Ugh.

Yes, itís one of those times again. Those of you who have been following this dribble for long enough know that "ugh" means one thing and one thing only: Iíve got the crud.

I donít really get ill often, but when I do, itís usually a mamma-jamma. This little bug started on Christmas morning. I thought I detected a little rasp in my throat, a little tickle of soreness, but soon forgot about it for the rest of the day in the interest of my typical good holiday cheer.

But by Monday morning I was certain I had not only a crud, but a creeping crud, the worst kind of crud. My throat felt like someone was popping firecrackers in it, my nose was so stopped up I was wishing for firecrackers to unstop it, every muscle in my body ached and that includes those in my left little toe. Iíve never had a bug like this: No decongestant worked on it, and I had to resort to that most horrible abomination in medical history, worse even than the age-old castor oil trick, more vile than bedpans: Nasal spray. Yuck. But it was the only way I could get any sleep. Iíd wake up every hour otherwise. One hour my left nostril would be completely dysfunctional. The next hour it would be switched around to my right nostril, and bck and forth, all night long.

I stayed on the sofa all day Monday watching movies and napping, hoping Iíd recover to get back to work in tip-top shape on Tuesday. No cigar. By the time Tuesday rolled around and I rolled out of bed, I was sicker than I was Monday and started wondering vaguely about the bird flu.

See, I never get flu shots, though as I get older I guess Iím going to have to start. I hate shots, but I donít know now if I hate shots worse than I hate the flu. I mean, nothing I took would alleviate my misery, and I wasnít about to go back to the store and face another round of interrogation and profiling just to try another medication. In the condition I was in by that time, bleary-eyed and bloodshot, pale and pasty, theyíd probably have hauled me off in the paddy wagon. By the time I got home that night I had been twice mistaken for a movie star, though I have to admit it was for a George Romero zombie movie. All I could manage to do that night was sit and watch cartoons. Nothingís better than cartoons for what ails ya, Iíve learned.

Wednesday was no better and I walked in a daze through the day, managing to appear relatively animate and lifelike, though I doubt I would have passed stress test at that point. On top all that, I had plumbing problems at home and had to make two trips to town in order to get them solved. I was neither a happy puppy nor a healthy one.

We all hate when these things happen to us, of course, so who am I to complain? Well, it just plain makes me feel better to complain. You know how it is. You feel drained, like some vampire sapped all the energy out of you. Itís all you can do just to muster the strength to pick up your feet to walk, you shuffle around like a Sad Sack and when people speak to you you try to smile, but the sinus pressure in your head is so intense you donít realize youíre actually scowling as if the person talking to you just cussed your mama. Your earlobes hurt. You donít care what anyone does, have a party, start a civil war, just as long as they donít invite you and are quiet about it. Nothing smells: Not boiling onions, not roasting garlic, not sewer plants not even your cousin that never bathes. You could walk through a fog of mustard gas and not even worry about the stuff hitting your lungs because your nostrils are plugged with wine corks. You breathe through your mouth, which only serves to make you look really dumb. You really donít care, either, because if anyone says boo to you about it, youíre gonna breathe right on Ďem.

I donít know what it is about the flu that makes me so grumpy. Okay, besides the abovementioned sypmtoms, I donít know what makes me so grumpy. I seldom want to talk. I do grunt a lot. Sometimes, from my desk in the office where I am working on a page or a story, one syllable is uttered:

"Ugh."

This syllable drifts up from my congested, pressurized head like a cartoonistís balloon, drifts across the room and dissipates like a sneeze. Sometimes, when weíre all going to lunch at the office, Iím riding in the back seat and just, without warning, it happens:

"Ugh."

What can I say? Itís the perfect description. Really, you can say your head is congested, your sinuses hurt, your throat is raw, so on and so forth, or you just say:

"Ugh."

What doubt can be left as to how you really feel? Can anyone not then realize you have been infected by a virulent strain of creeping crud and that yesterday your feared you were going to die and today youíre afraid you wonít?

Ugh. Universal language, right there, ladies and gents.

Well, hopefully by the time 2006 dawns and you and I meet again Iíll be feeling better and no longer a contagion. Hereís wishing you the very best of New Years, prosperous, loving, charitable and crud-free.