I live in Western New York. Barring an 8 month period in 2007, during which I lived in Georgia , I have lived in this area since 1988. I sit here at the tail end of April 2009 enjoying the second spring-like day this area has experienced this year. I say spring-like 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 to a perfume counter with a sheet of paper . 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.