I was speaking with a woman in Johannesburg the other day and at the end of our conversation she sneezed. It was only then that I realized that she had a cold. She had what I call a dignified cold. I was sitting across from her and I was manifesting what I call an undignified cold.
I have never had a dignified cold. When I get a cold, it is a always a messy, traumatic experience. Everyone within earshot hears me and thinks, "It sounds like that man either has a cold or the plague. In either case, I had better stay away from him." I have tried everything I know to do to stop a cold, but to no avail. I've consumed massive quantities of vitamin C, taken nose drops, and sat in a hot tub until the sweat poured. If I take any medication that stops my uncontrollable drainage, my cold only reappears 10 days later to resume its southbound flow.
Of course, this can be embarassing, for when I least expect it, fluid won't just come from my nose; it will literally fall from my nose. I almost have to go around wearing a handkerchief, let alone carry one. And the morning coughing! The other morning when I awakened, I began my morning cough routine. How bad was it?
People in the hotel across the street from the one I was staying in called over to ask if we could keep the noise down. The police came hearing the noise, thinking that there was unauthorized construction going on inside the building. The people in the room next to me called the front desk to complain that I must have a large dog in the room and they thought that no pets were allowed. The front desk finally called and kindly asked me to do what I was doing poolside. The pool must have been low and needed filled.
Then there's the experience of flying when I have a cold. That makes it even more of an experience. The air pressure in the cabin serves to gather all the congestion in my head into one big ball, about the size of my brain. I know it's this big, because it clogs both my ears at the same time. When I first get off a plane in this condition, I see people's lips moving, but I have no idea what they are saying. And I can hear my own voice inside my head and it sounds like I'm screaming. Yet everyone asks me to repeat what I just said, so I must be whispering externally and shouting internally.
I can never remember how the old adage goes, whether you should "feed a cold and starve a fever" or "starve a cold and feed a fever." So I try to starve and feed my cold at the same time. But as I said, nothing ever works. I've just learned to go on about my business, but to cover my desk and workplace with plastic to protect those items that aren't waterproof.