Thursday, September 30, 2010


A view from the snot field that is my bedroom floor. 

I should have seen it coming. I should have known. All the signs were right there in front of me.

My daughter was hacking and sniffling for the better part of a week and my wife had it too. She kept me up three hours the other night moaning and groaning in her sleep. I secretly hoped she was having naughty dreams about yours truly, but later I found out it was nothing more than the sound of air trying to force its way in and out of her congested nasal passages.

You’d think I’d know better, that sleeping next to an infected wife would soon spell doom for me and infect me too, but I felt fine.

Not that that’s all that unusual. I’m almost always the last person in my family to catch whatever is going around, and sometimes I’ll be the only one who somehow escapes it completely. Once I went three straight winters without so much as a slight cold -- and that was with three kids attending the local petri dishes we call public schools! It’s not like I’m uber-healthy or anything, sometimes I think I’m just lucky. Either that, or my job as a photojournalist exposes me to so many different germs at such a frequent rate that I may have built up a stronger immune system as a result.

This must be true, because for 19-years I went to work every day without ever calling in sick (beat that Cal Ripkin!) not that I didn’t want to, or probably should have on a few occasions. Once, while working at a small newspaper in Midland, I came down with the flu on a Monday. I had a fever of 103 and I could barely move because I ached so badly. Unfortunately, I was the only photographer on duty that day. I tried to get one of the other two photographers to work for me, but both were out of town, so I dragged my sorry ass out of bed, went in to the office to get my assignments, and then went out and infected most of Midland County. By mid-afternoon, I returned home and crashed on my living room floor, too tired to even make it to the bedroom.

But that pales in comparison to the eve of the 1998 Rose Bowl where a stomach virus had me doubled over my hotel toilet for the better part of eight hours. In between bouts of vomiting, I had a couple of revelations: 1) I may have traveled across the country and cost my employer several thousand dollars for a football game I may not be able to cover, and 2) judging by the calamari bobbing up and down in the toilet, I don’t chew my food all that well.

Somehow, I managed to recover in time to photograph the game. That’s the beauty of the stomach virus. It comes on painfully quick, and absolutely sucks while you have it, but it also leaves just as quickly. Plus, unless you’re bulimic, it’s fairly easy to recall just about every time you’ve ever tossed your lunch, and it usually makes for a good story. Like the time my third grade class took a field trip to my teacher’s farm on the last day of school. I spent most of that hot, June afternoon loading up on soda pop, cookies and cake, and then, when I got home, about 90 seconds unloading the same soda pop, cookies, and cake all the way up the carpeted stairway leading to our bathroom toilet.

This, of course, befuddled my mother greatly. Not so much the puking part, but the fact that I had just been outside lying in the shade on our picnic table when the urge to purge had hit me.

“Why the hell didn’t you just puke outside in the bushes you dumbass?” She scolded, while trying to scrub my trail of partially digested confectionary treats from the carpet.

“Oh … you mean I could have puked outside?”

Later that fall, in the middle of Thanksgiving night, to be exact, I shot straight up in my top bunk with that horrible, clammy feeling that left no doubt that soon the four pounds of Waldorf salad I’d eaten that day was about to leave my body Linda Blair style. The bathroom was a mere 15-feet away, but I knew there was no chance I would make it in time, so I did what any 10-year-old would do, I bent over, opened my mouth and fire-hosed a bucketload of fresh, steamy vomit all over my NFL bedspread at my feet. I felt better immediately, but I was way too tired to actually do anything rational, like attempt to clean up my mess, or wake up my mom, so I laid back down and went to sleep. And that’s when the effects of gravity kicked in.

Over the course of the next several hours, the large puddle of puke pooled on top of my NFL bedspread began oozing slowly downward - first, past all the teams in the AFC Central Division, and then on to the NFC East, before eventually flowing over the edge of the bed like a waterfall, unceremoniously splattering everything within a five-foot radius upon splashdown - including my little brother in the bottom bunk.

Waldorf Falls, as it came to be known later, also did not sit well with my mother, who was left to wonder a) why I couldn’t make it to the bathroom in the first place, and b) why the hell didn’t I clean up my mess, or at the very least, wake her up!

Her points were valid, but when you’re 10, and you have to hurl; logic doesn’t always play into the equation.

None of that mattered as I lay in bed Wednesday morning feeling like crap. I was sure this was only a cold (there was no threat of puking on the horizon) but still, this cold was a doozy.

It started that Monday afternoon with a sore throat, the same kind that always accompanies a cold, at least for me. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it was when I realized I even had a sore throat. At first I thought the scratchy feeling might have been caused by something spicy that I ate. But three hours later I knew I was doomed because it felt like I’d swallowed a cheese grater.

For me, the sore throat phase is the worst part of my four-step process of getting and battling a cold. That is, of course, until I move into phase two: “the-uncontrollable-watery-eyes-and-sinus-drip” phase. It’s at that point when I wish I had nothing more to deal with than just a sore throat.

