Saturday, April 25, 2009

Hit Hard but Not Knocked Out

I live in Western New York. Barring an 8 month period in which I lived in Georgia in 2007, I have lived in this area since 1988. I sit here at the tail end of April 2009 enjoying the second springesque day the area has experienced this year. I say springesque because, as a native Georgian, I am convinced that spring never truly occurs here. Some joke that only two seasons occur in Western New York: winter and construction. I contend that this is (in part) incorrect. Actually, Western New York DOES have two seasons but they are: winter and not-winter. For a very short time, the temperature is warm enough to be not-winter.  The rest of the year, I could be happy to be part bear and hibernate for the winter season which some years runs from mid September to early May. I kid you not folks. My first year in Western New York, it was snowing on Mother’s Day.

 Regardless of the fact that I have, once again, injected some mindless minutiae into your day (one of my claims to fame), I am not here to address geography or weather. Yes, geography and weather can affect a person’s mood, body language, and general outlook on life. However, there is a greater entity than these that can have a much greater effect. Every day, people choose the color of their vehicle, their diet, and even their daily routine based on a great driving force —allergies.

An allergy is, by definition, an unusual sensitivity to something that provokes a strong, radical reaction from the person who has said allergy.  Reactions can range from a rash or sneezing to very nasty (even fatal) outcomes. Ask a person what the word allergy means to them and they will point out either the allergen or its affect on the person or environment (sometimes both). I did an informal poll recently. I got (among others) the following responses:

·         Pets – One friend even stipulated “big honking fuzzy cats”. Apparently, he is allergic to colossal felines that are retrofitted with a car horn.

·         Green, yucky noses on small children. My sister stated this is the pre-school teacher response. I assume this is because the green yucky noses wind up accenting her chosen apparel on that particular day.

·         Flowers – I have hear of people allergic to all different types of flowers (roses, lilacs, orchids, goldenrod…the list goes on). This leads to the next allergen.

·         Pollen – Having lived in the Southeastern US, I can tell you that is the allergic equalizer. It not only gives person bloodshot eyes, a runny nose, and fits of sneezing. It also coats your house and car with that nice shade of yellow. People in the North wash their cars to get the salt off in the winter. People in the South do it to get the pollen off in the spring.

·         Having the general appearance (and feeling) that you have been hit by an iron skillet. This is due to the bloodshot eyes, runny nose, and fits of sneezing. This not only affects sleep (which doesn’t help your appearance at all). It has a wonderful effect on the voice that can transform a mezzo soprano to a basso profundo in one violent sneeze.

Given the aforementioned responses to my informal survey, it is easy to see that allergies indeed form a very powerful force. This powerful force has caused people to use a variety of solutions in order to have a bearable existence. Some change their diet due to food allergies. Some use routine medication. However, many people (including yours truly), simply use avoidance. Some avoid by moving to a different part of the country (at which point a potential set of NEW allergies can be introduced). Others simply remove the offending allergen from their home and do their best to avoid such outside of their home.  For example, I have an allergy to certain fragrances that can be found in perfumes, deodorants, air fresheners, scented candles, Etc. This has resulted in the fact that my wife seldom gets a new bottle of perfume. I have actually gone shopping with a sheet of paper to a perfume counter. I spray the perfume on the paper and sniff the paper. If my reaction is: “That smells pretty. My wife will love this.” that brand is placed on a list of potential purchases. If my reaction is immediate eye watering, violent coughing, and a series of sneezes; I catch my breath, blow my nose, and move onto the next brand of perfume. My wife cannot bear to witness this routine. She simply waits until I get home, graciously accepts the perfume, gives me antihistamine, and puts me to bed. She then puts away the perfume and NEVER wears it. I wish I was the only one in the house stricken by this allergy. Sadly, I am joined by my daughter. The even sadder fact is that we are allergic to EACH OTHER’S fragrances. My daughter and I have actually spent an entire afternoon together armed with our own sheet of paper. We go through each other’s fragrances and weed out offending allergens. It’s a simple routine: spray, sniff, cough, NEXT. When it is over, we throw out the offending fragrances and my wife puts us both to bed. The combined antihistamine and nap work together to help us mourn the loss of our purchases.

