I gawda code.
Began in my sinuses. Crawled up my nose just like Conrad Black, then sat there for a couple of days growing stuffier and stuffier.
Eventually my cold found some 60-grit sandpaper and started work on my throat, until everything I ate proved harder to swallow than the Tea Party’s rationale for strangling America (“You’re better off dead than in red, baby”).
Then it moved into the rest of my body: aches, fever, chills. Next thing you know I’m on the couch hurtin’ like a country song, moaning in harmony with the dog. That’s when I began to suspect, as usual, that I had contracted something more grave than a common cold.
“I think I’m dying,” I told my wife.
“You sound all raspy, like Burgess Meredith in Rocky,” she replied. “Say something else.”
“I’m serious,” I said. “This could be the end.
“Remember when I blamed the dog for eating the last of the apple pie at Thanksgiving?
That was me. Also, I might have accidentally slept with a couple of your friends. Thought I should come clean before I check out.”
Now I had her attention: “You ate the apple pie?”
“Feel my forehead,” I said. “Do you think I’m about to croak?”
“Did you really eat the pie?”
“Then you’re about to die.”
This reassured me. When it comes to predicting my own demise, my batting average is akin to that of Harold Camping, the California-based radio preacher who on five occasions — in 1988, 1994 and then on three dates in 2011 — convinced followers that the end of the world was nigh. After his fifth spectacular strike-out, Camping tossed his helmet in the dugout and declared himself retired, which must have relieved/bemused/surprised those of his adherents who had quit their jobs in anticipation of the Apocalypse.
Unlike Camping, I remain in the game, having successfully died of a series of exotic infections. I succumbed to hoof-and-mouth disease during the global outbreak of 2001 (the same year I mistook Tim Hortons doughnut dust for a terrorist anthrax attack), then was killed by SARS in 2003, the avian flu in 2005 and H1N1 in 2009. On occasion I have also perished from ebola, mad cow, dengue fever, West Nile and, just to be on the safe side, East Nile.
Today, I am sorry to announce that I am about to be lost to either Middle East respiratory syndrome or the bubonic plague.
For this is the way of the world: We panic out of all proportion to the actual probability of going belly up when the disease is new and sexy, but merely shrug at more likely, albeit more mundane, maladies. The SARS outbreak of a decade ago might have killed 44 Canadians, but somewhere between 4,000 and 8,000 of us die of the seasonal flu and/or pneumonia each year.
Likewise, we only respond to imminent danger, not long-term peril. It’s not the stuffing-and-mayo sandwich that you eat today. It’s the one after that, and the one after that, and you can worry about them tomorrow. Anthrax and Middle East respiratory syndrome might not kill you, but deep-fried Mars Bars and a lack of exercise eventually will.
Cold comfort to those of us who are dying not from the next global pandemic, but from the common cold.
Jack Knox, Kamloops born and raised, writes for the Victoria Times Colonist.