Observations on Life from a Person Who Has a Cold

1) In film and literature and memory, dying people are beautiful, magnanimous and witty. (See, for example, Oscar Wilde, who reportedly uttered the threat, “Either that wallpaper goes — or I do” on his deathbed.)

People with colds, in sad contrast, are unattractive and crabby. They tend toward proclamations such as, “Wait a minute, I hab to blow by nose” or inarticulate, whiny sentences that get muffled by an ever-present Kleenex.

This difference in appearance, bonhomie and sparkle may stem from the fact that having a cold may produce more suffering — or at least more phlegm — than death does.

2) People with colds may seem to be unusually stupid. This is because, as many eminent scientists have proven, it is impossible to think profound thoughts while your nostrils are stopped up.

3) It is also impossible to maintain any shred of dignity while you are either a) getting ready to sneeze or b) in the process of wiping your nose. In fact, it’s very similar to going through airport security and removing your shoes: You are at a deep disadvantage, and yes, people are snickering behind your back, so don’t even bother kidding yourself.

3) Onlookers who utter such platitudes as, “Well, they can send a man to the moon, but they can’t cure the common cold” should realize there is nothing common about a cold when you’re the person who has it. A dramatic open-mouthed sneeze in his or her direction may be called for (hey! it’s the coldee’s only weapon!).

5) Fortunately, for the rapidly dwindling number of people who care about the cold-sufferer, their sniffling loved one can always be located by following a trail of damp Kleenexes. This is a typically thoughtful gesture by your cold-suffering friend or spouse that should be honored, not the subject of criticism.

6) Should you find yourself becoming critical of the bellowing explosions of sneezes coming from your cold sufferer, stop to imagine — just for one instant — how loud that noise must be inside the head of the sneezer. Then, buy her some fresh-squeezed orange juice, squeeze her mottled, fevered little hand, and gallantly kiss the air several feet away from her rheumy face, taking care to duck when another sneeze is brewing.

This might buy you some similar generosity when you, inevitably, catch her cold.

(Copyright 2011 by Ruth Pennebaker)

Read this post about being the nervous type

6 comments… add one
  • I dunno, Ruth. You’re darn witty and articulate for someone with a cold. I think you fall into the Oscar Wilde category!

  • I have noticed over the term of my marriage, that my husband’s colds are inevitably much worse than mine. No matter how horribly I suffer, when he has the cold-before or after I have had it-he always suffers more than me. It is an odd phenomenon which has never been studied as far as I know.

  • Feel better. During my last bout, where the cough lasted for like 6 weeks, my DH bellowed from the living room this helpful tidbit, “Why don’t you turn over?” Like I hadn’t been trying every known derivation of my body to quell the need to cough. Gee, thanks, hon.

  • Well, I was with you all the way until the generosity bit at the end, but I reckon “to have a cold” is one of those irregular verbal idioms, as in

    I have a cold.
    You have weakness of character.

  • Lucky you! I read somewhere that we should have at least TWO colds a year because having a cold releases accumulated toxins–something like that. Colds protect us from worse stuff, which comes on when the toxic build-up does its real damage. I haven’t had a cold in more than a year, and it’s bothering me!!

  • Sheryl Link

    Ugh, colds. The only thing they’re good for is giving you an excuse to lay in bed and have permission to be totally worthless and lazy.

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