Friday, February 06, 2009

COLUMN: Cabin Fever

I finally figured it out.

For the past couple of months, I've had a doozy of a time coming up with ideas for columns. Usually I just go about my week and wait for something funny, embarassing, and/or disastrous to happen in my life, events which happily I never seem to run short of. The up side is that even my WORST days now serve SOME semblance of purpose.

I could get hit face-on by a truck today and, should I remain conscious, I'm pretty sure my first thought would be, "Well, at least I've got something to write about this week." Well, okay, the first thought would probably be "Ow." Or, if you believe my mother, "Gee, I hope my underwear doesn't have any holes in it." But the column would run a close second, I'm pretty sure.

But why, then, have I been recently suffering from a total and complete drought of ideas? I was worrying that perhaps my creativity had run its course -- until I recognized the problem: For the past two months, I've been hibernating.

This winter has officially sucked all the life out of me, and it's not even halfway done. Every day we're treated to a menu of rain or freezing rain or frozen rain, not to mention wind chills that officially make the outdoors colder than the interior of my freezer.

My strategy for survival has been to plop down on my couch, ignore the sub-zero nightmare of the outside world, and tick off the days 'til April. My entire life has turned into: Wake up in warm apartment, race to work as fast as I can, sit down at warm desk, race home as fast as I can, rinse, lather, and repeat.

This is simply no way for an aspiring humor columnist to survive. As it turns out, very little happens on my couch. Let's look at this weekend for example. I'm sitting here now at the tail end of a long and well-deserved New Year's / birthday respite. How did I spend it? Well, let's see. I played the video game Fable 2 for, oh, let's have a look-see: 27.2 hours this weekend. (Dear Video Game Designers: PLEASE don't track statistics like this in the future - nerds don't need visual reminders of their sad and pathetic lives.)

TWENTY SEVEN HOURS of my life withered away in front of an X-Box. What do I have to show for it? Well, the townsfolk of Bloodstone seem quite appreciative that I've slayed their Banshee, but otherwise, apart from a blister on my trigger finger, not a whole lot. Happy 38th birthday to me, you immature lifeless piece of couch Jell-o.

The only things keeping me mildly entertained during my long winter slumber are my two cats. Normally, my feline companions seem relatively unconcerned as to my existence. Our symbiotic relationship is simple: they are the landlords and I am the tenant. I pay rent in the form of food, water, and litter, and in return, they let me reside here without a great deal of harassment or permanent claw scars on my face.

But with me home and lounging all winter, they've taken on a slightly new attitude. when I walk in, the look on their faces is quite clear: "You? Again? Really? Okay, fine. If you need us, we'll be in the bedroom, destroying one of your cherished possessions." As I sit here, both of them are perched on my couch, staring at me in a way that distinctly brings to mind "The Shining," and I'm pretty sure the thought process is either (a) "I wonder if he's writing about us," or (b) "I wonder if he's edible."

Oh, and one of my cats has gone insane.

Perhaps it's yet another exciting benefit of the aging process, but this winter, it appears that my body, much like the frozen tundra, is suffering from erosion. Between my flaking skin and parched throat, mornings have been a real joy lately at Castle Shane. To combat this dry-air fun, I went out and bought a humidifier. Or, as one of my cats appears to believe, a Magical Water Dispensing God.

From the second I plugged it in and it started spritzing out its ineffective little mist, one of my cats has established right off the bat that the humidifier is clearly the single most fascinating object in the universe. Day after day, she sits -- often for hours -- directly in front of the mist, mouth hanging open, eyes squinting through the moisture, staring. Well, and occasionally licking. But most of the time, just staring at the thing. Every once in a while, she'll make a noise like "pfeh," as if to say, "This is thoroughly unpleasant." Yet she won't move.

If you've ever thought that cats were furry little cuddle buddies, try having one nuzzle you at 3 a.m. with a gross, cold, sopping head. Yes, she'll sit there until her whole head is drenched with water. I don't think she'll give up until she gets kitty-pneumonia. And I have absolutely no idea what to do about it.

If I move the humidifier up high, she risks life, limb, and my property trying to climb up to it. If I unplug it, she makes little pathetic whiny noises and stares at my longingly. The other day, I woke up in the middle of the night to a soggy cat on my chest going, "Mrow? Mrow?"

"Mm-hmm," I said, groggy but knowingly. "It's out of water, isn't it?"


Meanwhile, my other cat -- the sane one -- just hangs out on the couch disapprovingly, like, "Don't ask me. I don't get it either."

One of my co-workers suggested that perhaps my cat is merely attempting to get a pleasing facial and spa treatment, a notion that would be funny if it wasn't so horrifying girly -- and hey, I'm already risking what's left of my machismo writing about my little kitties in the first place. All I know is that my skin's still dry while the only thing getting moisturized around here is a small and apparantly sub-standard cat brain. So perhaps my new year's resolution is to give up on this winter hermitage, step outside, and write the humidifier off as the priciest cat toy of all time. This sounds real good, and as soon as I defeat Lord Lucien's undead army in the dread Tattered Spire, I'll get right on it.

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