Off The Radar: Reflecting On The Common Cold


The first twinge came on Monday – a trace of dryness in my eyes. Maybe nothing. Maybe the lighting at work, or a little eye strain. But I knew better. It was the first sign.

On Tuesday, it escalated to what I called “sniffles.” I kept a fistful of kleenex in my pocket hoping that no one at work would notice when I slipped out of sight to blow my nose. Chugged mint tea on my breaks. Told myself I was fine, really. I would go to bed early and sleep it off.

By Wednesday, my head felt like a stuffed cabbage. I stepped it up to Day Quill, with a backup supply of tissues in the car. By the end of the day I was glassy and worn out. I was grateful for light traffic driving home, and rounded the corner onto my street with relief. Hopefully I could catch a short nap before heading into an evening with some kids from church (which involved feeding about 20 people at my house, but that’s another story.)

I pulled into the driveway, and noticed that the tree on my left seemed out of place; it’s my reference point to be sure I am pulled up close enough to the garage door. The numbers on the front of the house seemed off kilter somehow, but inertia kept me moving forward. I climbed out of the car and gathered my keys, phone, and bag. As I rounded the corner of the house near the front door, I finally stopped. This was all wrong. My sidewalk goes into a courtyard; this one was out in the open. I retraced my steps and realized I had pulled into the neighbor’s driveway, not my own.

But I still couldn’t admit I was really, truly sick. I took that nap, changed clothes, and (really, truly) enjoyed baked ziti with a houseful of teenaged girls.

The next morning, the signals were clear. Just enough of a fever to give my skin that creepy crawly don’t touch me feeling. Overwhelming fatigue. I dared not be more than an arm’s length from the Kleenex box. This was it. The common cold, as it’s called, took charge, and I was down and out for the day.

I don’t get sick often, but if a bug is  bad enough to keep me at home, it’s bad enough to keep me in bed. I wrapped up in quilts and slept most of the day. The TV stayed on – a rarity for me. Certain shows have a tone and cadence that can lull me to sleep; this time, I dozed through episode after episode of Frasier. I only managed to stay awake for only one all the way through, though. (House Full of Heroes, if you’re curious.)

Friday morning dawned with a chill in south Florida. I added a down comforter to the bed, and pulled the duvet over into a double layer on my side. The wastebasket overflowed with used tissues by now, and I was on my second box of Day Quill. I gave up on plans for lunch with an old friend and reached for the remote. More Frasier reruns awaited; even with a fever, I loved the scenes with David Hyde Pierce. I dared not laugh though. It would most likely launch a fit of coughing.

I searched for signs that the cold was abating. Could I get out of bed for longer than 12 minutes at a time? Read the newspaper? Did I care that the water heater had shorted out and a plumber was on the way? Or that the same plumber peeked under the kitchen sink just long enough to confirm that we need a new faucet? I’d intended to work out on this Friday off. No way was that happening. Maybe check Facebook? Nope. I was off the radar for a second day.

Saturday, I realized that my solid food for the last few days had consisted mostly of navel oranges. I opened the pantry to survey my options but nothing looked good. I closed the door and made toast. By nightfall I was back to the pantry, this time for saltines and a bowl of cereal. More carbs than I usually like to eat, but I figured my nutritional balance was shot for the day anyway. Besides, those oranges had to count for something good, right?

It’s Sunday morning now, and it looks like the kind of day that makes people want to come to Florida for the winter. I’m sipping ginger tea and thinking about shaving my legs. I must feel better today.

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