The day after I shaved my first mustache, a relentless and all consuming sickness came over me in the form of a terrible cold. My body would shiver, then sweat. My throat grew sore, and my muscles ached as if I had been lifting large weights as part of an intensive exercise regimen.
I can assure you that was not the case.
The Cold Hard Truth About Being a Bubble Boy
This has happened to me before — getting sick. I’m prone to these bouts, I’m a bonafide bubble boy with all the trimmings; allergies to dust mites, trees, nuts, cats; brittle and easily conquered by bacteria and viral attacks — such has been my life.
Woe is me.
I try and act tough, but I am not a strong man. Once infiltrated by some prying infection, the invaders turn my entire body against me in a laughably simple act of mutiny, and I am left zombified to a crisp.
My energies trickle out one by one until I’m rendered immobile on the couch or the living room floor, begging my fiance for tea and sips of purple Gatorade.
I dress in sweaters and heavy socks. I instruct all residents of the building to bring me anything made out of wool. Fires are erected, and all spare materials are sent to feed the flames intended to stop me from being cold.
And then I fall asleep. Only to wake up in a drippy mess of sweat and confusion. Out with the fires. Off with the wool. How many pairs of sweatpants am I wearing? Three! That is impossible. The cardigans come off, and the winter hat goes back to whence it came.
Cold. Hot. Cold. Hot. Cold.
I am a poor sight indeed. Complaining. Whining. Pondering my eventual doom brought on by the latest of whatever ails me. I am one big baby.
Then I get better, life goes on, and I go on my way as if nothing ever happened.
But one thing I’ve always wanted for these difficult times is a good thermometer. I feel cold. And then hot. But what am I really? I have all the other tools; a medicine cabinet full of remedies and placebos; tissue boxes ordered in bulk; eye masks and heating pads; a good humidifier; juices and elixirs.
Why no thermometer?
Brief Notes and Information About An Exceptional American Retailer
So I decided to take action. And that meant a trip to an exceptional local retailer. That meant a trip — to Target.
If you didn’t know before, Target is an exceptional American retailer who, according to Wikipedia, “offers a multitude of goods.”
Here’s another neat fact, did you know that there is something called a SuperTarget? And that they are numerous and plentiful, particularly in larger states like Florida and Texas?
Also according to Wikipedia, “97% of American consumers recognize the Target Bullseye logo.”
Again, no surprise there.
Question is ...
Who’s that other three-percent?
And so, I headed to Target on a mission to obtain a thermometer. I knew this would not make me better, but I had to do something. I had to act. I had to know whether or not I was cold or hot!
A Brilliant Target Pharmacist Helps Me Find the One True Thermometer
When you’re sick, it’s hard to do anything, especially when it comes to shopping because you have to make decisions. And when there are several thermometers to choose from it can be very troubling, even traumatic to be shopping alone.
There is not enough energy or life force to scroll through Amazon reviews on my phone. I am in need of assistance.
I choose to speak to a real-live human being person. He will help me. He is a pharmacist. Or at least, he is a younger man with a shiny head standing behind the area that says “Pharmacy.”
Excuse me, sir. Are any of these thermometers better than the others?
He does not speak. His head shakes back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, a near perfect rhythm.
These are all the same? These thermometers?
He makes a subtle change; what was once back and forth is now up and down. I understand this motion, too. It means “yes.”
So I don’t need to buy the $20 one?
The head goes back and forth or even side-to-side, I suppose. This man speaks no words when it comes to the careful deconstruction of competing thermometer products.
I wonder if he trains other employees in his methods. He could be selling out customer service seminars all over the world — charging small fortunes to pass on his superior and ancient methods of communication.
Lesson One: Never use words when simple head movements are enough to provide a response. Keep it simple. Up. Down. Left. Right. Now practice. Up. Down. Left. Right.
So this one is OK? This thermometer right here? The $10 one?
I raise $10 thermometer up in the air to show him. Up and down. Up and down.
Good enough for me.
I skip the self-checkout lines because they suck and I have no patience for how bad I am at using them. I prefer a human to help me with my purchases. Before I know it, my achy body is back on the streets of the Fenway neighborhood, desperate for blankets and Netflix.
A Stranger Speaks At A Familiar Crosswalk, Lives Change Forever
I stand there, at the crosswalk. It is deep into Fall, and although the hour is still early, the sky is already falling and has almost disappeared completely.
I push the crosswalk button. This is a very familiar crosswalk for me.
I’ve been crossing it for years. I know that it will be a long wait because I see the light change to green on my way out of the Target.
