Column: An innocent sneeze led to a cold of historic proportions

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 9, 2002

I heard it and the instant I heard it, I knew. I knew in a way that we sometimes know things. Some people call it instinct. I couldn’t explain why I knew, I just knew. And that knowledge sent a chill up and down my spine.

I was waiting to fly on an airplane with about 200 other people. I was watching a passenger attempt to stuff a bag the size of a Buick LeSabre into the overhead storage compartment. I was really enjoying the entertainment when a woman some rows behind me, and I am sure she was a good person who meant me no harm, sneezed. I knew it was a woman who sneezed. The sneeze had a feminine sound to it and had no word attached to the end of the &uot;achoo.&uot; Men like to stretch the sneeze by a syllable or two. I mumbled a faint-hearted &uot;Bless you,&uot; and then moaned an &uot;Oh, no.&uot; My wife questioned me as to the reason for my moan.

&uot;What is it? Is it time for an oil change for your truck? Did you stop to think and forget to start again? Have you been making mental bets again? The last time you did that, you lost your mind.&uot;

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My wife had obviously set her fazers on stun. She is a suspicious character. She is always suspicious of everything that I do. I ignored her amateurish attempts at sarcasm and informed her with some certainty that I would be catching a cold soon. This statement raised more questions than an Enron earnings report.

&uot;How do you know you will be catching a cold?&uot; asked my wife, The Queen B. &uot;Aren’t you feeling well?&uot;

&uot;I feel finer than frog’s hair,&uot; I replied.

&uot;But I will be catching a cold.

Did you hear that sneeze?&uot;

&uot;Yes,&uot; answered my bride. &uot;So?&uot;

&uot;Well, that sneeze had my name on it. Trust me on this.&uot;

My wife groaned and rolled her eyes the way she has done so often. Then she quoted from a medical study that has shown that colds prefer married men. She stated that bacteria like to hide in places where there is very little movement.

A couple of days later, I had a cold. It was a doozy. My pains ached and my aches pained. My nose ran like a Kenyan in a marathon. It is in my genes. Noses run in my family. Every frog in the township had taken up residence in my throat. I looked in the mirror and discovered that I looked like the photo on my driver’s license. That is never a good sign.

I immediately got to work on my suffering skills. I went dormant. Facial tissues piled up like snowdrifts in Buffalo, New York. I drank so much orange juice that I couldn’t believe I had drank so much. When I looked at all those empty orange juice containers, I thought they were nothing more than pulp fiction. The orange juice was good to the last drop, just like a skydiver.

I stopped eating health foods in the belief that I needed all the preservatives I could get. In order to make sure I got enough sleep, I tried watching daytime television. It put me to sleep just as I expected it would, but it caused me to have nightmares that included mind-numbing talk shows and intelligence-insulting commercials. I would wake up in a cold sweat thinking that Doctor Phil was telling me that I had a cold because I wanted to have a cold.

My wife is loving and caring, but she doesn’t believe in babying. She got out the electric cattle prod and used it to get me to take aspirin, Vitamin C and zinc. The Queen B took me to see a pediatrician. She knows that a pediatrician is good with little patients and with someone like me, a man with little patience. If I were the kind who was prone to utter profanities, I would have been cussing. After all, a cold and golf were the reasons cuss words were invented. I began to realize how mildew and guacamole must feel.

My cold was of epic proportions. I thought that perhaps my cold might have commercial film possibilities. The movie would even have a sort of a car chase as my wife rushed to town to replenish my supply of my beloved Puffs before my nose dripped again. I would call it &uot;Al Miserable&uot; in honor of the classic, &uot;Les Miserables.&uot;

What did I do about my cold? I did the same thing I always do when I have a cold. I gave it to my wife.

Al Batt is a Hartland resident. His column appears in the Wednesday and Sunday editions of the Tribune.