It is true that living with allergies is frustrating at best. Nonetheless, I will continue to fight this powerful force. I am reminded of Tex Cobb who fought in a boxing match against Larry Holmes in 1982. Holmes pummeled Cobb in round after round using the left jab that made Larry Holmes famous. Cobb lost the fight by decision. It is easily one of the most brutal matches I have ever witnessed. What is more noteworthy is that fact that, in 15 rounds, Tex Cobb was NEVER off his feet until the bell rang. Larry Holmes won the match but he did NOT defeat Tex Cobb.

So, hear me now allergies, you have met your Tex Cobb. I will fight the powerful force that you are everyday.  You may hit me hard but you will never put me out. I WILL NOT BE DEFEATED.  Now, if the rest of you will excuse me, I need to lie down. I was typing most of this outdoors with my laptop. As a result, my eyes are red and my head is pounding. Thanks for the inspiration, Mr. Cobb.


  1. Given that my next post will be my tenth (a major milestone for me), I feel lead to extend the following thanks and acknowledgments:

    • I am a fan of many books, blogs, and podcasts. Among my favorites is Mignon Fogarty’s “Grammar Girl” podcasts. I never thought I would find learning English grammar entertaining. I also feel lead to mention Bonnie Trenga’s blog “The Sentence Sleuth”. Links to both blogs can be found in my blog list. I, therefore, submit all my podcasts with profound apologies to Mignon Fogarty, Bonnie Trenga, and my high school English teacher: Miss Sandra Bath.

    • I would also like to thank Kevin Cummings of Short Cummings Audio (his link is also on my blog list). Thank you very much, Kevin, for your entertaining podcasts as well as your unending kindness and support.

    • Grant Baciocco, Doug Price, and the cast and crew of “The Radio Adventures of Doctor Floyd” ( Your podcasts not only provides a great source of entertainment but one of many wonderful ways to bond with my son, Caleb (don’t forget to call your Dad, Dr. Floyd).

    • Dave Barry, Erma Bombeck, Lewis Grizzard, and Douglas Adams (the latter three of these left us all too soon). I thank you four wonderful writers for your wonderful writings and influencing my warped sense of humor and, as a result, my writing.

    • My departed mother, Norma Jean McAfee, who not only taught me that I could do whatever I set my mind to but also inspired me by HER writing (I miss you, Momma).

    • My dearest friend of nearly thirty years who is closer than a brother, Stephan Curtis aka “Happy”, for your undying love and support (I would have never made it through the last two years without you brother.

    • To Megan Hartman and Nora Rodriguez for being my first two BDGJM followers and sharing your blog with me. Links to Megan’s and Nora’s respective blog can also be found on my blog list.

    • Finally, I want to thank my wife Renee and my kids Tom, Shayna, Brianna, and Caleb for sticking by me and giving me hope just by being whom you are (thanks also to Brianna for helping conceive the name of the blog: BDGJM —Babbling, Drivel, Gibberish, Jibber-Jabber, and Mumbo-Jumbo).

    I sincerely hope that all who view my blog find the joy and entertainment I have gained by many of the books, blogs, and podcasts that have graced my eyes, ears, and mind.

    Thank you very much and have a good day.

    Bye Bye.

    P Shane McAfee

  2. You're very welcome. And thank you for being my first follower.

    As a lifelong allergy sufferer I really enjoyed this article. I particularly liked the imagery of retrofitted cats and violent, voice-changing sneezes.

  3. Thank you, Megan. Terry, your buddy and mine, provided the "big, honking, fuzzy cats". I just found his response so funny that I felt lead to take it to the next level. :)

  4. I read this latest blog to my mom today. She was always a huge fan of Dave Barry, and I knew she'd get a kick out of this story. She laughed at almost the exact same times I did when I first read it.

  5. Wow, thanks, Megan. I am so flattered. Please tell your mom she can read them anytime she wishes. I am thrilled she liked it.


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