Here’s a piece I originally posted May 23, 2001…
When I got back to work this morning after being sidelined for a week with an allergy-related throat infection, one of the women in the office said to me, “Wow, I sure wish I could call in sick and just lie around the house for a couple of days.”
I replied that I would have happily traded her all those hours I had spent leisurely lying in bed enjoying my scratchy throat, blinding headaches, and inability to draw a complete breath. I also explained that, at least for me, doing absolutely nothing is boring as hell.
Remember when you were a kid and got to stay home — most likely after faking a raspy complaint of “Mom, my stomach is upset, my throat is sore, and my head hurts” — because it meant you could hang out, have Mom bake you some chocolate chip cookies (universally accepted as therapeutically sound therapy for anyone suffering from any illness), and watch TV all day?
I’m here to tell you that, these days, staying home and watching TV as an adult means enduring hour after hour of pablum. Not so much in the morning, right up through Regis and Kelly, or in the evening and late at night. But between morning and primetime, there is nothing worth viewing.
You know you’re bored — and running a fever — when a 15-year-old rerun of “LA Law” prompts you to think, “Isn’t that Judy Landers? Whatever happened to her? And didn’t she have a sister, Audrey?” There was a time in the 1980s when you could hardly go a week without seeing one of the Landers sisters guest starring on one show or another. So why haven’t we even heard their names for at least a half-dozen years?
I’m guessing the answer is: Gravity.
Even with the 100+ channels on digital cable, the variety of afternoon programming runs the gamut from squat to nada to zippo (yes, I’m including Oprah). Once you’ve seen the day’s headlines repeated for the umpteenth time on four different news networks — okay, we know that Jim Jeffords is making the big switch, and is now dating Ellen DeGeneres — it’s time to browse the premium channels. These are the ones which exist purely to prove that there are far too many horrible movies produced in Hollywood.
Here’s where you’ll find a huge selection of movies no one has ever heard of — and their sequels! Giving my channel-flicking thumb a momentary break, I wonder which studio genius was it that green-lighted production of “Alligator II: The Mutation”? How many people could possibly have gone to see the first “Alligator” movie (raise your hand if you even knew that such a movie existed) to justify making a sequel? They couldn’t even drag Steve Irwin to see this reptilian waste of celluloid.
After noting the complete absence of quality cinematic offerings, it’s around to the skip-over channels, which in my house include the garden channel, the shopping channels, and the food network. I knew I was too hopped up on antibiotics when I considered sending Emeril the new recipe I’ve come up with for a delicious new carbonated beverage with medicinal powers. It involves a glass of Pepsi and one cherry-flavored Hall’s Mentholyptus Cough Drop. Mmm, soothing.
Now it’s over to CNBC, where I’m not surprised to see that the price of Kimberly-Clark stock has shot up, since I have personally used over 200,000 of their Kleenex tissues today alone.
Which leads to my next question: how much mucus can one human body possibly produce? Is there a limit? After all, women stop producing eggs after menopause, and some men — count me in — can’t grow hair on their head after a certain age. And certainly my brain knows that continuing to fabricate this stuff will only clog up my nasal passages to the point where I can’t inhale — which most medical experts agree is not good for you.
So why keep it flowing? Turns out the answer is deceptively simple. The body is not creating new mucus. It’s making a sequel.