Here I sit in the hotel restaurant at a Courtyard Marriott in West Orange, New Jersey. I spent the night here last night, and the view out my window was into a strip mall: this place is not exactly bursting with atmosphere.
Even with both layers of curtains pulled tight—the opaque layer and then the pretty layer—I could still sense the glow of the grocery store's sign across the street.
This glow was made worse, in my mind, by the fact that I very much needed something that was located in that grocery store: NyQuil. Theraflu. Some sort of heavy but over-the-counter sleeping aid, the kind that knocks you out but allows you to wake up refreshed.
You know, medication that doesn't exist in real life—but in commercial life. On commercials, a congested someone takes a pill and wakes up 8 hours later with butterflies flitting around them and then they go on to perform heart surgery while writing the next great American novel, the one that would astound Hemingway.
I never feel that way after taking congestion medication; more often, I wake up with the sense that my dreams have kept my body too busy, but I can't quite grasp at what they were about. I am rested but still tired.
Not that I had a chance of feeling like that last night: I had some cough drops, daytime Theraflu, and a Ritter chocolate bar.
Chocolate can ease so much pain, but it cannot unclog your nose that's full of phlegm—on just one side. Why is it ever only one side? Why don't the nostrils share?
The rest of you can be a well-adjusted grown-up who's used to sharing both responsibility and privileges, but your nostrils are little babies, and they can turn you into a little baby who doesn't have full grasp of language capabilities and just wants to cry.
That's how I felt last night, by the way, at about 2:30 when I still couldn't sleep and all I could think was: Being sick when you're away from home is terrible.
Other Things that Are Terrible about Being Sick
- Coughing fits. For example, I just had one here in this hotel restaurant, and I had to go outside to prevent the hacking, might-be-the-plague cough from echoing off the walls. This very silent room is made worse by the fact that it's decorated to look so cozy, as if all these hotel guests are part of a large family who lives in a manor house and soon, they'll all be down to have a drink before dinner.
There are just a few other people in the room, though, and all these chairs and couches do nothing to absorb the sharp yet phlegmy cough. If there were more people in the room, they'd at least be chattering more to hide my fit, but as it is, the three other people here looked at me like I ought to start shouting, "Unclean! Unclean!"
- Being sick in the winter. This affects the previous coughing fit point: When I stepped outside to cough up a lung, I stepped into snow and ice. I hear that's supposed to help open up the airways—the cold is—so I breathed in deeply. Instead of starting to yodel as if I were in the Alps and braced by the fresh air, I choked a little on snowflakes and the smell of New Jersey traffic. And then I coughed more.
- Having to steal a box of Kleenexes from the women's bathroom. Sorry, Courtyard Marriott. I tried to fill my pockets with Kleenex before checking out of my room, but I underestimated the number I'd need. And the napkins you gave us with lunch in one of your meeting rooms are basically sandpaper, fyi. You pretty much led me to stealing.
- Not being able to taste anything. I'm flying first class back to Chicago tonight, and I'll be darned if I'll pass up a free meal, even if I can't taste it.
- Sounding like a man. This one is really only a terrible thing if you're a woman.
- Fearing that you'll never feel better. I always convince myself of this when I'm sick: I will never, ever feel back to my normal self. It's especially easy to feel now as I sit in this hotel restaurant and think about the hassle of getting back to the airport, through security, onto the plane, and all the way home. All I want to do is be in my own bed, and there are so many steps between me and my pillow.
- Feeling you need to apologize every time you cough. My seatmate on my flight home is going to hate me. I just know it. I will start working on creative ways to apologize now.