne, which I’ve never tried, but is in her mind a magic bean that instantly cures the common cold, flu, SARS, scurvy, dropsy, the vapors and jungle rot, in addition to being able to sing, dance, mostly solve the climate crisis and make a respectable Belgian waffle. Mom talks about Airborne with a mix of enthusiasm and pride that I haven’t seen since she told the bridge ladies about my sixth-grade piano recital. Also there’s something called Zicam, which I guess is a medicine but sounds more like an alien warlord, possibly from “Superman II.” Kneel before Zicam!
Anyway, since this column has been descriptive yet not helpful, we’ve turned in here to a last resort, brought to us by an editor we’ll call “Jenny,” mostly because her name is Steve. They’re called Sudacare Shower Soothers, which she describes as “giant tablets that you toss into a running shower. The tablet will react with the water and release vapors that get into your respiratory system. But it’s an eye irritant, so for God’s sake, don’t pick it up with your hands.”
So it’s come to this, folks: showering with fizzy, irritating tablets that you can’t touch. I guess that sounds OK, as long as they can also make Belgian waffles.