Marolt: Fun is turning the common cold into something extreme
Sitting at the Hickory House bar, sweat pouring off my forehead like spring runoff from the receding snow line, it occurred to me that we really do enjoy some pain in our lives. Like everything else, we like it if we are in control and don’t when we are not.
Chicken wings are not like hammers. They don’t hurt if you drop them on your toes or bang your thumbs with them. They don’t leave bruises. Nonetheless, they burn your tongue and sting your lips if they are the hot, spiced up kind you get in places where you can watch sports on television while you eat.
I was with my friends, members of the football chain gang, a group that delights in “busting each other’s balls,” as they say in the business of being middle-aged men creating nothing but a good excuse to get out and raise measured doses of hell on autumn Friday nights of home games. We like to tell jokes, punch each other in the shoulders and bluntly point out how inept we are at life. It’s a lot of fun.
It’s a contest to see who can endure the most pain. It’s why I brought my own bottle of crushed scorpion pepper to send back to the kitchen with a request to sprinkle a little on a large order of wings. I knew something was exaggerated in translation when the bottle came back empty, just before the wings came out and made everyone’s eyes water from the fumes. Before the swinging doors to the kitchen closed, I made contact with one of the cooks. He was laughing.
Silently doing the math as a group project, we each knew our individual quota was six to consume. What followed was a festival of moans and groans. Grown men wiped tears from their eyes and blew their noses completely through soggy paper napkins saturated in hot sauce. The pain was too intense to concentrate on conversation. There was hyperventilation of cool breaths. Lips flamed and cheeks stung as swear words filled the air before drifting into the dining room where families tried to ignore the ruckus from the bar. There were hiccups.
Declarations that not another one could be consumed were made as hands reached for yet another wing. Bones stacked up like trophies. Fists were bumped and beer glasses clinked over the successful consumption of capsacin-laced poultry, as if a cure for being a wuss was being discovered. We lived for the moment, never considering what the morrow might bring.
It is a funny thing in these parts that we run to the brink of human limits of endurance. We ride our bicycles through leg cramps and burning lungs. A day on the slopes is hardly worth the effort unless we drag ourselves home at the brink of exhaustion. Crested Butte is hardly far enough for a day-hike. Some even carry their own bags when they golf!
We dump buckets of sweat on gym floors and wear out the bearings in treadmills to get in good enough shape to prolong all of the suffering we put ourselves through doing the things we live here to do. We love the pain of this mountain lifestyle.
This brings me to things like hangnails and the common cold. Why are we such wimps about these? Neither is as painful as the Power of Four mountain bike or randone ski races. They don’t even last as long when you consider the weeks and months of agonizing training for these events.
It is telling in how we deal with things like catching a bug that gives us the sniffles for a week to 10 days. Only a rare individual will face up to the fact that it is just a cold. Most complain that it is the worst virus that anyone has ever contracted — every time they catch one. How many billions of dollars do Americans spend every winter on remedies that only mask the symptoms?
I think the solution is to turn the common cold into a competition. If it becomes our own choice to contract the sickness to try to make it as bad as possible, I think we might actually come to enjoy it. The next time you see an obviously miserable person with watery eyes and snot dripping over their upper lip, I dare you to give them a big hug. Catch a cold on your terms and hope for the worst. It could be a lot of fun.
Roger Marolt is psyched about the sniffles. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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