This Flu Strong Enough to Daze Even Hercules
By Pat Cashman
I had intended on this morning of Jan. 10 to take a sweeping look back
at the year 2000 -- so far. I was going to offer my list of the most
significant individuals ... the most important developments ... and,
perhaps, the outstanding teriyaki places, of the last 10 days.
It was to be what they call in the column-writing business a think
Unfortunately, I cannot think.
Granted, that shortcoming hasn't held me back before. But this time, it
is especially acute. A couple of days ago, I came down with the flu --
which is short for fluidcomingout.
My list of symptoms sounds like the lineup you might see on a local rock
band poster: "Live! The Sweats! Nasal Congestion! Dry Cough! With a
special appearance by Malaise!" (To tell you the truth, while I do have
most of the traditional flu symptoms, malaise really isn't one of them
for me. And even if it was, it makes me uneasy and depressed to even
think about it).
It turns out that the flu has been hanging around this planet for a very
long time. Hippocrates -- a large man, known to his friends as Hippo --
first described the symptoms of what he coined as "the crud" back in 412
"The patient is sometimes feverish ... but then, sometimes has the
chills. It may indicate that the patient has trouble making a
commitment." Not me. I committed to all of it, including muscle
aches. In fact, as I write this, my love-handles are killing me. I've
also got an oddly deep and throaty voice -- almost identical to that of
the actor Tom Bosley. I've been amusing myself for the last several
days by saying: "Hey Fonzie! Where's Potsie?" This is also part of
the delirium that accompanies the flu.
I've been lying around watching a lot of TV, too. Programs that
normally would seem ridiculous appear incredibly profound when you're
sick and groggy. This snatch of actual dialogue was heard by me from an
episode of "Hercules" the other day:
HERCULES: "Don't you realize that what you're doing is wrong?"
DISGRUNTLED BAD GUY: "Oh, sure, Hercules. It's easy for you! You're
the son of a god! You've had all the advantages!"
I found myself talking out loud to the screen: "The guy's making a
pretty good point there, Hercules."
While the flu can be a very serious thing for people who are not
normally healthy, for the majority of us it's only a moderately severe
illness. In fact, most people are back on their feet within a week.
And acrobats and contortionists are back on their hands and heads.
The best way to understand the flu is to think of it not as a single
malady, but as three different influenza virus families, A, B and C.
Within each family are many viral strains, basically like different
brothers and sisters -- brothers and sisters who have all intermarried.
No wonder they're all mean and ugly.
So just because I might have come down with flu family member Denise
doesn't mean I'm completely out of the woods when I get well again.
Because her creepy little brother Ernie -- who is also her husband,
uncle and grandpa -- could be waiting around the corner. So much for
Of course, most of us grew up being told to wear a long coat and boots
in chilly weather because a cold head and wet feet were sure-fire ways
to get colds and flu. (If you wear a long coat and boots in warm
weather, you become a person of interest.) But the real way to avoid
germs, of course, is to wash your hands a lot. Because as my mom often
pointed out: You don't know where they've been. Like my hands got up
and walked around when I wasn't looking.
In fact, I knew exactly where those hands had been. I just didn't want
her to find out.
But there really does seem to be something to the handwashing routine.
And even though Lady Macbeth had a lot of other troubles, she never did
come down with the flu. And she was only washing her hands in her
So there are a couple of ways to try ducking the flu bug: 1) Avoid
contact with all other humans, at all times, or, 2) get a simple flu
shot. I made my decision early on and decided to avoid contact with all
other humans. But I slipped up and caught the virus while chatting with
my flu-sick uncle last week. It seems odd -- especially since I was on
the phone with him for only a couple of minutes.
Now my life has become a smorgasbord of remedies and nostrums. I'm
taking analgesics, suppressants, antihistamines and decongestants. I'm
throwing back vitamin C, zinc, echinacea -- and lots and lots of water,
a liquid found in beer.
I read somewhere that the human body is composed of something like 90
percent water. So according to my most recent measurements, my body is
now 106 percent water.
Yesterday, I decided to buy some over-the-counter stuff at Albertsons.
One product, called "flu, cold & cough hot liquid medicine," came with
this warning: "Do not use if you have difficulty in urination." Being
106 percent water already, that would not be an issue. Difficulty
stopping, yes. Starting, no.
But the warning label continued: "May cause breathing problems, nausea,
fever, aches and pains." Wait a minute! I already have those! I don't
need the medicine, after all!
I also noticed that Children's Bubblegum-flavored Tylenol may cause
excitability in kids. Gee, what a surprise. Why not just go for it and
start manufacturing Children's Pure-Sugar Tylenol?
Now, as I am finishing this column, I have just taken Nyquil ... or
Dayquil ... or Middle-of-the-afternoonquil ... or something. The
warming label says the medicashun might cause drowzines and an
inAconcenrate to ability. Fortunately, I donut seem to have any such
sideburns. And I am sertainly smart enough not to take such stuff such
as like that while columnizing my words. I just saw a giant bunny
floatering past my window wearing a ballerina outfit
(Editor's note: Consult your physician before believing anything Pat