The problem with phase two is I’m not all that smart and I’m pretty damn lazy, so the first 35-40 times I blow my nose (about once every 90-seconds) I’ll grab whatever is closest to get the job done. If it’s a Kleenex, that’s fine, but I’m also just as happy with toilet tissue, a paper towel, my sleeve, your sleeve, or even sandpaper, if it’s convenient. Sometimes, like when I’m outdoors, I don’t use anything, I just shoot a stringer of snot into the grass (a trick I learned from several years of doing triathlons – take your finger and push hard on the outside of one nostril, turn your head slightly to the side and blast away). It’s my way of giving back to the Earth with zero waste involved.

Usually, somewhere around the 40th painfully abrasive nose blow, it dawns on me I may have made a horrible mistake by not using an actual Kleenex for each and every blow, because now my nose and upper lip look as if they’ve been worked over by the same cheese grater I mentioned earlier.

Of course Kleenex, although softer than most things I choose to blow my nose into, are no day at the park either. In fact, I once bought the type of Kleenex with lotion in them to purposely try and avoid all the cracking and bleeding associated with phase two, but, like an ass, I also used them to dab my watering eyes. This was not a particularly good idea as the lotion inside the Kleenex is as ill-suited a match for the lining of the human eye, as, say, battery acid!

Step three, the phase I was in Wednesday morning, is even more annoying. It’s the “I-wish-I-could-fricking-breathe-out-of-both-my-nostrils-at-the-same-time” phase. There is no solution, or cure, for this phase other than time. Usually I’m just glad my nose no longer runs like a faucet and my eyes have stopped watering. But Tuesday night, even though I thought I’d blown every ounce of mucous out of my body before I went to bed, it started to happen. While lying on my side and breathing fairly clearly through my nose, it dawned on me that my lower nostril, the one closest to the bed, no longer was functioning. Thus began the night-long tug of war of tossing and turning from one side to the other, while growing quantities of snot slowly flowed like yellow lava from high nostril to low, and then back again, with every rotation.

I’ve tried many times to figure out and beat this phase. Sometimes I’ll take that moment of dual clarity (you know, when the flow of snot has vacated the top nostril, but has yet to clog up the bottom one – those brief five or six seconds of Utopian bliss when you can breathe clearly out of both barrels) and I’ll roll onto my back hoping to keep both sides operating cleanly. On average, this works for about three or four minutes before the snot flow begins to roll backward, away from my nasal passages, and into my throat.

Thus begins step four, the “my-lungs-are-on-fire-and-what-the-hell-is-that-I-just-hoarked-up?” phase. This is the phase I’m in now.

My throat no longer hurts. My nose, basically, has stopped running and is beginning to heal from the three-day assault of constant blowing, and generally I feel pretty good - that is unless I actually try and do something more strenuous than getting my ass off the couch, in which case I start to get a wicked burning sensation in my lungs, followed by a coughing spasm and a relatively painful, yet somehow pleasing, expulsion of what looks to be the horrible remnants of a unfertilized egg.

Sometimes, if it’s small enough, I’ll just swallow the contents figuring I need the protein anyhow. But if it’s really large, say, softball sized or bigger, I’ll spit it into a paper towel or the toilet where I can examine it more closely for things like blood vessels or bits of organ tissue.

To think these things coming out of my body are all part of the healing process; that without all the snot and the mucous and the unidentifiable projectiles that spew forth from my lungs, I might actually die - It’s an interesting thought. Which is why none of those things, as long as they’re mine, gross me out all that much and actually bring me a perverse sort of joy.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like being sick, but I do like getting better. It’s nice to know, that at least for the next few years, maybe even a decade or more, I’ll most likely survive the common cold, or the flu - even gut-wrenching bouts of stomach-virus-vomiting.

At some point, these ailments very well could kill me. But shitty as I felt, I knew it wouldn’t be this week. I know I’ll get better. I’m feeling better already. Today I went to work. Tonight I played catch with my son. It’s my favorite thing in the world to do, but right before we went back in the house my son turned to me and said, “Dad, my throat’s a little sore.”

I never even went in the house. Instead I hopped in my car, drove straight to the store, and bought two more boxes of lotion-free Kleenex!


  1. TMI, Lon, TMI. But also TDF: too damn funny.

  2. This is FUNNY as HECK!!! But I just can't read anymore... without throwing up!! Good luck with that cold thing... I hope you beat phase 3 & 4, soon.

  3. Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa ( may be another choice. i know alot of people use it, its also non alcoholic, though it's effectiveness is not as good as alcohol based cough medicine, but it's still good to use on not so serious scratchy throat.

  4. Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa ( may be another choice. i know alot of people use it, its also non alcoholic, though it's effectiveness is not as good as alcohol based cough medicine, but it's still good to use on not so serious scratchy throat.