Sunday, September 20, 2009

Flippant talk of phlegm

Published September 20, 2009
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

We’re halfway through September and adjusting to the routine of fall. Everyone has settled into school and the back to school bug has settled into my head and lungs.

I do this every year. It starts in my pharynx, that space in your head that connects your mouth to your nose. It’s the place congestion loves to live and from which normal people, ahem, “hock” the offensive junk out of their bodies.

I wish I knew how to do that. It would make my life a lot easier. I’ve tried it on numerous occasions and had caring friends demonstrate. Alas, I am missing the hock gene. Without this ability, I suffer as the gunk gets more and more impacted until I’m ready to shove a metal hook past my tonsils and scrape it out of my head. I’m always saved from the task when the crud migrates south for winter and builds a vacation resort in my lungs.

I’m sorry if my description disgusts you. Sick people are fairly lacking in tact. And couth. I have neither the energy or the time to care about either. Next week, I’ll write a happy, non-disgusting column. For now, my life is all about phlegm…snot…boogers…great, green, chunky lung nuggets that get caught in my windpipe and threaten to choke the life right out of me.

Maybe I have swine flu. I wonder what I would do if I did have swine flu. The guidelines change from day to day, so I’m not aware if I’m supposed to let the health department know or if I’m good to treat it like any old bug, metal hook at the ready, grumpy voice at full volume, and tact and couth tied up for the ride.

When we first started hearing about the swine flu pandemic, news reports brought to mind scary guys in hazmat suits, mass quarantines, and a possible end of life as we know it. It seemed like only a matter of time until people started chanting (behind protective masks, of course), “There but by the grace of hand sanitizer go I.” While swine flu remains a threat, it’s certainly not the crazy, scary, duck-and-cover emergency the press made it out to be.

I think the swine flu health guidelines are like the terror alert system. They change almost arbitrarily. They don’t really tell us anything. They keep airline passengers from enjoying their expensive, amenity-free hurtle through the friendly skies. Eventually, they become white noise in the background of life.

Today’s terror alert is yellow. I believe that means our chances of being attacked by terrorists are about the same as being trampled by coughing and sneezing pigs, so we should all patriotically go about the business of being terrified…and wash our hands and avoid kissing schoolchildren.

If I actually have swine flu and die from it, I’ll feel really bad about making light of a serious subject. Okay, that’s not entirely true. If that happens, I won’t feel anything, because I’ll be dead. It’s more accurate to say that if I die from swine flu, my family will feel really bad that I made light of it. “If only she’d washed her hands more frequently,” they’ll say. “If only she’d ducked when the man at the grocery store coughed into her shirt instead of his. If only she hadn’t angered the gods with her flippant talk of phlegm.”

If I do die, I’d like to be remembered as someone who changed the lives of others, if only by introducing the phrase, “great, green, chunky lung nuggets,” into the vernacular. Bury me with this edition of The Mother Load on my chest, an American flag on my coffin, and a metal hook implanted in my pharynx.

And I’d like the terror alert level changed to green.