This Side of the Pond – Feb. 23

By Sarah Pridgeon

Apologies for the brief lapse in communication last week – I was suffering from what I have come to refer to as The Cold, which put a hamper on my usual productivity. I’m sure you know exactly which The Cold I mean, because everyone I come across seems to have been afflicted by it.

Thanks to this unhappy fact, I wasn’t alone in my suffering. I’m not sure if that made things better or worse.

For several days, the inhabitants of this office trudged back and forth, moaning gently and arguing over who should take charge of the box of tissues. As with many jobs, there wasn’t really much thought of taking a break – the news doesn’t stop for any man, woman or germ.

And so we suffered bravely, although, by “bravely”, I do of course mean, “with a shocking amount of complaining interspersed with wistful daydreams about crawling back into bed”. During that sad time, this building was the modern equivalent of those dreadful hospitals you see on British period dramas, where the patients look miserable and the doctors wander around with pots of leeches.

The Cold happened to coincide with the busiest week of the month for me personally. For two days, I bounce back and forth between various important meetings that you, dear reader, would like to hear about.

Now, being British, I go to great lengths not to make a fuss about such things, but it doesn’t always work as well as I think it has. This was particularly evident when The Cold reached the peak of its evil.

In my mind, I strode over to the courthouse and boldly took my seat at the back of the County Commissioners’ room, where I maintained a straight-backed posture and poker face that gave away no indication of my suffering.

This was not what everyone else saw. Outside my bubble of self-delusion, those who were unlucky enough to encounter me assumed they were witnessing a Halloween costume based on the character of Pigpen, except that the cloud surrounding me was comprised entirely of plague.

I wiggled in my seat a lot, that I will admit. I couldn’t seem to find a position that didn’t exacerbate my aches and pains or make my nose run even faster than it already was.

A pathetic situation was made worse by the fact that my body had chosen a different strategy to fight The Cold than everyone else’s. The sneezes of my comrades had been punctuating the air for days, so I expected something along those lines to be my fate.

Oh no, that would be too easy, wouldn’t it? Nostrils aren’t the only exit route on the human face, so why should they be the one my body wanted to use? Naturally, my antibodies decided it would be more effective to remove every ounce of gunk via my right eye.

It wasn’t a problem to start off with, though I did appear profoundly depressed. It was only when my eye decided its good nature had been abused for long enough that things became problematic.

At that point, my eye began to swell. It continued to do so for the rest of the day such that, by the time I crawled under my bedsheets, I couldn’t see out of it at all. The poor thing had essentially glued itself shut.

Nobody had a pirate patch handy, so I was just going to have to wing it. Had I realized how quickly my appearance was deteriorating, I might have foreseen the inevitable, but I did not.

For a full two and a half hours, I sat in that chair attempting to see what was going on. I tried various postures, the most successful of which was to lean on the stack of chairs next to me and hold my eye open with my fingers. The downside was that I resembled my dog after I’ve been chasing her round for half an hour and she’s wound up to the point of being crazed, but at least I could see.

It was only later that evening (a time span I was measuring in the number of used tissues by my chair) that I was able to look at the situation from everyone else’s perspective. It suddenly dawned on me that all may not have appeared quite so innocent as I thought.

During the part of my wiggle cycle when I was attempting to sit upright, I had had no choice but to let my right eye close itself, as it had been trying to do all afternoon. For those who were facing me, that would have appeared very much as though I was winking.

I wish to apologize to our County Commissioners, who must have thought the squirming Brit in the back row was trying to send them secret messages. I did not mean to be such a distraction to your regular business that afternoon.

Fortunately – despite The Cold’s insistence on hanging around – it’s back to regular business for us now. I can once again walk the hallowed halls of the courthouse without risking my reputation, and those who I pass are less likely to be left wondering what I’m trying to tell them.

If you succumb to The Cold yourself, dear reader, I must offer my sincere sympathies and hope that you feel better before you know it. As a piece of advice while you recuperate, may I suggest staying far, far away from official government meetings.