Having A Cold During A Pandemic.

It ain’t easy.

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Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

As anyone will tell you, colds aren’t allowed during pandemics. It’s like having acne during a smallpox outbreak. One innocent cough or sneeze can cause a stampede. I don’t mean just any stampede. I’m talking about the kind we saw when The Beatles came to America for the first time.

These are dangerous times for cold-sufferers. We can be labelled as ‘Ronas, the worst thing you can be called today. I saw a woman take her purse to a guy who sneezed in a Costco. The staff managed to subdue her, but not before two hundred customers made for the doors, looting along the way because they’re Americans, and that’s what Americans do.

Anyway, I woke up Wednesday coughing and sneezing. I knew going out could mean being hit by some Costco shopper. What else could I do? I needed cold medication. That’s the thing about pandemics. You realize you have very few options — like food. I’ve been eating smores for two months now.

Remember in the Green Mile when John Coffey cures Paul Edgecomb’s bladder infection by absorbing it into his own body? I thought of asking Wendy to do the same thing. Then I remembered she told me not to ask stupid questions during the pandemic, since the news is full of stupid questions and comments. I was on my own, in other words, meaning I had to get dressed, stick Kleenex balls up my nose, and go to the drugstore.

Now, obviously, if you have a cold, the only place you’re going to find cold-sufferers is in the cold and flu section, and just as obviously, you’re not going to know for sure they are cold sufferers because, like me, they’re wearing a mask. The big giveaway is the number of Kleenex balls dropping out the bottom of their masks. Check the floor of any drugstore in the cold and flu section. You’ll find tons of Kleenex balls.

If you don’t find any, you’re probably in the frozen food section.

Fortunately, there were only four people in the cold and flu section when I arrived, and very few Kleenex balls. They were just staring at the medications with the same intense concentration prairie dogs show passing coyotes.

Nobody spoke or sneezed, since that’s the fastest way to get hit by a Costco shopper (and start a stampede). We just stared and sniffled and coughed, comparing brands, then indications. A hand would reach out, grab a box, then put it back.

“That’s only a decongestant,” an elderly woman said to her husband.

He immediately returned the box, apologizing to his wife for being such a dope. We all nodded in unison, figuring it could’ve happened to any of us.

“This has a decongestant and an expectorant,” the elderly woman continued, looking around in case a Costco shopper was close by. Even the elderly fear these crazies. If you’re not getting mugged, you’re getting hit with a purse. They got out of there quick, dodging from one aisle to the next.

Now, I figured the old lady knew her cough medications, but then this guy next to me said, “She could have got the same thing for less with this store brand.”

“It doesn’t have as much gualifenesin,” a woman said, which had us all leaning over her shoulder, probably infecting her more than she already was. “This has more than the others,” she said, pronouncing it gwally-feny-sin. Turns out, it’s what clears mucus — not to mention sending any pharmacist into hysterics if you pronounce it that way.

Since there wasn’t a pharmacist for miles, she went on calling it gwally-feny-sin, until she got to the cashier and asked if it had the most gwally-feny-sin. The cashier called the pharmacist who is no doubt trained to go into hysterics whenever someone mispronounces an active ingredient.

Anyway, that left me and the bargain hunter still checking out store brands. “What about this?” he said, finding one loaded with gwally-feny-sin and still a buck less. “No point overspending,” I said, so we both grabbed the store brand and made our way to the cashiers.

Once outside, we snuck around the corner, pulled up our masks, and swigged our cough medicine like cheap winos. Fortunately, there were cheap winos essentially doing the same thing. It’s good to blend in during pandemics and colds. Just because they’re winos doesn’t mean they don’t make good camouflage, especially outside of a Costco.

So I’m drinking my cold medicine, and I start feeling a loosening in my throat, something the winos said was the bright side of addiction. I also felt some sinal clearing and figured my Kleenex balls were only going to hold back the torrent for so long.

I excused myself, telling the winos, and the bargain hunter, I had to change my Kleenex balls, then looked around the corner, hoping there wasn’t a Costco shopper with a purse. You never know where these women are going to show up. No doubt they have a problem with cheap winos not social distancing, not to mention a clearly sick man acting like a cheap wino.

I made my way home and took a few more swigs of gwally-feny-sin, sending Wendy into hysterics with my pronunciation. Why she didn’t become a pharmacist I’ll never know.

Today I’m feeling better, less congested, ready to face the world — although there isn’t much of a world to face. The news is depressing, and Netflix isn’t nearly as good as listening to cheap winos.

“You’re crazy,” Wendy says to me. “How do you know they weren’t infected? How do you know you didn’t infect them?”

I’m no infectious disease specialist, but I figure anyone who has as much gwally-feny-sin in their systems as these guys do, they’re not infecting anybody — and I doubt anyone’s infecting them.

I’m even thinking of writing to President Trump. He needs to forget about hydroxychloroquine and Remdesivir. “Tell people to load up on gualifenesin,” I’ll say, and wait for him to pronounce it at the next news conference.

“I’ve just been informed,” he’ll say, “that an ingredient in most cold remedies will solve all our coronavirus problems. It’s called gwally-feny-sin…goo-wally-feny-sin…it’s really great whatever it is. Fabulous. I’m taking it now.”

That should send a few thousand pharmacists into hysterics.

This, to me, is what a pandemic—and colds—are all about. I mean, sure, signs like “You’re not lone,” and “You matter,” help, but they’re not going to improve your symptoms or stop Costco shoppers from swinging their purses or stampeding. You need gwally-feny-sin, and plenty of it.

Robert Cormack is a satirist, novelist, and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores. Check out Skyhorse Press or Simon and Schuster for more details.

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I did a poor imitation of Don Draper for 40 years before writing my first novel. I'm currently in the final stages of a children's book. Lucky me.

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