Friday, May 03, 2013

COLUMN: Allergies

The other day I was channel flipping and accidentally found myself in the cable TV dead zone. On the dial, there lies a dangerous terrain of unwatched channels that exists just east of Comedy Central and just west of HBO, as though we care about anything that happens between "South Park" and "Game of Thrones." These are the networks no one watches or cares about. These are the networks that occasionally actually try to (shudder) EDUCATE you about stuff.

A couple days ago, I accidentally landed on one of these channels -- the Home & Oprah's Discovery Health Geographic or some such -- in just enough time to hear an announcer state that "the human body is a magical and complex creation." Well, if the human body's magic, mine just learned some awesome new tricks.

Chief among them is the magical trick of ALLERGIES. When I was a kid, I had bad allergies. I don't exactly remember suffering from them or anything, but I DO remember trips to the doctor and being forced to try assorted nasal spritzes and such. Then I hit puberty and magically I was fine.

Well, now I'm hitting middle-age and they're magically back with a vengeance. Here's how it works: I proceed throughout my day as usual. Then without rhyme or reason I feel the slightest tickle in my nose. And then the sneezing begins.

I don't understand people who can control their sneezes. I just don't get how it's possible to pull it off without your brain exploding. There's a girl I work with who sneezes and it sounds like this: "Fiw." When I sneeze, it sounds like this: "AAFWCHAWAAAAA!" I have no control over this noise. It's just what happens when a sneeze does. If I tried to cap off AAFWCHAWAAAAA and turn it into a Fiw, I'm pretty sure my eyeballs would pop right out of my head.

Hence, I'm cool with AAFWCHAWAAAAA. There's just one problem. These days, I don't just AAFWCHAWAAAAA once. No, I'll sit there and rapid fire sneeze over and over again while trying desperately hard not to bite my tongue off somewhere between the FW's and the CHA's. I'm not kidding -- my record of late is 26 sneezes in a row, and scarily, THAT happened behind the wheel on my way to work. So if you were almost mowed down by an out-of-control Volkswagen the other morning, I am truly and sincerely saafwchawaaaarry.

The ugly truth is that my hay fever has returned -- and the fact that every aspect of my life is coated with a thin layer of cat probably doesn't help matters much. Still, I resist going to the doctor. I have friends who regularly go to allergists, and the entire process sounds completely medieval and horrifying. We live in the modern era, and as such, I should be able to open an app, wave my iPhone in front of my face, and have Siri tell me exactly what I'm allergic to and phone in a prescription to Walgreens for something I can take (preferably one of those nifty melt-in-your-mouth strips) to make it all better.

Instead, according to my friends, when you go to an allergist, the first thing they do is strip you down, smear a bunch of toxic stuff all over your back, and wait to see exactly which of their cooties make you break out in hives. Let's say this primitive test proves that you're allergic to cats. Your NEXT step? Why, just visit the doctor on a regular basis and let them inject you with tiny amounts of dead cat until your body gets used to it. Umm, thanks, but I'll live with the sneezes and a lifetime dependency on Claritin.

But a funny thing happened to me this week. I woke up feeling fine and made it to the office in a reasonably good mood. The sun was out, birds were chirping, springtime was in the air... and my nose started tickling. Sixteen aafwchawaaaaa's later and it was all over. My sinuses were throbbing, my eyes were watering, and my head was stuffy. Yuck. But wait -- why was my throat scratchy? Where did this cough come from? And why was it suddenly SO COLD in here?

And THAT is how I went from perfectly fine to perfectly sick in less than five minutes. This is a magic trick I wish I hadn't learned. I'm now in Day 3 of the gnarliest, grossest cold I've had in recent memory. Over the past 48 hours, I have gone through 2.5 boxes of Kleenex. My head weighs more than your average anvil, I haven't been able to taste anything since Tuesday, and my voice sounds like a cartoon. I'm typing this in my pajamas with a chest smeared with Vicks and Kleenex shoved up each nostril. I am bringing sexy back, people. On the plus side, my nose can now pick up extra work lighting the way for Santa's sleigh.

Worse yet, when this thing hit, I had ZERO food in the pantry. This meant I had to make the worst trip of all: sick grocery shopping. There's nothing like strolling through a grocery store trying to act cool and non-chalant while trying to hide the fact that you're more toxic than the Contagion monkey. Naturally, then, this is when I bump into EVERYONE I KNOW at the store, and even a couple kind folks who simply wanted to shake my hand and tell me that they enjoy my column. In return, I probably gave them the plague.

If this is the "magical" part of the human body, I've cast the wrong spell. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to fall deep into a Benadryl haze so foggy I won't care WHAT channel my TV's on. Until next time, aafwchawaaaa.

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