Steve Chapman
Recently, after a couple of days of feeling a bit run down, I groused to my wife that I didn't feel bad enough to miss work, just bad enough to make work a lot harder than usual. "It might be nice to feel bad enough to have to stay home," I said sardonically.

Scratch that thought. The microbes have ears. A couple of days later, I had gotten my rash wish -- complete with cough, sneezing, scratchy throat, wooly head and an enveloping fatigue that banished any thought of going to work.

Well, not any thought. I've heard a lot about Catholic guilt and Jewish guilt, and one of these days I will find out what it is that makes Catholics and Jews feel guilty. But I can attest that nothing wracks the conscience of someone raised Protestant like failing to carry out one's occupational duties in a timely and efficient manner.

If you can breathe, my conscience advises, you can work. My body, however, says: "Ha. Ha. Ha. I'm not working, and that angel on your shoulder can't make me."

My body does not take this illness lightly. My body likes to think it's dying. It has fantasies of appearing in the sequel to "Les Miserables."

My work ethic is somewhat appeased that my superiors are not eager for me to show up at the office, bringing my germs with me. But I can't shake the fear that they think I'm faking so I can stay home and watch the entire first season of "Homeland."

I'm used to being at odds with prevailing fashion: I can't bring myself to wear stylish jeans, I've never seen a Quentin Tarantino film, and my idea of a cutting-edge singer is George Strait. So it came as a surprise to learn I am now part of a big trend.

"The country is in the grip of three emerging flu or flu-like epidemics: an early start to the annual flu season with an unusually aggressive virus, a surge in a new type of norovirus, and the worst whooping cough outbreak in 60 years." So reports The New York Times. The Centers for Disease Control says this is the worst flu season in a decade.

That may be too optimistic. Slate says that based on Google searches, "it seems almost certain that the most recent CDC figures are underestimating the outbreak's current magnitude."

I was one of those people searching flu symptoms on Google, but the doctor I saw said I had an "upper respiratory infection." Instead of high fever, aches and chills, I have the nagging sensation that a porcupine has invaded my throat and an NFL lineman is sitting on my chest.

Until they decide to vacate, I'm housebound, following a monotonous routine: Sleep late, get up, have something to eat, get halfway through the newspaper, go back to bed. Repeat as able.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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