Vartabedian: Brace Yourself: Flu Season Has Arrived!

‘Tis the season to be, err, miserable. We’re not talking Christmas here and the unenviable task of buying gifts with cash you don’t really have.

Rather, it’s flu season and I find it very uncomfortable just around this time. For as long as I can remember, I’ve received my flu shot. Why it doesn’t work is beyond me.

It seems every time I’m inoculated, I come down with flu symptoms that have me scurrying to the pharmacy for cold remedies that take forever to work—if at all.

This time, instead of going to my local Citizens Center for the shot, I wound up at my friendly pharmacy. I waited until 10 minutes before closing time and there was no line. A nurse gave me a little pinch with the needle and before I left, I grabbed a bottle of cold medicine off the shelf just in case.

With me, the only sure thing about a sure cure is that there’s no such thing as one.

My sainted grandmother had the perfect remedy. She brought it with her from the old country where people live in mountains and are immune to colds and other maladies.

Her panacea was lemon. She would take the juice from a whole lemon and squeeze it into her tea and presto! Not even a sneeze or a cough. She once made me drink it and disgusting as this was, it did the trick. While other students from my class were shaking in their boots, the sun was dancing in my stomach.

For one thing, it erased all doubt about a common cure. A trip to the pharmacy these days can turn into a revolting experience. If you’re like me, the choices are mindboggling. An entire aisle is devoted to cold remedies.

There’s daytime medication and nighttime, some non-drowsy and others that make you sleepy. You have the tablets and the capsules, the liquids and the drops with instant vapor action.

The drug companies could make it easier if they came out with one simple pill or liquid that would serve as a practical solution. My cousin Greg has the perfect advice.

“Take nothing,” he tells me. “Let the cold run its course.”

What’s worked for me more than anything else is a good shot of ginger brandy, not enough to get inebriated, mind you, just a nip. One day, I took two nips before attending a church meeting. My pastor smelled my breath and wanted to make a house call.

“No problem, reverend. I’m fighting this nasty cold. It’s flu season, tra-la-la.”

Here I was, sitting in a roomful of trustees, when someone coughed. Whatever he had set off a chain reaction and before we knew it, the entire room looked like it qualified for a hospital ward.

My immune system is relatively weak compared to other people. I seem to catch a cold from someone on the opposite side of the street. Nothing draws two people closer together than both fighting colds at the same time.

“What are you taking for yours?” I may ask.

“Aspirin. That’s it,” comes the reply. “Works for me.”

“Aspirin? Not a nasal decongestant? Or an antihistamine?” I wonder. “Hey, whatever works.”

Another person I approached purchased an immune boosting formula. Toss a tablet into a glass of water, watch it fizzle, then gulp it down. Said to work miracles.

In past years, I’ve tried working off a cold. By that, I mean sweating it out in a game of racquetball, then hitting the sauna. Steam opens up my nostrils and permeates my system. Maybe it’s psychological, but I leave the gym feeling a lot better.

I have a friend who happens to be a hypochondriac. The slightest urge and he’s housebound with some ailment, whether it’s the common cold, the flu, or malaria. He enjoys the pity that comes with the territory.

“Keep your distance,” he tells others. “I’m feeling miserable. Got this nasty cold that’s raising havoc with my body. How about doing some errands for me?”

I sometimes think he gets sick on purpose to enjoy some time off from work. If he were on salary, instead of owning his company, he’d milk the system to a hilt so long as compensation took effect.

My wife goes through these convulsions every now and then. She blames her allergies, not the flu.

“It’s those darn candles you’re burning in the house,” she gasps. “Who the heck can stand mango, pear, and eucalyptus fumigating the house? You want candles, go to a séance.”

The woman had a point. Perhaps it was the wrong scent. My next aroma was ocean breeze and the chills stopped.

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.
Tom Vartabedian

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