Sunday, August 27, 2023

"Going Viral"

By Jerry Zezima

The great humorist Erma Bombeck said that no one ever died from sleeping in an unmade bed.

I’m glad Erma was right because otherwise my wife, Sue, and I would now be in the Great Bed, Bath & Beyond.

We spent the better part of a week in the sack while being sacked by COVID-19.

Just when we thought it was safe to go out — after three years of being masked, tasked and vaxxed to the max — we somehow contracted the virus.

And we think we got it from, of all people, Lady Liberty.

Sue and I — with our two daughters, one of our sons-in-law and our five grandchildren — went to the Statue of Liberty but couldn’t get in because the tickets were sold out.

It was just as well because climbing those 354 stairs probably would have induced cardiac arrest. Then I’d really be bedridden. I can’t even make it up the 12 stairs in my house without getting winded.

But the long cool woman in a green dress wasn’t wearing a mask. Neither were we and the hundreds of people we encountered on Liberty Island.

Sue and I were among the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. A couple of days later, we had trouble breathing, which is nothing to sneeze at.

We sneezed anyway. We also coughed, ached and drank so much water — because we were told to keep well-hydrated — that our pet fish was getting nervous.

The bathroom was like Grand Central Station. I was tempted to hang a sign over the toilet: “All aboard!”

Yes, these were flush times in our house.

But back to bed, where we spent so much time — one night I slept for 11 hours and Sue for 12 — that it could have been considered hibernation.

Sometimes one of us went back to bed for a nap shortly after getting up in the morning while the other took the afternoon shift. Most days Sue also napped on the couch. One day I took two naps. Another day we napped in bed together but faced away from each other because we didn’t want to catch what we already had.

Now you know why neither of us went to med school.

Speaking of which, our doctors were sympathetic but essentially powerless to do anything to help us except, in my case, prescribe Paxlovid, an antiviral medication, and, in both cases, tell us to drink enough liquids to drown a walrus.

And, of course, get plenty of rest.

Day after agonizing day, the bed remained unmade. There was no point in making it because: (a) at least one of us would only go back to it and (b) we weren’t expecting a visit from Good Housekeeping.

Somehow, we remained alive.

It was a miracle considering I ran a fever high enough to fry an egg on my head, dummy side up.

Sue ran hot and cold — a fever, then chills — but had it worse than I did because she’s a heart patient and couldn’t take any medicine stronger than Tylenol.

So we napped. We hadn’t napped this much since we were babies. At one point, I felt like crying for a bottle, but my doctor said I couldn’t have beer. It was horrible.

Being in a high-risk category — old — didn’t help.

Still, it made us wonder: How did this happen? We thought the pandemic was over. We had taken all precautions and had escaped the virus. Until now.

Sue said even her heart attack two years ago wasn’t as bad as this. Neither of us had ever been sicker.

But we survived. Tragically, millions of other people didn’t.

A few family members and friends have also had the coronavirus. Some cases were mild, some serious, including one case of long COVID.

Fortunately, Sue and I are feeling much better.

Good Housekeeping can come over now. The bed has finally been made.

Copyright 2023 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, August 20, 2023

"The Taming of the Screw"

By Jerry Zezima

You don’t need a master’s degree in nuclear engineering to put furniture together. But I’m glad my son-in-law has one. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have a nice new love seat and a set of matching chairs on the patio.

When it comes to home improvement, I am the epitome of DIY: Dimwitted Incompetent Yoyo.

I have enough trouble putting together a coherent sentence let alone a love seat, or a chair, or a table, or a bookcase, or an entertainment center, or — God forbid — a gas grill.

Over the years, I have assembled all of those things with varying degrees of success and, often, injury. I once put together a plant stand that took me as long as it would take a kindergartner to read “War and Peace.”

In Russian.

And printed instructions are no help. Trying to understand them fills my eyes with more glaze than a Christmas ham. I just look at the pictures, count the packaged pieces (screws, washers and especially nuts, of which I am the biggest) and hope for the best.

I would have an easier time transcribing the Dead Sea Scrolls.

My worst experience was putting together a gas grill. It was the first one my wife, Sue, and I owned and did not come already assembled. So, naturally, I had to do it.

The project lasted roughly a week, during which time I let loose with invectives of such hair-raising magnitude that the neighbors went inside and locked their doors.

When I was finished, there were pieces left over.

The first time I had to use the grill, I stepped back and asked Sue to push the button. I felt like a mobster who makes his wife start his car.

At least the grill didn’t blow up. Fortunately, every subsequent one has come preassembled.

