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Pity the woman who suffers from her husband's head cold

Mark Twain once observed something to the effect that nobody is more smug than the one person in the boat who is not seasick.

As usual, the great American writer and astute people-watcher was on to something when it comes to human nature.

Naturally, I couldn't help but gloat a bit last week when my wife came down with the head cold and sinus congestion lurking about this holiday season.

"Feeling a wee bit stopped up, are we?" I asked, adding, "I'm not getting sick because I eat right, watch my diet and think only positive thoughts."

"Go ahead, have your little amusement," Maureen said as she stifled a sneeze with a tissue.

"Just remember — your day is coming, and it won't be pleasant," she added. "This is a very nasty bug, sweetie."

This coming from someone who has missed less than half a dozen days of work because of illness in the past 20 years. She is naturally energetically healthy with a high pain threshold. And her normally positive attitude would have kept the Titanic afloat.

A more cautious man would have quickly made amends, but I just couldn't stop myself in the wake of her you-will-rue-this-day warning.

"In the words of that profound philosopher Alfred E. Neuman, 'What me worry?' " I offered with a grin.

You guessed it. Within 48 hours, Maureen was nearly back to her cheerful, tireless self. And her Mad magazine-quoting husband? Suffice it to say he was no longer spouting Mr. Neuman's numbskull philosophy.

My bulbous, raw nose dripped like a loose faucet. One eye was beet red while the other resembled that of a fish two hours dead. Each cough sounded like I was digging for clams.

And if the Ducks block the Badgers on Monday like this cold has stopped up my sinus passage, Oregon will surely win the Rose Bowl.

"This is God awful," I moaned. "This is the Mount Everest of all head colds. This is the perfect storm of nasal drip, sinus blockage and snotty sneezes. This is the vilest of the vile."

"Sorry, but the worst is ahead of you," my wife said. "Unfortunately, you are already going into babble mode."

Again, she was spot on about my future. And I tend to babble when I get sick, although some wags would be quick to observe my coherency doesn't fluctuate with changes in health status.

If you are into masochism, the vintage of this virus is the finest misery this side of Nirvana. Your teeth ache. Your nose hairs hurt. Your head feels like it is stuck in a fish tank.

Still, after taking the Christmas break, I decided I was well enough to stagger off to work, again ignoring my better half's admonishments.

But my co-workers, many of whom have worked with me for nearly two decades, were quick to provide health advice.

"Stay away from me," one offered.

"Go home," another suggested.

"Get out," said yet another as he backed away from my wheezing approach.

Of course, others weren't quite as supportive, but we won't go there.

I staggered back home and took the over-the-counter cold medication provided by nurse Maureen. She selected an expectorant guaranteed to make me — and her — sleep at night.

Did I mention that cold medications and I don't mix? Bafflement and bewilderment reach new heights when we two are combined.

"My equilibrium is no longer equal," I said when I tried to sit up. "I think I'm tilting a little to port. Maybe my jib is up."

The nautical blather was followed by a coughing fit.

"I should have quit smoking years ago," I said.

"You never have smoked, goofus," Maureen observed.

She did have a point.

"We need to talk about that Mayan thing, the coming apocalypse and all," I mumbled just before dozing off. "And answer me this: If everything tastes like chalk, what does chalk taste like?"

Unfortunately, she must have had a relapse with her head cold because she made absolutely no sense.

"Give me strength," was her whispered response.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.