The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Budd McLaughlin

January 9, 2013

The flu bug has sights set on me

— It’s amazing how history often repeats.

My Sunday column was about a trip to Nashville taken by me and my flu-stricken family three years ago on the night of the SEC Championship game.

On Saturday, my wife and I again made a trip to Nashville on the night of the SEC championship game, with ironically similar results — my wife has the flu, and I find myself praying I don’t also succumb to the virus.

After returning from Tennessee on Sunday morning, she promptly went to bed with thermometer in mouth. “One hundred-point-seven,” she said to me after the thermometer beeped.

I then loaded her back into the car and took her to a doc-in-the-box on U.S. 72. Being late Sunday morning, I figured it wouldn’t be that crowded.

How wrong can a man be?

The fact that we pulled into the last parking space in the parking lot was a preview of what was to come. Sure enough, the waiting room was full of men, women and children who were hacking, sneezing, coughing, sniffling and moaning quietly.

“It will be about an hour and a half,” said the chipper girl behind the front desk.

It was immediately clear to me that an hour and a half of breathing in the germs of 30 sick patrons — and the fact my feverish wife insisted that she lean on me — was not going to be good for my own health.

For a moment, I thought I was in a tuberculosis sanitarium. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, had a horrible cough, and only about half were covering their mouths.

A woman sitting across the waiting room had a “Please shoot me” look on her face. At one point, she fell asleep, or passed out, in her chair. The two women sitting next her kept staring at the sleeping woman and whispering to each other as if they were asking, “Do you think we should poke her with a stick?”

A couple of minutes later, the near-dead woman’s name was called and she was on her feet and on her way back to see THE doctor. And I say THE doctor, because this particular doc-in-the-box had only one doctor on duty to care for about 30 to 40 patients.

After being in the waiting room for more than an hour, a father and son team walked in. The son sat about two chairs down from me and coughed repeatedly.

Even worse, every time a name would be called, the adolescent germ factory would turn to his sleeping dad and say, “How much longer?”

I wanted to say, “Look kid, we’ve been here for a lot longer than you, so you’re going to be here a while. So just play with your ‘Angry Birds,’ shut up and cover your mouth when you cough. Jeez!”

After an hour and a half of waiting and breathing in the toxic bubonic fumes of the dying, the wife’s name was finally called and we walked slowly to the back. She made ME carry her purse.

After the cursory weigh-in and blood pressure check, we were escorted to a room where we waited a while longer. The wife curled up into a fetal position on the exam table and then asked me if the “foot part would pull out any more.”

“I don’t really think they want you messing up that white paper,” I told her, as she groaned in agony.

A while later a nurse came in and stuck a cotton swab up her nose. About 15 minutes after that, a different nurse confirmed our worst fears.

“It’s the flu,” she said.

It was at that point I kind of zoned out and immediately began devising a game plan on how I could avoid this horrible fate.

Since the diagnosis, I’ve had enough Vitamin C to ensure a case of Rickets, if I don’t catch the flu. My other plan has been to stay as far away from my wife as possible, but she insists on sitting in my chair, fondling the remote controls and other things that I also touch.

Hopefully, it will steer clear of me, but I’m not optimistic. I guess I should have taken advantage of that drive-through flu clinic in Athens back in September (see page 8).

Here’s hoping you stay well through the rest of the flu season.

— Managing editor Adam Smith can be reached at

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Budd McLaughlin


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