Everyone’s been there. You’re sick, or you can’t sleep, or there is some other minor inconvenience going on with your body and somebody always comes up and tells you some weird little practice that’s supposed to help you overcome whatever ails you. They usually say something like, “Trust me, my [uncle, mother, grandmother, etc.] taught me this when I was a kid, and it totally works.” No, it doesn’t. You think it works because they told you when you were a kid, and you got all giddy and ran into the other room to try it, and in the course of doing so, stopped bitching to them about having the hiccups for a couple of minutes. It’s just a defense mechanism for adults to get you to leave them alone, just like pretending that they don’t have a life and are just really boring people that only sit around and watch the news and made for TV Hallmark Channel movies. It may have taken me a long time to realize all of this, but here are a few of my own personal experiences with home remedies that are complete bullshit.
Let’s say you’ve got the hiccups. Everyone hates the hiccups. It’s the worst feeling in the world because you can’t control when it happens, or how severe it is. It’s a ten minute period of your life filled with nothing but complete and utter hopelessness and shame. And it seems that every time anyone gets them will invariably find God and bargain with Him just to make them stop before you see that girl you kind of like. But then they don’t and you get that horrific notion that, hey, maybe this is it. Maybe this is the time that I get the hiccups and they never go away and I’m known as the hiccup guy and everyone will start to get annoyed with me and never hang out with me again so you start to hyperventilate and make the hiccups even worse, and you’ll never be loved again because of these stupid little fucking hiccups. Or maybe only I think that. But regardless, before you go into a complete mental breakdown, some motherfucker comes up and tells you this great little trick for getting rid of them, and all you have to do is breathe in for ten seconds, hold the breath for ten seconds, and then exhale for ten seconds. Does it work? No. Of course not. But you still try it because you’re willing to do just about anything to get rid of them.
So you start off by breathing in. One…Two….Three…Fo-hiccup. Fuck. Start over. One…Two…Three…Four…Fi-hiccup. You tell your friend that you want to give up, but he tells you to keep going. Soon enough you’ll reach ten. But that’s when the horror starts. The first time that I tried it and reached ten, I immediately hiccupped and regretted every decision I had ever made that allowed me to be in the exact circumstances that I was in at that moment. When you breathe in for ten seconds and then hiccup, it’s like an air overload in your lungs, and you feel like they’re going to burst. It’s a worse feeling than when you have a sneezing fit and try to hold all of them in. It’s a worse feeling than when you’re closing the bar and someone convinces you to take just one more shot of Jaeger. It’s a worse feeling than tasting even a drop of Rumpleminze. But I digress. Eventually, you’ll make it all the way to the end of the breathing exercise, and you’ll feel mildly accomplished. Ten minutes of trying and failing to do a thirty-second home remedy and you finally reached then end. And just when you’re about to look at your friend and tell him, “Hey man, thanks a lot, that really worked,” you hiccup again and figure it’s probably just best to go back to bargaining with God.
Not dissimilar from the hiccups, the common cold is something that everyone has to deal with every once in a while. It’s miserable, it’s inevitable, it’s incurable. Everything about it sucks, especially after you learn that the cold virus is completely harmless, but your immune system thinks that it’s some swine flu type shit and goes into overdrive and gives you stuffy noses, coughs, sore throats, fatigue, and the rest of the nine yards. And since it’s incurable, the only thing you can really do is treat the symptoms of the cold (i.e. the sore throat, cough, etc.). Everyone has their own way of going about it. Some people call into work and sleep that sonofabitch off. Me? I load up on every over-the-counter cold medication that I can find and just get stupid stoned off that shit for a week (But be careful to never fall asleep with a cough drop in, because that shit’ll stick to your beard and never let go). And then by the time that you decide that you’ve got in under control enough to get back to your life and go out in public, people will still notice that you’ve got a cold, and give you their best tried-and-true remedies for how to cope. Out of the seemingly millions of ways to treat the cold, the one that always comes up is always the one remedy that I’ve got an issue with: drink a lot of tea.
Now, don’t get me wrong here, I’ve got nothing against tea per se. But it just doesn’t seem to be an advantageous fluid to be pushing when your nasal passages are so blocked that you won’t even be able to taste it. “But it clears up your nasal passages because it’s a warm, soothing beverage!” Yes, but I go hard. And when I go hard (which is all the time), I tend to overdo things. So instead of drinking a cup of tea here and there, I’ll drink 10 cups of tea in a two hour span. Is it smart? Probably not, as you will see. But it’s clearly the most logical thing when you’re flying through your day filled to the brim with Dayquil and cough drops. And when you drink a shit ton of tea in a short time span, you need to pee a shit ton in a short time span. And when you’re pumped full of cold medicine, you’re fatigued and your balance is usually not at it’s best, so you sit down to pee even though you’re a dude. And since you’ve just drank a ton of hot, soothing liquid, you’ve just gotten a bunch of steam in your face and nasal passages so all of the mucus starts to run. Sure, the tea did it’s thing, you could say, but it doesn’t change the fact that you end up pissing sitting down with a pint of phlegm streaming from your nostrils, and then, just to top it off, your body sees everything that is going on with you and decides that this is a perfect time for you to randomly start crying for no fucking reason (or perhaps for a really good one, given your condition). Is tea a simple, responsible, and healthy way to soothe your cold symptoms? Maybe. But is it worth your dignity?
