Sunday, November 23, 2014

I will cough and type, and those who love me will stay


From page A10 | March 02, 2014 |

Heads up: This will not be the best column I’ve ever written. Not even close. If you want to bail now, I won’t hold it against you. Only those who really love me will stick around.

Still here? Oh, you. You’re the best!

I won’t even attempt to excel this week, given the double whammy on my writing ju-ju. Make that triple … Mercury is still in its last pokey moments — the parking brake left on while buzzing down the freeway of my thoughts.

First issue — just as my external cosmos is in disarray, so also is my internal cosmos. I’m under attack from the inside, in the midst of what was striving toward pneumonia but, thanks to perky, wonderful, amazing Dr. Mo, I’m armed with antibiotics and a shiny new inhaler. The viral onslaught has been halted at the garden variety bronchitis stage. Dr. Mo also saved me a trip and froze this stupid little spot off my forehead, so besides barking like an asthmatic harbor seal, I also have a very attractive oozing red divot on my forehead.

No. I’m not pretty right now. So not pretty, in fact, that if this were 1350 Europe, they’d take one look at the bubo on my head and my incessant hacking and horking, and I’d be tossed onto a wooden cart faster than you can say “bring out your dead.”

No, I don’t exaggerate. Not ever.

You shut up.

The second thing, you remind me. Back on track. Snip-snap.

Alright, already!

Second writing ju-ju death knell: Coffee. Or, more accurately, lack thereof. My personal point of no return, when I’m about to succumb to some nasty virus, is that coffee — the beverage I love more than any other before 5 p.m. — suddenly turns sour and bitter, making my mouth taste like I’ve licked the litter box clean. Sure, I could add milk and sugar to mitigate that, but that’s an abomination akin to putting ice cubes in cabernet, and if you do that, I’m going to look at you like I just smelled something stinky.

So. I have not had any coffee since Monday, and my brain is about as thick and gooey as the sludge my lungs are trying desperately to expel. Tea is all I can handle, and not just any tea. I prefer the kind that comes from shops or must be ordered online, because I don’t like the nuance of boiled paper in my tea.

Hmmm … epiphany of self-discovery, here … I’m a Clear Liquid Snob. Coffee, tea, wine, scotch, vodka … it must be unadulterated, it must be the best, and it must absolutely cost more than is reasonable on a mere weekly newspaper editor’s salary. But, I’ll happily cut corners somewhere else, because life is too short to drink bad clear liquids.

Yes, I’m rambling. Clearly the fever lingers, I’m coughing myself into hyperventilation, and possibly whatever is in that cute little inhaler makes me a bit giddy. Want to see how thoughts meander inside my head? Today’s your lucky day.

So, although I’m in no shape to be amongst the living, I’d normally be writing at home anyway. I’ve insisted on doing my writing at home on Fridays because it’s impossible to string two coherent sentences together in the three-ring circus that is the Express office. I no longer have the bandwidth to recover from multiple, serial, endless interruptions and pick up where I left off.

There I’ll be, writing Pulitzer quality material, about to nail my key point, and someone will walk in with a classified ad. Scribbled in crayon on a napkin. And ask me to rewrite it for him. And then read it back to him because he doesn’t trust me to take notes. And can I break this $100 bill for that $5 ad. By this point, my fury obliterates my brilliant string of thoughts. Boom. Gone.

People are so truly lucky that I have the inner restraint not to act out the swift and horrific retribution that goes on in my head. And when I’m not well? No guarantees on the integrity of that restraint.

Yes. Best I stay home, in self-imposed isolation, for the safety and well-being of all concerned. Even my husband’s staying away from me. He took one look at this barking cyclops and high-tailed it for the East Coast. (He claimed some family birthday party, father turning 80 or some such nonsense, but I’m much too sly to fall for that.)

That said, a sick day on Friday is one thing, and on press day another. The only acceptable reason for not showing up on press day is to call in dead. So, last Tuesday, there I was, typing away through non-stop choking, hacking, weeping, red-faced seizures. My boss had to listen to me choking on my own lungs all day, and somewhere around 4 p.m., he walked up to within about six feet of me, threw a cough lozenge at me and walked away. (In Winters Express culture, this constitutes empathy and kindness.)

To date, he hasn’t grumbled about me and my viruses staying home much of last week. Yet. Give him time. He’ll throw my “weakness” in my face when it suits him.

Bear in mind, this is the man who loves to giggle with glee as he retells the story of how, one night long ago as I was typing the City Council story with one hand and holding my aching belly with the other (we couldn’t go to press until I finished the story), I told him I really, really, really wasn’t feeling well. He responded, “Toughen up and keep typing.” I was on a morphine drip before sunrise, and having my bursting appendix removed soon after. But, I finished that council story.

Charley literally almost worked me to death. He finds this highly amusing. I think I shall return to work when there’s still a little virus left in me and cough all over his keyboard.

— Email Debra DeAngelo at; read more of her work at and



Debra DeAngelo



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