A man approaches.
He wears an orange winter hat and a curious grin.
The man appears antsy. He is shuffling his feet. I ignore him. I think about my new $10 thermometer. And then, the stranger does the unthinkable. He speaks.
Do I look ready?
Yes. I think so.
I’m not sure what he looks ready for. Murdering? Serial killing? He is much taller than me. He is the kind of tall that knows they are a little too tall and so they slouch a tiny bit.
I have no problem responding to crazy people. So yes, I told the man that he “looked ready.” For what, I do not know?
If it was for climbing a mountain, obtaining a gun license, or winning a spelling bee, I’m sure my response would not have been correct. But I doubt he was wondering about any of those things.
And the man is still here. He speaks again.
I have my winter hat. (He points)
I have my new shoes. (He points)
And I have my cool phone. (He points)
BINGO. This guy is batshit crazy. He’s bobbing and smiling and going through his outfit, excited to check-off each item out loud and for an audience of one stranger — me. I wanted to start listing off my own inventory; jacket; boat shoes; cool phone; thermometer, betcha don’t have that; wool socks; and boom, gloves.
But I do not.
I see my escape route laid out ahead of me. Any second now and this interaction will be over. But then, for some reason, I am speaking.
That settles it.
You are ready.
Do you have a date?
He seems so excited about the things he chose to bring with him tonight. Why not a date? He could be on his way to a date. Who that woman might be I’m unable to picture in my mind, but there must be one.
No, not tonight.
Then what are you ready for?
But not tonight? When.
He responds with this:
“Who knows. She’s a 40-year-old Asian woman. Look at me I’m a 57-year-old man. We’ve been on six dates.”
This was getting interesting. Seconds after meeting for the first time, as strangers, at a crosswalk, this man, who is bobbing up-and-down, ansty, and potentially lopsided, wearing an orange hat, wants to talk relationships.
So when’s the seventh date?
I don’t know.
“She’s stalling because sex is in the picture now. And she’s scared because she has an eight-year-old daughter. She has a husband back in China, but they don’t like each other which is why she is seeing me. But she doesn’t want the kid to know. So no sex, yet.”
Well, that’s a shame.
Keep trying, friend.
The man doesn’t seem disheartened by his attempts to court this woman he speaks of, just a little frustrated by the lack of physical intimacy.
To the surprise of us both, the walk sign lights up, safe passage is granted. He’s still bobbing, bouncing up-and-down like he just wasn’t meant to ever be still.
I really am too sick to be murdered right now. Please orange hat man, turn in a different direction.
And then he speaks, again.
It’ll be OK.
You know why?
Because I’m the Terminator.
And I just keep on coming back.
The man in the orange hat laughs, maniacally, and with a thunderous depth that makes me believe beyond any doubt that I may very well have to start running, and fast.
But I am mistaken. He politely says goodnight and takes a right turn, allowing me to go about my night and subsequently — the rest of my life.
And then it dawns on me. I just met the Terminator. And lived.
I see it so clearly now — the Terminator and his new found love in a heated and forbidden romance. She, a beautiful younger woman from the East, whose evil tyrant of a husband remains overseas, is torn between her duties as a wife and the passion she feels in her heart for an older American man with an orange hat and a mischievous slouch.
Goodbye, Terminator. And good luck in your romantic endeavours. I have no doubt that your strategy of persistence through returning over and over again into this woman's life will pay off in due time.
Back to the Apartment to Try My New Thermometer
Upon settling back into the warmth of my apartment, stocked with blankets, pillows, and slippers to comfort me in my sickly state, I rip open the thermometer and immediately bypass the folded instruction booklet.
Finally, the truth awaits.
I am no scientist, but over the years, of which I have thirty-three under my belt now, it has been thoroughly drilled into my brain that anything around 98.5 means neither warm or cold. Let’s check again.
Well, at least I know that I can be cold, and hot, and sick, and have absolutely no internal temperature issues whatsoever.
I would go on to be sick for several days. In fact, I am still sick now. Some things have gotten better and others worse.
I am blanketing myself this very moment. I've consumed tea with honey and lemon. I've watched every episode of the new Aziz Ansar Netflix show. I've abandoned all hope only to be brought back to the brink of life by a delicious lime-flavored popsicle.
But if I hadn’t got sick then I would have never convinced myself I needed a thermometer. And if had never convinced myself that I needed a thermometer then I would have never met the Terminator.
And my life would be poorer for it. Remember, sometimes a stranger is just a stranger — and not a serial killer.
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