Finally, everyone occasionally has trouble falling asleep. And what’s the one thing that, for some reason, people tell you to do? Count sheep jumping over a fence. It makes sense. Think about something so boring that you have no choice but to fall asleep. A dark field, stars glistening in the background, and a short, wooden fence stretching as far as the eye can see. All of a sudden, a seemingly endless supply of sheep form a single-file line (which is bullshit, because sheep don’t travel in single file lines, but rather amorphous herds. Besides, anybody who has seen Jurassic Park 2 knows that the single file line is the simplest way for predators like the velociraptor to pick you off one by one starting at the rear and working their way toward the front so it by the time the whole group realizes what is going on, four or five of their loved ones are dead as shit. Sure, sheep probably haven’t figured out how to work a DVD player, nor do they necessarily have the cognitive ability to learn lessons from second-tier cinema, but they’ve survived long enough to probably have learned a few things by experience, like the benefit of traveling in the aforementioned amorphous herd). They slowly, but surely, jump gracefully over the fence and trot off to the other side of the field. I’m not sure why they’re traveling at night (again, they should know that when you’re universal prey, you don’t travel at night) or where the fuck they are actually going, but it’s the stereotypical image associated with the practice of counting sheep jumping over a fence. And then, after however many sheep it takes, you’re supposed to drift into a splendid slumber. The only problem is that it simply does not work out that way. At least not for me.
My experience starts like everybody else’s: I’m tired, it’s 4:30 AM, and I’m laying there vainly trying every different combination of pillow, blanket, side, and position for the secret formula that will make me sleep. Then I remember the sheep thing. So, I find a comfortable position, close my eyes, and set the scene for myself. The field. The starry night. The fence. The group of sheep doing everything wrong by traveling in a single file line at night. The first one comes up to the fence and gracefully launches itself, floats slowly over the fence, lands softly on the other side, and then quickly goes on his way without even waiting for any of his fucking friends to catch up. And as he trots out of my vision, an illuminated number one appears in the sky for a moment before the second sheep comes to the fence. This happens the same way for the second, third, and fourth one. But by the time the fifth one is coming up to the fence, I get bored, and completely subconsciously make weird shit start to happen. The fifth one has a little bit of a limp in one of his legs, so he can’t run as fast or jump as high as the other ones. When he’s passing over the fence, his hoof knocks one of the fence posts, and he takes a tumble as he lands. He’s not hurt by the tumble, but he turns back to look at the fence post in disgust. The next sheep is even more hurt. He has a significant limp in his leg, and can’t jump, but fuck it, his friends are going to leave him if he doesn’t hurry up, so he climbs the fence (it’s a short fence), and follows his brethren into the darkness. The next sheep has another horrible leg injury, and needs help getting over the fence. Luckily for him, the sheep immediately behind him is of full health and gives him a boost before doing a standing jump over the fence (no two sheep are created with the same athletic ability). I go back to a couple of regular sheep, but then something weird happens. The next sheep is almost completely shaven, except for it’s head, tail and legs. Like a big, ugly poodle, except not attached by a leash to a far more pathetic looking human being. It’s alone, tired, shivering from the cold because some suburban mom really wants comfy socks to wear around he house. It jumps over the fence, and collapses upon reaching the other side from sheer exhaustion. Luckily, it has enough strength to crawl out of my vision before I start to feel too bad about it.
Then there’s the stoned sheep. It walks up and stares at the fence for a while, turns back, walks a couple feet, then remembers that it has to get over to the other side, and slowly climbs up the fence and then back down the other side. When he reaches the other side, again, he stares at the fence for a minute, and then turns to follow his friends. Then the drunk lonely sheep. Walking crookedly, disheveled, and looking way too much like myself, it stumbles up to the fence, but doesn’t see it. It trips over his own hooves and does a faceplant at the base of the fence. He gets up, let’s out what I assume is the sheep-talk equivalent of, “Fucking shit-fence,” jumps over it, and continues on his lonely way. Then, probably the lowest point in the night for me happens. I just saw the lonely drunk sheep pass over the fence, but it was quickly followed by the drunk horny couple. They stumble up together, the guy sheep bumping up against he as they walk, the girl sheep trying to lay her head on his shoulder. They get to the fence and they look at each other and say, “Well, shit, it looks like we need to get over the fence.” The male sheep, like any gentleman, insists that the woman go first, and gets behind her with the intention of being a support for her to step on to get over the fence. Maybe it was the starlit night, maybe it was the alcohol, maybe it was the sight of freshly preened wool on her behind, but as the female sheep has her front hooves on the fence to try and pull herself up, he takes the opportunity he has been looking forward to all night. He slowly climbs her body, stomach and chest sliding up her curly-q-esque back wool, and places his hooves on hers, a move he himself was never necessarily comfortable with, but he still did it for her, as he remembered she enjoyed being with a dominant, controlling man.
At this point only about ten minutes has passed, and I’m still not asleep. I’m not sure if I want to be asleep, or if I just want to start my day and pretend like nothing ever happened. All I know is that that night was the end of my innocence. Why couldn’t they just jump over the fence like normal sheep? Why did I have to watch that? Why did they all have to behave like humans? Where were the velociraptors when you needed them? All I have now is questions and a mental image of grotesque sheep fucking. Nothing makes sense. Nothing’s fair. The only answer I have is that counting sheep to fall asleep does not work.