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Relishing being a little sick

Jeffrey Denny

I have a cold.

No big deal: a little sneezing, coughing, congestion, headache, lethargy. A few days torturing sweaty bed sheets and padding about deliriously in threadbare pajamas and busted slippers, un-showered, unshaven, teeth mossy, hair greasily un-shampooed like a Frenchman’s, quaffing Campbell’s salty chicken-noodle, wallowing in my essential funky disgusting human self.

Having a cold means a man gets to be his own grandfather for a few days.

So I don’t mind. And I believe medical science, working with limited resources, should focus not on the old moon-shot of curing the common cold, but on the current leading killers: cancer, heart disease, respiratory and cerebrovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia. And also the causes, cures and knowledge gleaned from Ebola, bird flu, MERS-CoV, H1N1 and “influenza at the human-animal interface.” (On that note, if a cat sneezes in my mouth and I get a cat disease that makes me attack my own shadow, he can’t sleep on my head anymore.)

With that incoherent windup (forgive me — I’m feverish), I’ll suggest four reasons why having a cold is not so bad:

  1. We get to call in sick

Emailing is good but calling is best if we sound like Harvey Fierstein. The more gravelly the better, with hope yielding the sweetest words ever spoken in America’s powerful free-enterprise capitalist economy: “Stay home! Don’t come in! Rest and get better!”

When we’re sick, colleagues and bosses insist that we not work and contribute to the organization and economy. Like in Europe.

Usually we’re annoyed by oversensitive types with their mysterious, myriad allergies and maladies, and germaphobes who can’t come in for a decent hug. When we have a bug, even a sniffle, these folks can be our best allies.

2. We get to sleep

When did sleep become such an elusive luxury, an impossible dream, like having a fabled Sanford White Seven Sisters Hampton shoreline mansion as a summer place?

We hear people say all the time: How did you sleep? Did you sleep well? No, I didn’t get enough sleep. Boy I would love to get more sleep. I slept 8 hours last night, which I never do! Last weekend at the Hamptons I slept 10 hours! I feel so much better! I feel like a different person!

And people say, “I love to sleep!” But I have to ask, how do you know? You’re asleep! You’re unconscious! I love eating food, but only because I’m fully awake and alert while cramming my gaping maw with exquisite cuisine that’s far more refined than my palate can appreciate.

In any event, when we have a cold, sleep is the best elixir, better than soup or any other remedy. So we have an excuse just to sleeeeeeep, little baby.

3. We get to drug up

For the record, I don’t favor drugs. Not to be a bummer, but my grip on reality is too tenuous. Though like everyone, I like to feel good.

After knee surgery, my doctor prescribed a generous supply of Oxycodone. I took a few when the pain was worst. But it made me feel disoriented and mildly nauseous, like at 8 am in the office on Monday or roped into seeing offbeat experimental theater with a date that won’t lead anywhere I want to go.

But I do love any excuse to drug up for health reasons. Including when I have a cold and can enjoy the sublime, compelling and yes, haunting taste and texture of the leading Vick’s remedies — DayQuil and NyQuil.

They’re nice on ice in a scotch tumbler, or in a mixed drink. For example, consider, courtesy of Liquor.com, the DayQuil Negroni:

1.5 oz Gin
1.5 oz Sweet vermouth
.75 oz Campari
.75 oz DayQuil

Instructions: Combine all ingredients in shaker and stir. Strain into rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with orange slice.

DayQuil keeps us going during the day. NyQuil helps us sleep through our sneezing/sniffle/coughing situation at night.

I recommend that Vicks expand the brand with new variations such as:

DawnQuil: Brand-partner with Starbucks to blend Nariño 70 Cold Brew with Vicks acetaminophen, dextromethorphan, phenylephrine, guaifenesin and oxymetazoline.

NoonQuil: Concentrate three Stoli dry martinis in every dose.

AfternoonDeliteQuil: Include tinctures of testosterone, progesterone, estrogen and China Mong Num (recommended by four out of five ancient emperors) to get the ball rolling when one is feeling the need for a li’l, you know, sumpthin’ sumpthin’ around 3 pm.

Châteauneuf-du-PapeQuil: For dinnertime, pairing best with red meats and other hearty comfort foods, this gloriously rich Vicks is redolent of the heat and herbs of the south of France, enhanced by the complexity that comes from blending 14 grape varieties including Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah. It helps with the sniffles, and the nose is sublime.

4. We get to be left alone

Today, leading thinkers and commentators are celebrating introverts, how their social allergy and ability to make extroverts who try to interact with them feel awkward, stupid or shallow is actually crucial to human evolution and perhaps more advanced.

We know this because the New York Times features writers who are introverts with a lot of time on their hands from not associating with people, and with that extra time write thoughtful pieces about how introversion is awesome. The best writers often are introverts. So they can make their case better than anyone.

But when we are sick with a cold, we who lean extrovert get to be full on introverts, and enjoy letting others supplicate to our social needs. It’s our only chance. Being a people person can be exhausting. A cold gives us a break.

***

Long ago, probably in high school, I read a story likely written in the 1950s about a scientist who discovered a groundbreaking cure for the common cold.

Back then, medicine apparently was obsessed with the search. The cure in this story worked — except that it made the inured overly sensitive to smells, including the daily emissions and decay of humanity that even modern Secret Shower Fresh deodorant could not overcome or mask. The overwhelming stench drove them mad. Story short and moral: Beware what you wish for. Curing the common cold had more downsides than upsides. Better just to deal with the snot.

So my friends, enjoy being sick with a cold. Bed! Sleep! Soup! Pajamas! Drugs! Cable TV you don’t see otherwise! The best personal time ever! And a taste of retirement. How does that hurt anyone?

Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer

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