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Breaking the fever

March 18, 2011

College spring break - you hear that, and what do you think of?

I'll tell you: fun in the sun, white sand beaches, beers, bikinis, beads, party hearty till the wee hours and all sorts of other hi-jinks.

Well, when I think of it, I think of one thing and one thing only - sleeping late. And last Monday, the first day of my spring break, I didn't get it.

Instead, at the vile hour of 3:55 a.m. the phone hammered me awake.

I managed to croak hello.

"Is this the federal prison?" said a voice.

"No," I said.

The prison's number is one digit off from mine, so it's happened before but never at that hour.

"Is this 518-891-4061?" the voice continued.

"Yes," I said.

"Well, that's the number I have for the prison," he said.

"OK, tell you what," I said, now wide awake and not the least bit delighted at being so. "If ya want, I can go downstairs and see if anyone's incarcerated in my living room."

Then I hung up.

I figured if he's old enough to be up at this hour dialing the wrong number, he's old enough to find the right number all by his lonesome.

Don't know about you, but after I get awakened - no matter what time - I have a lot of trouble going back to sleep. And so I tossed and turned, groused and grumbled for an hour or so, then dozed fitfully for maybe another hour. Finally, I got up.

I was greeted by the same thing I've been greeted by for years - my pets begging for breakfast before starvation laid them to waste before my very eyes.

When I looked out the window I was greeted by something else, something I've been greeted by for months - snow-covered landscape, gray, overcast skies and a 90 percent chance of precipitation.

"Feh," I said, registering my disgust.

Funny thing about my disgust: It, like all my emotions, was maybe half what it used to be, having been destroyed by the fever. "What fever?" you ask? The most obvious one - cabin fever.


Descent into grumpitude

As in all years past, I did fine till a few weeks after Winter Carnival. Then it hit, and there I was: going to bed early but waking up tired, complaining about having no appetite but pigging out on junk food 24-7, surfing the Internet endlessly, with neither purpose nor reward.

Even worse, most of the time I was a miserable grump. And worst of all, I KNEW I was a miserable grump. I mean, I wasn't just a pain in the prat to everyone else, I was my own worst pain in the prat as well.

Of course, no matter how you cut it, we've had a pretty hard winter. We didn't have a lot of sub-zero days, but we had a whole lot of days in single digits or maybe the low teens. We also had a fair amount of snow. And to top it off, we've had precious little sunshine. I haven't kept any systematic records, but I do know out of one 30-day stretch, only four days had sunshine. My sunglasses languished in my glove compartment, rusting or rotting, for all I knew or cared.

So there I was - Biliousness Personified - till last week I got rocked out of it by total chance.

It was late afternoon, and I was walking my mutts down the LaPan Highway. The day was typical - gray, damp and miserable. And my attitude was also gray, damp and miserable. I cursed the puddles, the mud, the dirty snow with various chunks of detritus and dog poop sticking out of it. I was probably cursing darn near everything else when my pity party was interrupted by a bunch of boys coming toward me on the sidewalk.

They were the lacrosse team, and what a sight they were: muddy and soaked to the skin, wearing uniform shirts but their own shorts - huge things that looked like a giant's skivvies. They were a literally a motley crew.

And they were something else as well - an upbeat, cheerful bunch. They were laughing, goofing on each other, actually ENJOYING themselves.

Then it hit me: We're all in the same place, time and weather, but while I'm being a miserable rotter about it, they're doing just fine, thank you.

And if anything, it should be the exact opposite. My extra 40-plus years should've given me the perspective to appreciate where I am and what I've got, and to realize that whining about too much winter in the Adirondacks is as stupid as whining about too much sunshine in Florida.


A kid's eye view

I thought back to when I was a kid. Winters were a lot colder, snowier and longer than they are now but I never had cabin fever or anything remotely like it.

How could that be?

Simple: To me and all us kids, winter was just well, winter. It was long and cold and sometimes downright brutal, but so what? We had no choice about it, so we just accepted and lived with it.

There were winter sports, of course. But beyond that, we just did in the winter what other kids do in warm weather - hung out with pals, wandered around, went in and out of candy stores and soda fountains. In fact, I remember one 20-below-zero day leaving Boynton's candy store, eating a Nutty Buddy ice cream and thinking nothing of it.

Another cabin fever preventive: If I was inside and started complaining to my mother about being bored, she had the stock response of every mother in My Home Town. It was, "Then get your things on and go out and find something to do." Not only did I always do that; I didn't even know I COULD have stayed inside (and given my mother's dislike of whiners, maybe I couldn't have).

Ultimately, as a kid I was a lot more philosophic about winter than I have been as an adult. In fact, I was downright Zen about it: Instead of complaining, I lived in the Now, all winter, every winter.

So when I saw the lacrosse kids, I immediately saw where they were at and where I WASN'T. And it made me a lot embarrassed, if not a little bit ashamed.

So am I now going to start grooving on all the cold, wet, overcast: rain one day, snow the next, puddles everywhere and mud up the waz?

Not very likely.

But what is likely is I'm going to quit obsessing on all that stuff and if I can't quit complaining, then maybe I'll cut down on it. Which could only make me enjoy everything more than I do now - a win-win situation for me ... and everyone who knows me.

It might seem odd I had to learn this from a bunch of kids, but that's not how I look at it.

I'll take my teachers and role models wherever I find them. And if they're young enough to be my grandchildren, more power to 'em.



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