That sadly wasn’t the case with the entertainment center that Sue and I once put together. Nothing tests a marriage like teaming up on a project that both of you are helpless to complete without scaring the wits out of the children and the family dog.

This latest do-it-yourself job — with the love seat and chairs — was necessary because the old patio furniture was either decrepit or broken. And I needed someplace to sit so I could drink beer.

Sue ordered a table that our contractor helped us put together, though not without a bit of frustration even on his part.

“This must have been made in China on a Friday afternoon at a quarter to 5,” he said.

Sue also ordered two chairs that our son-in-law kindly came over and put together.

This time, she ordered a love seat and another chair.

When the items arrived, in two huge boxes, I asked the delivery guys if they had ever assembled furniture.

“No,” said the older one. “I think I could do it, but it’s better to get somebody else.”

The younger one added, “I just deliver it.”

So it was up to my son-in-law — with my questionable help — to put the love seat and the chair together.

“No one deserves both the death penalty and the Nobel Prize more than the guy who designed this,” my son-in-law said while working on the love seat.

“He’d never get the electric chair,” I noted, “because someone like me would have to put it together.”

The most maddening part was tightening the screws with an Allen wrench, also called an Allen key or, more appropriately, a hex key.

“The long arm is too long and the short arm is too short,” my son-in-law said as his fingers turned purple. I’m surprised he didn’t break a nail.

When the love seat was finished, I helped him with the chair by holding the frame and arms. My frame cramped and my arms ossified.

But it was worth the effort because the patio furniture looks beautiful. Now I can relax out there with a cold beer. And I don’t need a master’s degree in nuclear engineering to open the bottle.

Copyright 2023 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, August 6, 2023

"The Garden of Eatin' "

By Jerry Zezima

My wife has ants in her plants. She also has rabbits and squirrels and birds, oh, my!

These creatures have been eating the vegetables in Sue’s garden. In retaliation, my green-thumbed sweetheart has been waging a constant battle to stop the pesky invaders from decimating the fruits of her labors.

“They’re destroying my zucchini!” Sue moaned recently after discovering that some creepy critters had been gorging on the thick courgettes that she takes supreme pleasure in making me eat.

To put it mildly, I am not a fan of squash, although I do like tennis. Sue is also growing cucumbers, which I hate, too, so it’s a good thing I don’t play pickleball.

Anyway, she is at her wit’s end with these creatures. (With me, she is only at her half-wit’s end.)

The question is: How do we get rid of them?

Answer: Dynamite.

As an animal lover, I don’t suggest harming the fine feathered, feelered and furry friends that are feasting and fattening in a feeding frenzy.

Instead, I think the explosives should be used on the veggies themselves. Or maybe a controlled burn would do the trick, though with my luck it would burn out of control, spread to the house and incinerate all the really good and healthful stuff I love to eat, like Twinkies and beef jerky.

I admit that this is a garden-variety problem, but it really bugs (we have plenty of them as well) the dedicated people, like Sue, who grow things that their otherwise appreciative spouses, like me, can’t stand.

That’s why I really shouldn’t complain that an unidentified rodent has been nibbling at the broccoli. If I could talk to the animals — a bunny would probably respond by asking me what’s up — I would encourage them to wolf down every last head, stalk and leaf popping up out of our small patch of earth.

I would also politely ask them to lay off the crops I actually like, such as tomatoes, string beans and eggplant.

Then there are the herbs: Herb Alpert, Herb Brooks and Herb Shriner. No, sorry, I mean parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, which Sue is growing, though not to the tune of “Scarborough Fair.”

Now you may be thinking: This is nature, you idiot! And the animals were here first.

I beg to differ. Sue and I have lived in our house — and on our property, including the garden — for 25 years. No ant, rabbit, squirrel or bird lives that long. So we were here first.

I have proof. It’s called a mortgage. Maybe I should charge the critters rent for taking up residence on our grounds. Sometimes the smaller ones, like flies and bees, get into the house. When I tell them to buzz off, they don’t listen. It’s maddening.

So Sue has resorted to using a spray that supposedly repels vermin. (I’m surprised she hasn’t used it on me.)

There are many such products on the market, all claiming to get rid of garden pests without poisoning them. And therein lies the problem: They don’t work.

This has spawned lots of do-it-yourself remedies. Some gardeners swear by a mixture of water and hot red pepper, then swear at the solution because it turns out to be no solution at all.

I would opt for beer, just to get the little critters stinking drunk, but why waste my supply?

Of course, I could put up a scarecrow with my photo on the face, but that would be cruelty to animals.

In the end, gardeners like Sue must learn to live in harmony with God’s creatures. And I think they should eat all the zucchini they damn well please.

Copyright 2023 by Jerry Zezima