Volume One Special Coverage: Pulling Together While Staying Apart


In the Sick of It

coping with winter sickness, one complaint at a time

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Michelle Roberts

I don’t get sick very often. At least, not in the classical sense. I might have a day or two here and there when my throat is scratchy or my nose is running, and I randomly utter things like, “Ugh. I think I’m getting sick.”

Or, “Gah. My tummy is a little queasy.”

Or, “Bluh. The snot that’s constantly refilling my nose alternates wildly between liquid and solid states.”

Or, “Ga’zoinksaroo. Never has a human suffered such as I.”

When I woke up today, I couldn’t swallow. It felt like someone had stuffed a hairdryer into my mouth and left it on all night. My head feels like a small bean bag chair that a large group of chubby toddlers is trying sit on. All at once.

But I usually wake up the next morning feeling better, and I promptly forget that I  thought I was starting to maybe kind of sort of get sick. My wife will ask me how I’m feeling, and I’ll say, “I’m fine. Why do you ask?”

And she’ll say, “Yesterday you said you thought you were getting sick.”

And I’ll say, “I don’t remember that.”

And she’ll say, “You said the pressure in your sinuses felt like a hairy truck driver was shoving his swollen foot into your left nostril.”

And I’ll say, “No, that must have been someone else you know.”

The point is that I don’t get sick very often. Not actual sick. Not full-on sick. I just feel like sickness is coming on and then ... it doesn’t. At this point in my life, I believe a steady stream of offhand complaints to anyone within earshot is the best way to keep disease at bay.

But not always. In fact, as I write this, I am actual sick. Full-on sick. Stay home from work sick. And it’s definitely not for lack of whining about it.

When I woke up today, I couldn’t swallow. It felt like someone had stuffed a hairdryer into my mouth and left it on all night.

My head feels like a small bean bag chair that a large group of chubby toddlers is trying sit on. All at once.

My sinuses will suddenly sizzle with heat and unleash an unholy gush of watery snot, but when I try to blow my nose ... nothing comes out.

And I’m achey – in my back, my knees, my neck, and my shoulders. Every time I sneeze, it feels like I took a ride in a rusty dumpster full of firewood over a waterfall.

That’s how sick I feel.

How’d this happen? I’ve been retracing my steps, trying to pinpoint the exact moment I contracted the Dread Virus. I’m betting it has something to do with all the extreme cold and excessive snow terrorizing the Midwest this year.

There were a couple of mornings last week when I stepped outside to find a huge mound of snow waiting at the end of my driveway. My hair, post-shower, was still wet as I speed-shoveled through the frozen obstacle.

That’s right, I went outside in the wintertime ... with wet hair. My mother will probably gasp as she reads this. (Hi, Mom.) Grandmothers everywhere will clutch their doilies. It was a crazy thing to do, spitting in the collective face of countless old wives telling their tales throughout the ages. How could I have been so reckless?

It may also have something to do will all the time I spend penned up indoors with other two-legged animals, with their germ-infested runny noses and their poor hand-washing/cough-covering habits. Who can say?

My wife gets sick more often than I do, but she was born with an unnaturally high pain threshold and, for some reason, thinks it’s not cool to constantly complain about things. So she doesn’t say much about it.

This morning, I told her I needed to write a column (the one you are reading at this very moment), and she suggested I write about my “man cold.”

“What’s a ‘man cold’?” I asked.

She replied, “Oops. Maybe I’m not supposed to tell you about that.”

Well, after some time on UrbanDictionary.com and a few YouTube videos later, I’ve learned all I need to know. Here’s one definition: “Only men get man colds. They are the worst colds you can get. They are near-fatal. The man will not be able to lift a finger for two weeks, if you are lucky.”

I suspect this is not a real medical condition. I suspect some people believe many men tend to excessively (and annoyingly) whine about having a cold. And this is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.

Keep me in your thoughts. This could be the end.

Lasker Jewelers
Lasker Jewelers

Pulling Together Partners

The following organizations are currently supporting Volume One’s work in the community during the pandemic:

Lasker Jewelers

L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, Eau Claire

Downtown Eau Claire Inc DECI

University of Wisconsin Eau Claire

Pablo Group

Wisconsin Independent Network

Middle West Management

Bon Iver

Royal Credit Union

Silver Spring

Evergreen Surgical

Charter Bank

The Murty Henriksen Family

The Larry and Marie Past Family

The Dan and Kerry Kincaid Family

Anton and Rae Schilling-Smets

Brady and Jeanne Foust

If your organization is interested in supporting Volume One during this difficult time, nick@volumeone.orgcontact us.