I should have known I would catch it, but I’d gone several straight years without having one, so I guess I’d forgotten how common they are. I’m talking about a good old fashioned winter cold. You know the type, because as sure as you’re able to read this sentence, you’ve had your share of them.
I’m just about at the end of my latest, which I caught from my family over Thanksgiving week. Both of my sisters were suffering with one as we gathered around Mom’s table back in New York. But I felt good, rested and healthy, getting ready to celebrate another joyous family gathering with dear ones. Even my sisters seemed to be sneezing, coughing and hacking less than they had a few days earlier.
Of course, I may well have already had the bug incubating in my lungs or nasal passages or wherever those damnable viruses choose to develop into a full blown attack. I’m told the time from original exposure to the common cold and the actual unset of symptoms can be as long as a week or as short as a day. In my case it was apparently closer to the former.
Although for all I know, I could have caught it from one of those friendly passengers I flew back from New York with the day after the holiday. That’s the thing about winter colds, we are all so cooped up with each other that the little buggers/germs hop around from one body to another without even so much as a by-your-leave.
Anyway, I first felt it coming on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, one day after my wife and I got home. I recognized the early symptoms – a scratchy throat, a slight sense of sluggishness, the earliest feeling of nasal congestion—really nothing more that the equivalent of mild allergy symptoms at first. I tried to get a good night’s sleep and woke the next morning feeling okay. And I made it through that Sunday without any issues.
By Monday I was into the nasal drip part of the deal. You know what I’m talking about. Your nose constantly needs attention, as in wiping and blowing. And the stuff that comes out is quickly replaced with more of the same. But I was still able to function at work, putting in a full, relatively productive day. At this point I was in the “annoying cold” stage of the malady.
You have an annoying cold when you are still functioning fully but you just aren’t feeling like the life of the party. It can be accompanied by coughing and sneezing, but mostly we’re just talking a lot of sniffling and nose blowing. It’s bearable, just not a lot of fun.
Tuesday took me to the “lousy cold” stage of the disease. You know you’ve hit this level when just getting up the energy to stick to your routines is a chore. Yes, you report for work, but if you can claim a sick day, it’s awfully tempting. You also know you’ve got a lousy cold because that’s what you tell anyone who asks.
“Hey, how’s it going, Ed? You look a little down.”
“Oh, don’t get too close. I’ve got a lousy cold.”
Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. Anyway that was Tuesday, which, if you’re counting is day four (counting Saturday when the whole thing started). That night I stopped at my local pharmacy. I hate taking medicine because, even if the side effects are mild, I usually get them. This time the friendly guy behind the counter recommended Nyquil.
“It’ll knock you out,” he told me. “You’ll sleep like a baby, and wake up feeling a lot better.”
What he didn’t tell me is that the stuff tastes like castor oil (or what I assume castor oil tastes like) and that it doesn’t really relieve any of the symptoms I’m suffering with. But I buy a bottle and that night I sleep pretty well, until I awake in the middle of the night with all kinds of liquidy gook oozing out of my nose. Great. Just great.
Anyway, the next morning, this is now Wednesday – day five, for those of you counting – I announce to my wife that I have a miserable cold and won’t be going to work. Luckily, we’re on winter break at the law school, so no one is really looking for me anyway. But, what I need is a day in bed, because when you’re in the “miserable cold” stage of this damnable thing, you don’t want to do anything.
So bed rest it is, except that I hate staying in bed when I have things to do (yes, I’m something of a workaholic), so around noon, I get up and force myself into the shower and manage to get up the energy to get to work to at least get a few papers graded. While there, I avoid human contact as much as possible, keeping my office door closed and hoping no one will knock on it. I just don’t want to see anyone or explain to anyone why I look like death warmed over and feel just about the same.
By Thursday night, I start to think maybe I have the flu, because the symptoms don’t seem to be improving. Then I remember an episode of “The Beverly Hillbillies,” and it all starts to make sense. I was never a big fan of that Buddy Ebsen family comedy, but in this one episode, Granny amazes all the Beverly Hills types who are suffering with colds by proclaiming that she’s had the cure for the common cold for years.
They all line up for her remedy, which is some danged-awful tasting concoction that she insists they must drink for a full ten days.
“Ten days?” one of them says, somewhat dismayed.
“Yep,” says Granny, “ten days. And after that you’ll be as good as new.”
And that’s the thing about an annoying, lousy, miserable cold. No matter what you do, it’s going to last ten days.
Today was my tenth day, and I’m feeling as good as ever.