Being Howie Mandel
An hour ago, I walked into a convenience store and bought a diet Dr. Pepper and a Gatorade. I filled the tank with gas, put a little air in the back tire, and got back in the car. That’s when the panic set in.
I turned to my wife.
“Do you have any hand sanitizer?” I asked.
She looked at me sideways and pulled a bottle of some organic, save-the-whales, hug-a-tree stuff that purported to be hand sanitizer. I personally prefer something like the Hand Sanitizer Canada, as I’m was pretty sure it was just patchouli mixed with hippie tears, but it was better than nothing. I was almost certainly infected with something. Maybe the Mother Earth’s Womb Hand Sanitizer (or whatever it was) would scare off what I had picked up in the last ten minutes.
“I really don’t want you turning into Howie Mandel on me,” she said. She was serious.
I rubbed my hands together and worked the baby seal saliva up and down my arms. She was probably just joking, I thought, and wondered about the efficacy of getting out of the car letting the exhaust wash over my hands vis a vis germ-killing.
Yes, I admitted quietly to myself, I have turned a dangerous corner.
The past few weeks have been spent stocking up on every form of holistic immunity booster I could find. It took two or three trips to the store, but I eventually collected all I needed.
Indeed, from left to right, you’re looking at generic Airborne, Zicam, Echinacea, and Purell hand sanitizer. Of the four, only one of them is a government-approved battler of the great, unclean masses. The rest are maybe-at-best holistic cures that, if you asked me on just about 355 days out of the year, I would call silly, ridiculous bunk drugs. Right now, they are the only thing keeping me out of a bubble.
It’s been said there are no atheists in a foxhole. Around these parts, even the holistic skeptic is ready to crush up Airborne pills and snort of them off the chest of a (very, very clean) inflatable woman. I do not want to get sick right now.
I should point out, I rarely get sick when compared to the illness rate of most people. In fact, with the exception of a ugly two-day virus I picked up in Las Vegas during the November Nine, I haven’t been really sick since I caught the Argentina Bird Flu last April. And frankly, on most days, if I get sick, so what?
But on Wednesday, I’m going on a trip that I’ve been waiting for since December 2007. I wish I could explain it in a way that most people understand. In short, it’s a group of poker writers that started small and grew large since this trip first started back in December 2004. It’s happened every year since and I’ve formed some very close friendships with some of the 100+ people who make the annual trek. It’s also the first time in a couple of years I’ve been on a trip with my local buddies, college buddies, and my brother at the same time. I can’t really express it in the way that can make the uninitiated understand, but the trip means a lot to me.
And so began my Howie Mandel Phase.
It began a couple of weeks ago. I found myself washing my hands about twice as often as usual. Then I found the hand sanitizer and started using it. Then it got ugly. When around people I hadn’t seen in more than a day, I asked an almost scripted question. “Are you now or at any point in the last few days started to feel like you might be getting sick?”
Last Friday, I had to find a new girl to cut my hair. The other one disappeared and I had six weeks of growth hanging over my ears. I ended up going to a salon in town. A very pretty blonde girl named Melissa greeted me. She led me back toward her station. As I walked through a maze of stark white walls, clear plastic chairs, and a dozen long mirrors hanging from the ceiling, I heard her sniffle.
“These sinuses!” she said through a stuffed up nose.
“Are you sick or is it just allergies?” I probed.
“I don’t know!” she said. “But it’s been like this for two weeks.”
I almost ran out. Instead, I let her cut my hair and avoided shaking her hand when it was over. Nevertheless, there was a giant container of hand sanitizer on the counter. I bathed in the stuff.
I got home yesterday afternoon and my son was running a 103-degree fever. He had a hacking cough and honestly looked like he should be in a hospital. Only then did I break every rule about being around sick people. I did my best to comfort him and make him feel better. I only took breaks to rub Purell all over my body. He’s feeling much better. I could use some therapy.
There’s not much more I can do now. If I’m going to get sick before the trip, there’s not a thing in the world I can rub on my body that’s going to stop it. Seven days from now, I’ll put the Echinacea, Zicam, and Airborne in the cabinet and won’t see them again for a very long time. That is, I won’t see them until around this time next year.
Does Howie Mandel play Vegas?