Cumberland Times-News

Columns

February 8, 2014

Bad as it may be, the other one is far worse

One problem I have with being sick is that I don’t always realize I’m as sick as I am.

My mother is no longer around to tell me I am sick, so I have to rely upon other people to do that. This now includes my dentist and one of his hygienists.

Several weeks ago, I began developing what I usually call “The Crud.” Has to do with spectacularly rebellious sinuses, allergies, horrible coughing spells and that sort of thing.

I’ll spare you the details, save to say that while I was in Gettysburg recently, I was under The Crud’s influence and had no appetite for food. What a revoltin’ development (as Riley used to say), to be in a place where there is great food — but to want no part of it.

The second day I was back home, I went to the dentist for a session of routine scraping, digging and maintenance.

“Have you been checked for pink eye?” the hygienist asked me. I said I hadn’t. Eyes were a bit red, I told her, but they weren’t itching or anything like that. When the dentist asked me the same question, I began to wonder.

Later that afternoon, I saw my eyes in the mirror, then called the doctor. He phoned in three prescriptions, and I embarked upon a week of Better Living Through Chemistry.

What started as The Crud had developed into the From Here Up Flu — which, although unpleasant, is preferable to the From Here Down Flu.

The From Here Up Flu mainly involves being unable to lean back in your chair or lie down in bed and go to sleep because that’s when the real coughing starts. The From Here Down Flu may involve suddenly having to spring from your perch and take off at a dead run in a state of sheer panic.

I didn’t sneeze even once while all this was going on, but with each bout of coughing came the hiccups. A few swallows of water was enough to lay them to rest until the next time I started coughing half an hour later.

Two friends of mine reported having the same type of flu and that pink eye was affiliated with it. They did not say if they got the hiccups.

I can always tell when I am getting better because my appetite returns, as it now has.

Years ago, I had a version of the flu that involved From Here Down as well as From Here Up, plus a 101-degree temperature.

That fever deranged me to the point where I called a lady friend and talked to her for half an hour about being in love with her sister — someone I dated just twice at least three years before that and had basically ignored since then.

Later that evening, the fever broke and sanity returned like an avalanche. I shook like a dog eliminating peach pits and asked myself, “What in the hell was all that about?”

Then I called my friend back to tell her I was well again and not to mind anything I had said earlier. Bless her heart, she understood. She was already aware that I am crazy.

That done, I immediately got on the phone to summon a medium-sized pizza and ate every last bit of it.

Just because I am sick and don’t have an appetite, that doesn’t mean I cannot eat or will not eat. Sometimes — as Norm Peterson said the night they locked him inside the bar at Cheers — a man has to do what a man has to do.

In fact, it was while I was at Gettysburg and not in a mood for food that I had a culinary epiphany involving something I’d seen on television but never before had the chance to eat.

A Scotch egg is simple perfection on a plate. Whoever thought of coating a hard-boiled egg with ground sausage and deep-frying it should have a constellation named after him.

This Scotch egg was surrounded by mozzarella sticks, jalapeno poppers and other lesser appetizers that I ate first before turning my complete attention to the egg.

I ate it slowly, savoring every damn bite, and immediately wanted more. For that matter, I want one NOW, even as we speak.

That I finally got to eat a Scotch egg was thanks to our buddy Bill, who is living proof that you can become friends with people who are your business associates (although you should beware of doing business with friends or relatives).

He is proprietor of our favorite hangout, Gettysburg Eddie’s, and has gone to the wall for Gary and me more than once. We have tried to do the same for him.

One day, Bill took us to the Garryowen, which is a thoroughly Irish pub and eatery.

There exists a friendly rivalry between some of Gettysburg’s establishments and their owners and staff, who actually support and patronize each other. Bill bought Gary and me a couple of beers and appetizer plates, which included a Scotch egg.

Despite my wheedling, Bill said he wouldn’t steal the Scotch egg from the Garryowen and add it to his menu at Eddie’s (which includes, thanks to Gary and me, a soft pretzel slathered with warm crab dip).

“Finish your beer,” he said, “and I’ll take you to a REAL bar.”

“Really?” I asked while flashing my brightest smile. “You’re going to take us to O’Rorke’s?” (O’Rorke’s is another Irish pub and eatery just down the street from Eddie’s. We have snuck in there and found Bill sitting at the bar.)

Bill glared at me and called me the very same name he called Gary and me the day we showed up unannounced at his restaurant for his birthday party last December. It’s a name I can’t repeat here, and I can’t even think of a euphemism for it.

He wasn’t in the place when we arrived.

Gary got on his cell phone and told Bill’s answering machine, “Happy birthday, buddy. Wish we could be there to share it with you. Goldy’s here and he says happy birthday, too.”

A while later, Bill walked in, stopped in his tracks and stared at us.

“Where were you guys when you called me?” he asked.

“Sitting at your bar,” we said.

That’s when he called us the name I can’t repeat here, and for which I can’t think of a euphemism.

When women call each other horrible names, that usually means war. They have a hard time understanding that men do it as a demonstration of friendship and brotherhood.

It’s a guy thing.

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