Thursday, September 06, 2018

COLUMN: Allergies


My neighbor's house is on fire. I'm not kidding.

Well, it WAS on fire. This column won't run until Monday and I'm writing it nearly a week in advance, so if my neighbor's house is STILL on fire by the time you're reading this, then we've got a far more serious problem than I could have ever anticipated.

But right here, right now, in the reality of me sitting on my couch writing this column, my neighbor's house is on fire. As I type, there are police outside my window blocking the road and two trucks full of firefighters attacking the blaze. The good news is that it looks like they caught it early and it's not going to be that big of a deal. I'm pretty sure they've already got it done to a mere smolder, everyone seems okay, and there doesn't look to be a ton of property damage. Whew.

I tried walking down there for a closer view and got a couple of very stern looks from some of Rock Island's finest, so I decided it would be best to retreat to the house and let them do their job. Besides, I was a bit preoccupied.

How did I first know that the neighbor's house was ablaze? Was it the random shouts I heard from down the block? Was it the wailing sirens of fire trucks skidding to a stop in front of my house? Was it the foul burnt smell currently suffocating the neighborhood?

Nope. I knew something was up when, out of complete nowhere, I sat up, blinked, went "uh oh," and sneezed 37 times in a row. I'm not kidding. I counted.

Like many of you, I suffer from seasonal allergies -- and the season is NOW.

When I was a kid, I was constantly sniffling through pollen season. When I hit my twenties and thirties, though, most of my symptoms went away and I just assumed I'd outgrown my hay fever. But about five years ago, my allergies returned with a vengeance. These days, I can pretty much count on losing the ability to smell for most of the spring and fall.

Some folks get the sniffles or a runny nose or itchy eyes. Me? I get spontaneous, no-warning rapid fire sneezing fits that can last for fifteen minutes or more. It's just a fun quirky facet of Shane that my co-workers especially seem to enjoy.

Some people can sneeze politely. I once had a massive crush on a cute girl who even had cute sneezes -- little petite things that went "Fiw!" adorably. I used to have a co-worker who could hold them in entirely and would just politely go "fppt" while I presume her head narrowly avoided exploding into tiny polite shards. My sneezes tend to sound more like "RrrrrAFFFFLEKAFLOOOOOOOOOO!" which is made all the more fun when they appear one after the other like semi-automatic assault sneezes.

My co-workers, bless them, are used to it. That is, the ones who've always sat near me are. But since we recently moved offices, we're now in one giant cubicle farm where each and every employee of the Dispatch/Argus now gets to hear me rrrraffflekaflooo-ing on a regular basis. The other day, a couple of them attempted to issue a polite "God bless you" after each sneeze. Both of them gave up after sneeze #25 or so. I'd like to think God must have better things to do than sit around and bless me 37 times in a row.

It's all great fun and games until it happens while you're behind the wheel of a car. I've had to pull off the road on many an occasion just to sneeze a dozen times. I'm probably the only person who's explained tardiness to their boss as "I was sneezing" and have them go, "yeah, I understand." They've heard it. They know.

I've never been tested to find out exactly what I'm allergic to, but I'm in no hurry to find out. Doesn't it still involve drawing a grid on your back, injecting you with tiny amounts of irritants, and seeing which ones make you red and itchy? To this medieval practice, I say a big no thanks. This would be like testing for meningitis by having people spit in your mouth until one of them makes you sick. Keep your back grids, needles, and cooties to yourself, doc.

No, instead I'll just err on the side of caution and assume that I'm allergic to ALL of nature and do my very best to wall myself indoors until everything that's gonna bloom blooms. I know I'm allergic to pollen, dust, bee stings, and now I'm pretty sure I can add "burning duplexes" to that list. I reckon that's all the knowledge I need for now. I'll be fine in a month, I promise you.

Some people might be bummed if they had to stay indoors and live the spring season through HEPA filters and allergy drugs. I'm cool with it. I've got a long Netflix queue to get through, people. Go enjoy the rest of your spring. I'll keep the homefires burning -- just not as dramatically as my neighbor, I hope.

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