Baltimore Sun

Sniffle Wars: The Sinus Infection Awakens

Every sign that man ever inhabited a place can be obliterated by nature. Pyramids, tombs, ancient cities are discovered hidden beneath jungle growth that gives no hint of what lies within.

Modern civilization wouldn't fare much better in the aftermath of Armageddon or the zombie apocalypse. Eventually even the Empire State Building would be just a giant topiary. Basically, when Mother Nature moves in, there goes the neighborhood.


Even front lawns. You mow, and four days later you're digging your Chihuahua out of a waving field of grain. Given the chance, nature always wins. Remember that.

I don't get sick. Every now and then one of my internal organs explodes and has to be dealt with; but I rarely "catch" anything.


My superhuman immune system came from raising three kids whose adult versions now visit me bringing sneezing, sniffling, and coughing the way some kids bring the grandchildren. But I survive it.

Then, last weekend, I took a nature walk beside a glistening lake. The sky was blue; the temperature were halfway between chilly and "Let's skinny-dip!" A steady breeze off the water gave shaded areas a wind-chill of –15 degrees.

The packed-earth trail held a few surprises: large muddy patches, some deep puddles. It was like playing Candy Land without a net. But I was determined to follow that path to the end or die trying.

By the time I fetched up against the shoreline, I had wet feet, and an earache; my hands and feet were numb with cold, and my sciatica was acting up. I turned and began trudging back.

The next day I awoke feeling "funny." The same kind of "funny" feeling that preceded my legendary cage-match with influenza in the winter of '96.

I had a full-blown clogged-ears, throbbing-sinuses, aching-teeth, swollen-faced, totally miserable sinus infection. This was it. I was in Death's waiting room, and my number (4) would soon be called. I decided to review my will, leaving everything to the cats.

Some days later—I'd lost track of time—a muffled voice inside my head said, "Get up and brush your teeth." Only it wasn't coming from inside my big, fat, helium-balloon head; it was Doug.

In the bathroom, the mirror showed me what Doug had been nursing all week like a cranky, balding Florence Nightingale: I was a gargoyle with the plague. The scream that escaped my dry, cracked lips sounded like a wounded water buffalo begging to be put down.


All the time I lay abed, my eyebrows — each of which I painstakingly tweeze into the shape of a punctuation mark (one, a comma; the other, a semicolon) had turned into a wild brush.

I thought of the pyramids, the tombs, the ancient cities. Mother Nature was burying my face, via my eyebrows, like a lost civilization.

To find and bring back my "real" eyebrows, I'd need Indiana Jones, ground-penetrating radar, satellites, infrared photography, X-ray vision, the Large Hadron Collider, and dousing rods. And a hedge-trimmer.

Doug's not a Boy Scout, but he was prepared. While I lay in a dreamless, antihistamine-induced coma, he placed hidden video cameras everywhere. Using the raw footage, he created a time-lapse video of my eyebrows' descent into chaos. It was like an outtake from "The Wolfman."

Days passed and, somehow, I'm nearly well now. Doug's hedge-trimmer, flecked with eyebrow hair, is back on its hook in the garage. I took a Silkwood-style decontamination shower and Doug took his HAZMAT suit to the cleaners. All that's left to do is to burn the bedsheets.. Best of all, the township condemned our home and plans to use our property as a landfill. Win-win!