Coming Up

Question: What is the most unpleasant way to be woken up?

A. Wolverines biting your throat.
B. Icy she-beast Hillary Rodham Clinton tickling you with her mustache.
C. Monkeys.
D. The sound of your roommate, just a few feet away from you, vomiting into a wastebasket.

If you answered “D,” you’ve correctly guessed the topic of today’s column. (Next week: monkeys.) For some reason, roommates only get sick in the middle of the night. Such was the case a few weeks ago, when my roommate, Jesse, found himself throwing up quite vociferously at 5 a.m., much to the dismay and woken-upedness of me.

The problem if you’re an innocent bystander when someone is throwing up is that you don’t know what to do. You can’t help, really, unless the person needs to be held upside-down like a ketchup bottle and whacked on the bottom to get the last few drops out. And you don’t know what to say, either. “Are you OK?” is dumb, because he’s obviously not. “What’s the matter?” is dumb because it’s also obvious. “Hey, shut up, I’m trying to sleep” is considered rude in many circles.

After my initial concern had passed about whether Jesse would EVER stop vomiting, I began worrying that I would catch whatever he had. I’m not afraid of being sick, but I am mortally fearful of vomiting. I haven’t thrown up since I was 13, when I sat at my grandfather’s office all day and ate a dozen or so spicy microwaved chicken wings, then spent the better part of the night wishing a pox on all chickens (get it? A chicken pox?).

Fortunately, I didn’t get it from Jesse. He had caught version 2.0 of an illness some of us had already beta-tested, an illness that in fact had stricken most of the Daily Herald newsroom. If the papers were especially bad several weeks ago, it’s because we were operating with a decimated staff. Many of us were delusional, which is why the headlines throughout November kept implying we didn’t know who the new president was.

The problem with everyone being sick is that no one feels any sympathy for anyone else. (This is especially true with journalists, who don’t have any compassion anyway.) We’d sit around lethargically and play illness poker, which works as follows. I had a bad sore throat and some general achiness — bad enough to whine, but not bad enough to stay in bed all day and watch soap operas. I would mention this casually eight or nine times an hour, and Community News Editor Sharon Gholdston, seated to my right, would say, “I’ll see your sore throat and achiness and raise you a cough and a fever.” Sharon can always beat us in a hand of illness poker. If I had the Bubonic Plague, she would have the Bubonic Plague and a toothache. Food Editor Karen Hoag actually had to fold and take a day off. If you can’t handle the high-stakes games, better stay away from the craps table, that’s what I say.

And speaking of craps and illnesses — no, never mind. I’ve said too much already.

Kind of graphic, isn't it? Sorry about that. Well, actually, no I'm not sorry. You'd be graphic, too, if you'd been woken up by the sound of your roommate exploding.

This is a short column. Ergo, I have little to say about it. Except that I need to say "ergo" more often.

Ironically, three days after this was published -- a full six weeks after the time period it discusses -- we all got sick again at the Daily Herald. They blamed it on me, for bringing it up (so to speak) again.

Sharon Gholdston, wife of Daily Universe adviser (and "Snide Remarks" champion) John Gholdston, died in October 2006. She was frequently in poor health, which makes my mentioning it in this column kind of funny/eerie. She was a great journalist, a great friend, and a fun lady.