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Sunday, December 01, 2013

Tasteless

I have a cold. This shouldn't be a big deal, but it is.

I've had colds before. If you seek medical treatment for a cold, the saying goes, it will be gone in about seven days, but if you leave it untreated, it will clear itself up in a week or so. I've been self-medicating with Robitussin, chicken soup, and the occasional tea/lemon juice/honey/alcohol concoction. The first hint of a symptom was last Friday, when I stepped out of a mall and into my car and had a coughing fit. I found myself in an extremely stressful situation Monday evening, which knocked me for a loop. By Tuesday I was starting to feel more obviously sickly, but I had the day off from work and paid little heed. Wednesday was another day off and I treated it as a sick day. By Thanksgiving I was really getting there, and spent most of the day at work sucking cough drops and trying not to frighten the few people who called in. The most blatant symptom came as I left work and headed out to pick up a friend to go out for Thanksgiving dinner, a friend who would otherwise be alone. I knew I wouldn't have time to stop home and freshen up after work, so I had packed some after shave in the car. I sprayed it on my wrists and rubbed it on my neck, just below the bend in the jaw under the ears, and I noticed that it had no smell. I sniffed my wrists directly and - nothing. Dammit. the cold temperatures in the car must have somehow...I dunno, deactivated the molecules of scent, or bound them to the alcohol that was refusing to evaporate, or....something?

I picked up my friend a half-hour later than planned, thanks to a last-minute call at work. We ran off to make a visit to a hospital, our umpteenth in the past few weeks. But this was the first time I stayed completely out of the room, since now there was no denying that I was sick, and the person we were visiting would not respond well to getting what I had.  We then sped off to the restaurant where we had planned our Thanksgiving feast. It was less crowded than I expected, with a few other couples, a few happy families, and one woman who sat alone and stared into the middle distance. I ordered the Thanksgiving special and my friend, who informed me that she hates turkey, ordered a steak. My friend excused herself from the table after we ordered, and while she was away the server brought out my coffee. I sniffed at it after I added creamer and sugar and smelled nothing. Drinking it, I tasted nothing at all, as though I were drinking slightly thickened hot water.

When my friend returned to the table I asked her to smell the coffee to confirm that it had no aroma. She sniffed at it and said it smelled like coffee.

Uh-oh.

Our dinners came out. Mine tasted fine: turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes with walnuts, green beans, cranberry relish. But the coffee continued to taste like hot water.

The next night I was with this same friend after a poetry reading. I had trimmed my planned three-shorts-and-a-long to a single long piece, which I shouted out as best I could with a voice that had mostly vanished overnight. She made us tea, a special cookies and cream team to which she added some little gingerbread cookies. I smelled - something, though I couldn't place it. I drank the tea and ate the cookies, and neither had much taste to me. I found one more bit floating at the bottom of the mug, and happily scooped it out with the spoon. I put it in my mouth and bit down. It tasted like the cookies, but had a weird texture - almost like canvas.

I realized I was eating the tea bag, and removed it from my mouth as nonchalantly as possible.

I know I still had a sense of smell late Wednesday evening. It disappeared sometime Thursday, and hasn't been back since. I tasted some key lime pie yesterday - sour tastes seem to be fine, but any of the many "tastes" that rely primarily on smell are still absent. I smelled the coffee I made this morning, and the fresh jar as I opened it, but the coffee had little taste to it.

I think I'm on the tail end of this.

I should have been isolating myself this past week, but I've been a selfish bastard about my precious traces of a social life, and have probably exposed dozens of people to what I've got. I've been keeping out of the house as much as possible, but even so may have managed to infect one or more family members. I'm hoping not. But that's cold season for you.

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