Sunday, November 28, 2004


There are lots of tragic stories in the news. Flip through this very issue and you'll likely find tales of political strife and personal woe. But no story has depressed me more than the one that's been taking center stage in our news pages over the past month: Unfortunately, friends, there is still not enough dead influenza virus available for you to willingly inject into your body, through your skin, by means of a very sharp metal needle. I know, it's awful.


However, before I begin my rant, I need you all to do something for me. I need you to put down this copy of the Leader (after, of course, reading it cover to cover and giving your hard-earned money to our advertisers,) walk promptly to the nearest item made of wood in your home, and then knock on that wood, on my behalf, as loudly as possible.

I say this because I know far too well that the gods of karma never smile upon me, and the second I go making fun of flu shots is the moment that I'll feel that tickle in the back of my throat, and by the time you read this, I'll be stuck in bed unable to eat and/or breathe. So please, knock that wood. The flu sucks.

Gods of karma aside, I do make the conscientious choice to take my chances with the flu. Why? Is it due to my strong religious convictions? Perhaps a paranoid distrust of the medical profession?

Naw, I wish I was that weird. I'm not getting a flu shot for one simple reason: I'm a needle-phobe.

Now I'm not so foolish as to discount you folks who are in that "high risk" category of catching the flu. You guys should all go get flu shots right away, and you have my permission to call me a big whiny baby all the way there and back. You people deserve the lollipop that the doctor gives you afterwards. Or is that only for kids? I wouldn't know, because I've done my best to avoid a shot since I was in junior high.

My needle fear grew at an early age; my mom claims to this day that it all started when she took me to the doctor, I had to get a shot, and some Nurse Ratchet type told me it would be "just like a little bee sting." Well, I'm deathly allergic to bees, and that statement didn't do a whole lot to ease my 6-year-old mind.

It's one thing to be afraid of shots as a kid. It's another altogether to scream so loud at a vaccination that you break all of the blood vessels in your face and you walk around purple for a week -- that's how well I cope with needles. (...and I wonder why I don't get all the girls...)

My folks, bless 'em, did everything in their power to get me through this irrational fear, up to and including bribery. Whenever my mom picked me up from school with a big chocolate milkshake waiting for me, I knew there was trouble. And when she would sit me down and have the Drugs-Are-Bad-Mm'kay lecture, she'd just skip right over heroin -- no need to worry about me succumbing to any kind of peer pressure that involved a syringe.

I'm no longer that much of a wussy. If flu shots were mandatory, I'd do it without more than a whimper. But I just can't bring myself to get a shot voluntarily. Besides, when did the flu suddenly become so menacing and evil an entity that it requires annual vaccination? For years, I accepted that getting the flu sucked and meant you were stuck in bed for the better part of a week. Now, suddenly, the flu's pure evil and can kill in a heartbeat. I don't get it. Did these little flu viruses start working out or something? Last time I checked, Nyquil wasn't the "coughing, aching, stuffy head, fever, so you HOPEFULLY WON'T DIE medicine."

But no, the flu isn't just an annoyance these days, it's downright scary. So get your flu shots if you can -- unless you're a weenie like me, in which case, we'll both catch our well-deserved flu, you can come hang out over here, we'll share a box of Kleenex, and maybe, just maybe, my mom will drive up with milkshakes for us when it's all over. Now don't just sit there -- get to knockin' that wood.

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