Here's hoping this week goes a little better than the last one.
Seven days ago, I wrote a column about the new Fox show, "The Last Man on Earth," pointing out a few of the show's obvious plot holes and then wondering aloud how I'd fare if I found myself the lone survivor of a global pandemic plague. I now know the answer: I wouldn't. I wouldn't fare one way or another because I wouldn't survive.
Over the past week, it's become crystal clear that humanity better not count on me for any kind of world-saving purposes or expectations. At best, maybe humanity could count on my corpse to be a solid weight-bearing anchor to help shore up the casualty pile. Perhaps scientists could constructively use my remains as a kind of cautionary tale. You know, "How NOT To Live If You One Day Might Like To Survive a Zombie Apocalypse" or something like that.
I got a handful of compliments on that column last week -- which is kinda funny, since I don't especially recall writing it. The truth is that I may have been writing about surviving a world-ending virus, but in reality I was trying to survive a potentially Shane-ending virus. Happily, I'm still among the living. Last week, I wasn't so sure.
As part of our company's wellness program, every year the hospital rolls its Mobile Van of Needles and Torture into our parking lot and offers flu shots at a discount. Or maybe they're totally free, I'm not sure. For all I know, they could be giving every employee who gets a flu shot a free car. Anything that's on that company memo after the word "shot" is a total mystery to me, 'cause that's where I stop reading. Sorry, but needles just aren't my scene and I'm in no hurry to pass out in front of my co-workers and have them all discover what a true ninny I really am.
For the most part, though, it's a non-issue... because I don't get the flu. I'm one of the least healthy people I know, but influenza is one virus that strangely seems to give me a wide berth. It's almost as if the virus takes one look inside my body and goes, "This one's wrecked already. Let's just keep floating around and see what else comes along." It's like when you're on a roadtrip and you come upon a place that looks like the Bates Motel. It might be an okay establishment. Heck, you might even get a good night's sleep there. But odds are pretty good you're going to keep on driving because you just KNOW there's bound to be a Holiday Inn with free HBO a few miles up the road.
Truth be told, I may not be the healthiest guy around, but I make up for it in paranoia. I'm the guy with the giant bottle of Purell on my desk. I wash my hands umpteen times a day. There's a bottle of disinfectant spray hiding in every room of my house. I take elderberry syrup at the first sign of a sniffle.
But last week, I didn't have time to think about sniffles. It's been a bad month for our spunky little work team. We're a close-knit group, so when one of us suffered a tragic loss, it was awful. When it happened a few weeks later to a second co-worker's family, it was almost unbearable. But we know how to support each other, so we've spent the past month short-handed but headstrong. But I guess when it rains, it pours -- and a couple weeks later, one of our group came down with a stomach ache that resulted in major surgery. Thankfully, she's going to be just fine (amen), but it's made us all the more short-handed for the time being.
So I had no time to think about sniffles, which is probably why I didn't notice them when they started up. By the time I realized I had a tickle in my throat and the makings of a wicked cold, I was already past the point of elderberry and Purell. It was okay, though -- I'm no novice at dealing with the common cold, so I stocked up on cough drops and headed back to work the next day to tough it out. It went fine at first, until I stood up at breaktime. I was perfectly okay -- the room, on the other hand, was spinning out of control. And why was it so COLD?
A half hour later, I was home under the covers and under protest. This was just a stupid cold, I could have worked through it, and I was gonna prove it. That's why I indignantly marched myself to the bathroom, grabbed my thermometer with disgust, rolled it across my forehead with vigor... and discovered I had a fever of 101.5. Whoa. Okay, I really WAS sick.
First off, let's back up. Yes, I've got one of those fancy infrared thermometers that you roll across your forehead. My parents thought it would make an awesome holiday stocking stuffer, and my parents were ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. I love silly gizmos, and any gadget that allows me NOT to sit still with a mouth full of toxic mercury is alright in my book. The only GOOD thing about getting the flu was that I finally had an excuse to play with the thing incessantly. A week later, I'm pretty sure I've irradiated my brain with so much infrared that I'm expecting to develop superpowers any day now.
It wasn't long before the fever gave way to body aches, queasiness, and some really icky stuff that we're all just better off pretending never happened (what happens in the bathroom stays in the bathroom, I say.) I knew it was bad when I said to myself at one point, "It hurts to watch TV. I'd rather just lie here in silence." THAT'S when you know Shane Brown is good and truly sick.
Thankfully, I've got a good support team. My friends all called to make sure I was okay, including my co-worker recovering from surgery calling from her hospital bed to make sure I was okay (?!) Meanwhile, the endangered species of healthy co-workers held down the fort at the office without complaint. And when you're sick with the flu for the first time since being a teenager, having a chronically over-protective mother is suddenly a GOOD thing. Her near-hourly phone calls and pleas to drive up with chicken noodle soup somehow made everything MUCH easier to cope with.
Eventually, the fever broke, the coughing subsided, TV became my friend again, and I made it back to the office a few days later. But does that mean I'm having a better week? Not if today was any example. More on that next week.