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 in terms of anti-bacterial items. Now I think I better start looking at protection rather than cleanliness… After all, if I was to enter somewhere that was rife with germs, I can only externally clean myself so much, maybe I’ll have a look into this page at and contemplate covering myself from head to toe for the future. I’m not wanting to get sick as I rarely get seriously ill, but if I do, it seriously takes it out of me.


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?

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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9 Responses

  1. Skip says:

    No giant doses of Vitamin C? Maybe said brother can steal some prophylactic antibiotics from work and bring them for you. Best of luck with avoiding the plague, and at the tables and eateries of your choice in Vegas. Very jealous.

  2. KenP says:

    For the god’s sake, don’t touch those dirty chips. On the first hand, take a Kleenex protector to push them all into the middle of the table to get those germ laden things away from you.

  3. RedxBranch says:

    ‘…pretty sure it was just patchouli mixed with hippie tears…’, that is the funniest line I’ve read in a long time. I’m sure you and the rest of the gang will have a great time in Vegas….sniffle free.

  4. Astin says:

    I just bought a box of surgical gloves and plan to bring it with me so I can keep swapping them whenever I need to touch chips.

    Okay, that’s a lie (about bringing them). But the sanitizer will always be within reach.

  5. Katitude says:

    Well Brad, you better put on a haz-mat suit, because I plan on hugging everyone. And I’ll be coming from school via bus stations and airports.

  6. KenP says:

    A world-renowned expert on carbon emissions” has stated that Western consumers must avoid five “eco crimes” committed every day in order to save the world. Dr Dave Reay’s main assertion, in fact, is that we should stop washing so much.

  7. KenP says:

    “A world-renowned expert on carbon emissions” has stated that Western consumers must avoid five “eco crimes” committed every day in order to save the world. Dr Dave Reay’s main assertion, in fact, is that we should stop washing so much.

  8. How come no one does the story about the new sanitizers on the market which are alcohol-free? There are new products that kill 3 times the germs, work up to 30 minutes, and they are safer to use than alcohol. This one is my favorite:

  9. MGM says:

    You really need to research Vitamin D3 a bit. It’s very important for proper immune function. We usually get enough in the summer months when we spend more time outdoors, because the only natural way to get it is through sunlight. During the not so sunny months it’s very important to supplement with it if not getting at least 20 minutes of nude sunbathing in per day. 🙂 Do a quick Internet search on Vitamin D3 and immune system. I’ve added this to each of my family member’s daily diet (10,000-20,000 IU’s daily for me and the husband–or a bit more if you know you’ll be exposed to illness/germs, and 2,000 IU’s for my kiddos) and so far no one has been ill in a pretty long time. May be coincidence, but from what I’m reading, probably not.

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