I’m not what you’d call a hardy individual, even if that were a word you used regularly. Physically, I am soft and spongy. If you were to grip my neck firmly and exert only a slight amount of pressure, you could snap my head off. I pay for a gym membership each month but refuse to exercise on the grounds that my money is already attending the gym and that should be enough. I cannot endure any degree of physical trauma beyond that of sneezing, and even that often leaves me winded and in need of consoling.
Several things recently have caused me to reflect upon my non-hardy nature. For example, last week, someone snapped my head off.
No, I kid. A few months ago, I was flying somewhere on JetBlue and heard them make this announcement just before takeoff: “The cockpit door has been locked and can only be opened by the pilot from the inside.” This is, I gather, to discourage would-be hijackers from attempting to take command of the aircraft, because doing so would require persuading the pilot to open the door first. It’s along the same lines as the signs you see at convenience stores that say, basically, “The cashier doesn’t know how to get into the safe, so don’t bother trying to rob us.” (In truth, of course, the cashiers do know the combination. Don’t let some stupid sign stop you from getting what you want!)
I considered what a terrorist would have to do to get me to open the cockpit door, and I realized I would make a very bad pilot, because he would probably only have to offer me candy. The threat of physical harm coming to me or the people under my care would make me waver, and then a Butterfinger would seal the deal. For this reason, I am going on the record now as saying I should not be permitted to fly commercial aircraft, no matter what the circumstances.
Then we had that war thing in Iraq, and I was impressed with the courage it must take to be a soldier. I love my country (America), and I’d like to think I could fight and kill and die to preserve it if I had to. But let’s be realistic here: There’s no way I would make it past basic training. All that running, and the drill sergeants yelling at you all the time, and the sweating — good heavens, the sweating! — I would be dead within a week, and I would probably take others with me. As patriotic as I am, I’m afraid that patriotism will mostly have to take the form of buying American products and watching John Wayne movies.
And then I got sick. It was a big-time flu-like virus that knocked me out of commission for a week. Except for the occasional one- or two-day cold, I hadn’t been this sick, for this long, since I was in high school, when I missed my 10th grade finals due to having strep throat and tonsils the size of canned hams. This time, my symptoms were plentiful and mighty.
Now, the thing is, even when it’s just a cold, it affects me more than it affects normal people, because of the aforementioned wimpiness. Here to testify to this fact is Luscious Malone (names have been changed), a woman who has been my friend through it all, always on hand to tell me that what I’m doing is incorrect. At my request, she wrote this testimonial:
“As long as I’ve known Eric, he’s had several brushes with death — or colds, as they are commonly known. Eric’s episodes usually start slow and then keep him in bed for days (just like our first date). [She’s kidding, folks.]
“The key to Eric’s colds is the fact that each time he gets sick, he’s apparently never heard of a cold and has no clue what to do or what remedy to seek. Most of his colds start with confusion — he can’t understand why he feels ‘icky’ and his throat hurts and his nose is running — what on EARTH is happening?!
“Once he figures out that it’s a cold, the whining begins. Anyone who listens gets a full detailed description of what hurts, and how much it hurts, and that it has hurt for a long time. Then, all work must cease, any social obligations must be canceled. He cannot venture out into the world, because he ‘doesn’t have the strength,’ which he pronounces ‘strenth,’ because he’s too weak to pronounce the ‘g.’
“His self-imposed quarantine is only broken to buy medicine, which is equally painful to diagnosing the cold. Descriptions on medicine boxes simply add to the fatigue and he ends up having to be put into a cart and wheeled out of Wal-Mart, hoping that Sudafed and Swedish fish will help. Once home he stays in the same pair of snappy but unwashed jammies until the cold has passed.
“I hereby certify that Eric is a big, fat weenie when he gets sick, but I would nurse his fevered brow anytime he asks, assuming he removes the restraining order.”
So there you have it. A first-hand account of my physical and emotional uselessness. I’m sure you can see, Your Honor, why I could not possibly have stolen that pipe organ from that church.
You may recall a column a while back ("Scream of Conscience" ) that had the same basic idea as this one: blathering on about some topic, only to reveal at the end that I am doing so in front of a judge, explaining why I am not guilty of something. In both cases, the judge thing was an afterthought; the column really was just me blathering on about some aspect of my personality, and I couldn't think of a better way to end it. I like the judge thing, though, so maybe I'll use it again sometime.
Reading the column, it looks like I had Luscious Malone write the testimonial and then framed the column around it. In truth, the column was already mostly written when I mentioned to her that I was writing about what a wimp I am. She said, "Oh, geez, do you want me to write a testimonial?," as if to say, "Yeah, you're a wimp. Tell me about it." And I thought, that's actually a pretty good idea. So she wrote it. It appears here almost exactly the way she submitted it; I altered or added maybe 10 words to maximize the funny. But it was pretty funny already.
How did I manage to be out sick for a week yet not miss a "Snide Remarks"? Because I'm amazing, that's how. I was actually sick Thursday through Wednesday, but managed to write most of a column during the Friday and Saturday that I was out of commission. I finished it the following Thursday, when I was pretty much all better and more or less coherent. (It was "No Need to Get Crabby," by the way -- an excellent column, you'll note!)
I didn't know it at the time, but this turned out to be my last column for the Daily Herald. Three days after it was printed, they fired me, the bastards. I had another one written that was not published, though; it can be found here.