Well, I tried to go to work today: Dosed myself heavily with antihistamines and aspirin, guzzled water and focused on plowing through the papers on my desk so maybe I would forget that I had a pounding headache and felt like somebody spent all night working me over with a tenderizing mallet. I managed to hang on until ten-thirty when I finished up the last of the letters I had to write and was looking around for something else to do. All the energy I’d managed to sustain up to that point drained out of me. It was all I could do not to slump into my chair and take a nap.

I finished my hot cuppa, put away the files and other paperwork that were on my desk, called a cab and went home. Then I slumped in a chair and napped the afternoon away.

I had to walk up to the Willy Street Co-op to get some money for the cab. They have an ATM for the credit union we belong to and maybe the only public telephone for ten blocks in any direction. Naturally, the ATM was down, so I had to double back to Lazy Jane’s to use their ATM before I went back to the co-op to call a cab.

The cabbie was a woman about my age who confirmed my address, then went silent as she made her way out of the parking lot and into the street. I was halfway through the first story above the fold of the newspaper I was carrying when the cabbie asked if I knew when construction on Willy Street was supposed to finish up.

“Mid-October, I think,” I answered. “The merchants along the street are going to throw a big party.”



Several blocks go by. I start to read the newspaper again, get through maybe another two paragraphs before she makes a remark to the effect of, “I’ll bet they’ll be glad when it’s over.”

“Yeah,” I agree, “I’ll bet you will, too, eh?”

She chuckles a bit at that.


She crosses over the Yahara River, through the neighborhood to Atwood Avenue and turns east toward Monona. We’re passing Olin Park and actually heading into Monona when she asks, “So, where do you work?”

I’m not against small talk, but this is the most stilted conversation I’ve ever had. “I work for the state,” I tell her. “I license business professionals.”

After a pause that’s exactly long enough to be too long, she asks, “Do you like it?”

“Sure, I like it,” I answer her, and start counting, One-thousand one, one-thousand two…. to find out just how long too long is, exactly. In a cab on the way to Monona it’s about ten or twelve seconds.

“Got the day off today?”


“No, I’ve been sick all week. I went in for the morning to clear up some work.”

… one-thousand eight, one-thousand nine …

“Sorry to hear that.”


At this point in the conversation we’re about halfway down Monona Drive, so it’s my turn to lead. “You know where Sylvan Lane is?”

“Sylvan Lane …” … one-thousand one, one-thousand two … “… it’s off Frostwoods Avenue.”

Holy shit! Did you just google that in your head? I almost, but not quite, asked her. Are you a freaking cyborg googling my house on google maps?

Luckily for me we were only a minute or so from my house by then, so she didn’t have time to pick another awkward conversation starter from the pull-down menu on her robo-eyes like Arnie the Terminator. I paid her with a twenty, told her to keep the change and jumped out of the cab as she told me to “Have a nice day,” like a good android.

As she backed out of the driveway, I realized I didn’t have a set of housekeys in my pocket. Maybe the cyborg cabbie could have picked the lock or cut the door open with her laser vision, but it was too late. I had to figure out how to break into my house on my own.


My head is still so stuffed this morning that I have a pretty darned good idea what it feels like to be a prize 10-point buck mounted on the wall over the fireplace in the den. Get it? Stuffy head? Stuffed? I kill me.

So I contacted the office to let them know I wouldn’t be in today, then went back to bed. When I woke up a short time later, my sinuses were swimming in whatever goop fills up sinuses when I’m sick, making it impossible to breathe through my nose and giving me a pounding headache. I stubbornly stayed in bed until around ten-thirty, tossing and turning this way and that to see if I could get just a little drainage going, but no joy, so I gave up. I’ll probably spend the rest of the day propped in the recliner with a book, reading and popping antihistamine pills.

My Darling B pointed out that I was sick this time last year and my golly she was right.I spent the whole first weekend of October flat on my back with a monster head cold. “Maybe you’ve got seasonal allergies,” she suggested, and I suppose she could be right. I’ll have to wait and see if this happens again next fall. I’m not sure how much of a difference it’ll make, though. If I’m not infectious I suppose that means I could go to the office, but wouldn’t be able to get much work done in this condition. I’d have to get a doctor to give me a medicinal H-bomb for my sinuses so I wouldn’t have to ooze and snort my way through the working day.


I’m staying home from work today on account of the scratchy throat and puggled-up head that kept me awake most of the night. I could have dosed myself up with powerful over-the-counter drugs and toughed it out at work, infecting everyone I crossed paths with, but I don’t know anybody at work I dislike that much, so I called in sick – actually, this being the 21st century, I sent e-mail – and went back to bed. I even managed to get a little sleep between swallowing gobs of whatever it is that’s been draining from my sinuses. (Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know.)

Oddly, the cats didn’t come in to bunk with me at first. They usually can’t wait for one or both of us to go to bed so they can stretch out alongside us and render us immobile or too hot, usually both, but they left me alone for the few hours I managed to sleep until a woodpecker began hammering on the side of the house. The little red-capped woodpeckers that look so cute at the bird feeder in the winter keep coming to our house, one of the last in the neighborhood with its original cedar siding, to peck holes in it. We’ll probably have to get vinyl siding some day because of those little bastards.

It’s amazing how much noise a two-ounce bird can make. I thought at first he’d peck a couple times, realize there weren’t any bugs to be had because this is a house, not a tree, and fly away, but noooooooo. He seemed perfectly happy to keep pecking away and probably would have for hours if I hadn’t leaned out the window and slapped the side of the house with my hand to scare him off. Then, since I was up anyway, I put on a robe and sat in the rocker reading web comics while I polished off a big bowl of my favorite vanilla almond granola. It almost made me feel normal again. When I was done, though, I put everything away and headed off to bed again to doze fitfully for another several hours.

