© St. Petersburg Times, published March 30, 2003
I have learned that sometimes the simplest statements have almost supernatural implications. Things like, "It's sure been a long time since I have had a cold."
I'm not terribly superstitious and don't believe in jinxes, but as I grow older I am increasingly convinced that there are just some things you should never allow yourself to say -- or even think.
And knowing that creates another problem familiar to those who deal with some aspects of the spiritual question of dualism. If a meditating non-dualist realizes that he or she has suddenly achieved the ability to see all as one and not to divide things into the perceived and the perceiver, then having thought about the concept of the perceiver, negates the earlier realization.
Trust me, all of that makes a lot more sense if you've been taking a drug regimen that makes you wired and sleepy at the same time.
It's like the old alchemist formula for turning lead into gold, and many of them thought you could do it if you applied a simple formula -- while not thinking about a blue hippopotamus.
I know it sounds confusing, but I have had the advantage of having a handful (literally) of wives explain to me how whatever just went wrong was my fault so often that I can see the rest of this stuff clearly.
I also know, through not-too-extensive research, that none of the great gold fortunes of the world are in the hands of the descendants of any alchemists.
Okay, I have been using drugs, but only the legal kind -- decongestants, expectorants (I love that word), antihistamines and aspirin -- washed down with gallons of grapefruit juice.
That's because I violated one of the rules about the things that you are never supposed to say.
I'm sure the list is longer, but for me it is simple.
I never, ever say, or even think if I can avoid it, "Gee, the car has been running pretty well. I can't remember the last time I had to call AAA."
I also never say, "We sure have had a run of luck with the television set, why, it hasn't been in the shop for over a year."
"Don't worry, my boss never looks at my expense accounts," was another one, back when it was still true, but I don't have to say that one any more. (One of my editors complained about a $19 breakfast, and I theorized that he was demonstrating a primary difficulty with yuppies, they don't know anything about good wines.)
And, finally, it is a good idea never to boast about or speculate on the quality of your health, especially as regards colds. This time I said, "I just don't seem to get them any more. Must be from clean living.
When you say things like that you are challenging the gods of misfortune to prove their existence.
I should realize by now that the next sound from my body after a statement like that will be a sneeze, a sniffle or something I am trying to pass off as speech but which sounds much more like a bullfrog who has just fallen into a blender.
Loss of the ability to speak is actually a plus, because the only responses I will get for the next few days after that stage are, "Don't come near me," or "Don't touch me," or "I don't want to be in the same room with you," which, I guess, means there are a lot of similarities between having a cold and being married.
Over-the-counter-remedies for colds all work basically the same way. If you take them as directed, you will feel better in about a week. You will also feel better if you wrap yourself in a terry cloth bathrobe, sit in the back yard and chant the Mickey Mouse Club song as though it were a mantra for the same period of time -- and your neighbors will be much more entertained.
And it will take you away from your television set and the minute-by-minute unfolding of the horrors of war that most of us can't tear our eyes away from.
If you wonder why I am writing about the inanity of sniffles rather than the insanity of war (and it is insane, no matter where you stand on its necessity), it is because there is more than enough being said by a lot of other people and agencies.
The ridiculous may not always be sublime, but sometimes it can be restful.