A few weeks ago, my wife started sniffling. It was nothing major, perhaps seasonal allergies, but within a few days, it turned into the mother of all colds. The instant this happened, Mrs. G. got all Sherlock on it and tried to figure out how and where she got the cold.
“I bet it was at Wegmans,” she deduced, blaming a grocery store that on any given day, hosted thousands of people doing the unthinkable things that people do, such as touching stuff and breathing. Let’s face it, we all live in a festering petri dish, one Sudafed away from a zombie apocalypse, and once a single person gets a cold, we’re all going to get it.
“I’ll bet I got it from that stylus they keep near the cash register. Everybody touches that thing,” she croaked, as she made plans to start carrying her own stylus, which as we both knew, would never happen and if it did, it would get lost in her cavernous purse.
The next day, a Tuesday, she got up and sounded awful. I went out in the garage to see if I could find a Hazmat suit, but all I found was a raincoat. I put that on and drew the hood up tight around my face.
“I’m going to have to cancel my hair appointment,” she groaned, so now I knew it was bad. In the history of the world, only five women have ever canceled a hair appointment, so I listened as she tried to re-coordinate her colorist and stylist and the person who washes her hair. I have a barber that takes ten minutes, including conversation, to cut my hair but my wife has an entire hair entourage plus all the fancy pampering, so I knew this cold was bad.
I then moved into full cold prevention mode, which included washing my hands more than a heart surgeon with the apple-scented soap Mrs. G. rotated into the bathroom. It’s one of her seasonal soaps, so I smelled as if I worked in an orchard.
“I hope you don’t get this,” she said, but she secretly hoped I did. Everybody with a cold wants to share his or her misery with somebody else. That’s why people still go to the store or to work with a cold. Some dedicated stockperson at Wegmans likely sneezed on a box of taco seasoning, which my wife bought, which gave her his cold germs. The box may as well have said Taco Sneezoning.
By Wednesday, Mrs. G. was down for the count, so I offered to go to the store to get her some cold medication. I went with a vague list: some sort of tablet for daytime, Nyquil for nighttime, Emergen-C because it tastes good and has vitamin C and emergens, nose spray so she can breathe and some sort of tissues that have lotion impregnated in them, unlike the tissues she bought at Sam’s Club that are made out of the same paper that is used for coffee filters.
To help narrow it down, I asked a pharmacist what would work, since the cold and flu aisle was longer than the runway required to land a 747.
“What are her symptoms,” the pharmacist asked. I was struck by how much she resembled one of those generic TV doctors. She was young, she talked sincerely with her arms crossed, she was attractive and she was wearing a smock, kind of the same as that TV doctor who has chronic dry eye and is also an ophthalmologist.
“Well, she’s coughing and her head is stuffed,” I said.
“Is it loose phlegm?” she asked.
“Is there any other kind?” I said.
I don’t mean to be too basic, but back before colds had ultra-specific symptoms, loose phlegm was snot and hard phlegm was boogers. I would have made an awful pharmacist. “Does your wife have snot or boogers?” I’d ask right before I was transferred to the loading dock.
“Anything else?” the pharmacist asked.
“She canceled her hair appointment,” I said. I should have lead with that because she now knew it was serious.
I was loaded up with Mucinex, generic nose spray, and orange-flavored Emergen-C. The Mucinex was behind the counter because it had some sort of ingredient in it that required a signature and ID. Apparently, drug addicts appreciate clear sinuses. I paid for everything and it was placed into a bag and stapled shut. A single security staple because, you know, those are impenetrable.
When I got home, Mrs. G. tore into the protective packaging while I sat back and silently gloated while affecting my, “I don’t have a cold” face.
That didn’t last long.
One week later and I now have a full-blown cold, while my wife’s symptoms are waning. Mine isn’t as bad as hers was, and I didn’t blame the stylus at Wegmans. I know where I got it, but there was no way to avoid it. People are now backing away from me as if I have ringworm, with actual worms waving them in with flags.
I went to the drugstore and bought my own nose spray because sharing nose spray is not one of those habits that I would encourage. I bought the same bottle of Afrin I always buy when I get a cold, and when I got into the car, I opened the box.
Inside the sealed box was the bottle with that razor-sharp shrink-wrap we’ve come to expect to be on any sort of OTC medicine container. Side note: A few months ago, my wife had a piece of that stuff fly off of a vitamin bottle she was trying to open and land in her eye. It hurt so bad she had to go see an ophthalmologist, who did not have chronic dry eye. That little bit of plastic actually scratched her cornea. He told her to wear safety glasses when opening shrink-wrapped bottles from now on.
I tossed all caution to the wind and tore that safety sheath off sans safety goggles, cutting my fingers twice, only to find a newfangled safety cap on the bottle. Seriously? Are teenagers going up into Mom and Dad’s medicine chest and sniffing their Afrin? Most teenagers don’t want to be in the same state as their parents, let alone shove something up their nose that was in their father’s arboreal nostrils.
Why do these bottles need safety caps? It honestly took me five minutes to figure out how to open it, and even when I knew how to do it, it was a pain in the neck. The bottle is now on the vanity with a pen cap on top. My plan is to call Afrin Inc. and speak with the Afrin bottle engineer to find out where he lives so that I can build concrete moguls in his driveway so that it takes him a half hour to back out and go to work. “There you go, buddy. What was once simple is now absurdly complicated.”
I’d do it today, but it looks as if it’s two days of Sudafed and television for me. All in all, that’s not awful. I recently finished a six-sneeze run, which I believe is a record, so challenge accepted and crushed, Mr. Cold Virus.
Time for some Netflix.
I did indeed call Afrin, Inc., and they are well aware that their safety caps are needlessly complicated because their switchboards are lighting up like congested, sneezing Christmas trees with calls from irate consumers. They have graciously offered to refund two dollars more than I spent on this impenetrable bottle of nose spray and are also sending a booklet of coupons for their other products, which I will pass on to my wife because coupons are more frustrating to me than child resistant safety caps.
Apparently, these safety caps are now a federal law, which makes perfect sense to me:
Senator: What should we do today?
Congressman: Nothing. Everything in the country is perfect.
Senator: Well then, how about passing a law that makes the caps on nose spray harder to open?
Congressman: Sounds like a plan. This should keep us busy for a few months. Call the nose spray cap lobbyists and tell them to open up their wallets.
I’m kidding, of course. There’s no such thing as a nose spray cap lobbyist. Not yet anyway.