This time Bonkers followed me in and, after kneading my butt in a futile attempt to fluff it up a bit, he stretched out alongside me and went to sleep. When I woke up later Boo was in bed with me, too, and I know this because they were having quite a rambunctious tussle and, lucky me, I was in the middle. I swept Boo clean off the bed with one leg before I was fully awake and she sulked all the way to the living room. She’s young. She’ll get over it.

I can only sleep so long, even when I’m feeling pretty good, so I finally crawled out of bed about a half-hour ago to make myself a piping-hot cuppa Earl Grey tea to soothe my aching throat, and it worked so well I’m thinking of brewing another cup and snorting the whole thing up my nose.

Killing the Killer Flu

image of death riding a chicken

How to weather the killer death flu that’s kicking everybody’s ass right now and will inevitably lay you low if you have kids, a day job or otherwise mix with the public:

1: Go straight to your neighborhood Walgreen’s and buy one box of multi-sympton Wal-fed and one box of decongestant Wal-fed.

The upside of the multi-symptom stuff is that it’s equipped with a hefty jolt of painkillers that’ll help you get to sleep at night. The downside is you’re not supposed to take more than three doses per day, so use them only when your head feels like there’s an elephant sitting on it. And your head will feel like that.

The decongestants have no downside and two upsides: you only have to pop one pill, and you can take one every four hours and stay medicated around the clock. Back them up with aspirin and your head will feel as if there’s only a large bear sitting on it.

Disclaimer: I do not own stock in Walgreen’s, I recommend you go there only because around here there’s one on every corner and they have cheap drugs.

2: Find a flat, comfortable spot, lay down and stay there for at least three days, getting up only to keep from soiling yourself. But sleep. Sleep. Sleep.

3: Don’t skip your meds! Not even if you think you’re starting to feel better and you might be tired enough to sleep without them. Unless more than forty-eight hours have passed, you will regret skipping the decongestants when you wake up with Fluffy the circus elephant parked on your face.

4: Drink lots of water. If you don’t, the dreams about drinking ice-cold rivers of water will be worse than when you’re hungover.

5: Call me when it’s over to tell me if any of this worked for you.

Out Go The Lights!

image of sleeping sick guy

I’m still trying to sleep off the effects of this head cold I caught, so this will necessarily be brief before I have to go medicate myself with my hourly fistful of over-the-counter drugs, drink a pint of water and stretch out on the recliner for my early-mid-late-afternoon nap.

My symptoms today are a lot worse than they were the day before, and they were plenty bad yesterday. “You look like shit,” My Darling B observed, gazing across the dinner table at me. “I hope you don’t take that the wrong way.” I was too burned out to take it any way at all.

This morning I had a clear head for about an hour, long enough to make the ceremonial pot of coffee and eat a bowl of granola before I wrapped myself up in quilts and retreated to the recliner with a hot cuppa joe and the Sunday paper. I barely touched either of them before I was drifting in and out of consciousness.

I’d forgotten how much I hate being this sick. For an hour or more I struggled to keep my eyes open as waves of congestion swelled my face up and filled my eyes with tears. I could read three or four paragraphs before I had to put the newspaper down, reel off a yard and a half of toilet paper from the roll I kept at my side, and explosively blow a quart or two of snot from my sinuses. Finally I just gave up, popped a couple decongestants, stretched out with my eyes closed and prayed for death.

When I finally came to again, round about two in the afternoon, I was feeling well enough to make myself a cup of tea, and passed a few hours by reading a few chapters of the book I’m chipping away at, The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. It even made some sense, unlike the news stories I was trying to figure out this morning. But I can tell a relapse is coming on quickly and I’ll have to go pop a couple more decongestant capsules before becoming an inert lump on the recliner once again.

The photo’s from yesterday; B snapped it while I was out like a light. She’s been babying me as much as she dares, but mostly she’s trying to keep her distance, and I don’t blame her one bit. The cats, on the other hand, aren’t squeamish at all about my condition. The great thing about cats is they’ll curl up with you whether you’re healthy or sick. All they’re looking for is a warm lap, and once they’ve claimed it they’ll stubbornly stay there no matter how wetly you sneeze on them. They can’t catch your bug, so they don’t care.

I god a ruddy node

image of sick office worker

One of the benefits of working in an office environment is receiving a steady paycheck. I think we can all agree on that.

Maybe another thing we can all agree on is one of the most glaring detriments: Having to acquire a whole new herd immunity. I have no idea if this has ever been studied scientifically, but I can offer my own anecdotal evidence from almost thirty years of moving from one office environment to another at intervals of about two years. Each time I’ve made that move I’ve had to spend several weeks during the first few months sicker than a puking dog. All the antibodies I built up while working in the previous office seemed to be absolutely worthless in the new office.

My latest office environment is no exception. At my previous office I could, and frequently did, sit at a desk surrounded by people hacking up great gobs phlegm as if they were dying of tuberculosis. I worked there five years and I think I got sick once, maybe twice. In my new office, however, I’d been there just three days before I knew I picked up their particular strain of cube farm killer death flu.

“Got any plans for the weekend?” one my coworkers asked me Friday afternoon.

“Yeah,” I answered, ”I think I’m going to spend it sick in bed, using up all the Kleenex.” And that’s what I’m going to do. Luckily, I’m only halfway through an eight-hundred page history of the discovery and development of atomic power, so this will give me a chance to knock off a couple hundred pages a day. Also, I’ve got My Darling B, who says she’ll make me some tomato soup. Atomic physics and some heartfelt pampering ought to make the next couple days bearable, even if I have to spend them half-dead.