Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Sick Leave

The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease. ~ Voltaire

I was sick last week. It wasn't anything horrific or disgusting, just a sore throat. Boy, what a sore throat. What started out as a little roughness I attributed to sinus drainage turned into a condition that felt roughly like a scotch bonnet pepper had become lodge in my throat. Talk about burn.

(For the uninitiated: Scotch bonnet peppers are one of the hottest hot peppers of all. On something called the Scoville Scale, a jalpeno pepper is 3000. Scotch bonnets are 350,000. That's hot, brother.)

I do not often get sick, which is a good thing. I don't like being sick, which makes me aggravated and cranky, which makes me a lousy patient, which means that if I got sick very often, the Wife would have departed for greener pastures years ago. What made this bout all the more annoying is that it was such a single-minded disease.

I had a wretchedly sore throat, but I didn't have a fever, congestion (other than that drainage trickle that seemed to be causing the whole thing), or a cough. So there I am, with nothing but a sore throat and a generally punk feeling. I'm feeling too rotten to go to work, too worn out to do my Tai Chi (which could actually help my overall wellbeing), and so distracted by the throat that I don't even fell like reading.

In the not-to-distant past, the Wife would have gone out and gotten a certain 12-hour cold product that always dried up this sort of crud, and I could have gone on with no problems. Unfortunately, our legislators, in one of those we've-got-to-look-like-we're-doing-something modes, decided that all these meth labs were getting the raw materials from off-the-shelf cold medicines. Now, I don't doubt these guys were getting these products, but I am seriously dubious that they were coming into Wal-Mart and buying them over the counter fifty at a time.

Rather than deal with the fact that this stuff is being stolen in large quantities, the government decided that the stuff that makes cold medicine work should either be removed from the products, or the products should be sold from behind a counter in quantities of very little at a time. Well, the guys who make this stuff aren't dummies. They know that if people have a choice of having to track down someone in the pharmacy or taking a less effective product off the shelf and getting on with their shopping, they're going to get the less effective stuff and worry about whether it actually works later.

So the Wife, anxious to get me off my crabby butt, hunted until she found the aforementioned 12-hour product. Of course, it wasn't the same anymore. It only lasted six hours, and it didn't have a non-drowsy formula, but, miraculously it did clear up the drainage – at the cost of leaving me slightly loopy, which meant another couple of days off.

The main palliative to keep me going until then was hot tea with honey. Honey is itself a wonder drug, and it did mitigate the pain, but it wasn't as effective as the mixture my mother used to come up with.

When I was growing up, a cold meant one thing – hot, hot tea with lots of sugar and laced with lots of rum. It didn't cure anything outright, but the Old World theory said that if you drank that down two things were going to happen. One, not surprisingly, you were going to get some rest, because that triple shot of booze was going to lay you out. Second, you were going to sweat, which meant you were going to get those “poisons” out of your body.

I don't remember when I started getting that cure, but I was pretty young, under 10. The amount of rum was, of course, quite small, but, as I got older, it got bigger. Almost used to look forward to getting sick, actually.

Of course, there was always home-made chicken soup, which has to be as effective, if not more so, than these pitifully denatured drugs available now. And, usually served with the tea, was toast, smeared with bacon grease and heavily rubbed with garlic. In today's polyunsaturated world, that sort of thing will have many people cringing, but I'm here to tell you that even if you had the stomach flu, you would keep chicken soup and that toast down, and it would make you feel better.

Of course, we seldom have any bacon grease around, and, since we don't drink much, there's never any rum in the house. We're not anti-alcohol, but somewhere along the line, we just got out of the habit of having an occasional drink (except for my nightly shot of red wine – that kind of medicine I can agree with). A six-pack of beer usually lasts use six months or so.

At any rate, I am more or less hale and hearty once again, back at work, and back at blogging. It's been about 10 years or more since I was sick enough to take time off, and frankly, I can easily wait another 10.

By that time, the Wife will have forgiven me enough to fix my tea and honey.

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