Then I left work on Friday afternoon. The plants were all apparently having an orgy, because my chest tightened up the moment I stepped out the door.
I'm guessing all the goldenrod and ragweed in Kentucky are having the sexytimes, because there are globs of pollen everywhere and the sneezing and coughing commenced. Coughing, mostly. I was a little wheezy and coughed a bit on Saturday, but I went into Monday only slightly choked up and my nostrils were 95% functional. My sinuses were being fairly cooperative, no pain, no pressure.
I work in a fairly fun department. Good folks, friendly, funny, and most importantly, we can all throw down with some good eating. We wanted to buy some baked goods for a little celebration. And maybe buy a little lunch while we're at it. We head off for a neighboring town, their cupcake bakery and their extremely good local roadside barbecue joint.
We pull into the barbecue joint, only to discover it has recently changed its hours and is closed on Mondays. Right. So we'll pull down the street and pick up the cupcakes, right? Wrong! Closed on Mondays. The only other restaurants available in this neck of the woods are a Hardees that shares digs with a gas station, and a local restaurant that we're not quite sure is open. It once housed a combination Italian/Mexican restaurant that had since vacated the premises. We set off to see if that, at least, is open on Mondays.
Behold, it is open, and it is a little country cafe. We stroll in to discover that it is, apparently, the only non-cigar bar smoking establishment left in North America. Smoking is not only allowed, apparently it may be required to get in. There's a two smoker per table minimum, possibly, to keep the ashtrays on every table hot. We're starving by this point, so we decide to stick it out. From a "good and affordable food" point of view, it wasn't bad. The beef stroganoff, cottage cheese, macaroni and maters, plus green beans went well with the very sweet sweet tea. From an "I kind of like breathing" angle, it was a terrible choice.
I'm 36 and have lived my entire life in Kentucky. My family raised tobacco when I was growing up, I've helped in setting, cutting and stripping it. I've never smoked, but in my childhood years, smoking was common and not many people hesitated when it came to lighting up in public. Somehow, in the ten years or so since "non-smoking" became the default choice and "smoking" practically became synonymous with "societal outcast", my lungs must have gotten spoiled rotten from all that fresh air. Just in case there were a few molecules of fresh air anywhere near our table, one lady helpfully took her cigarette along when she went to get a drink refill. I guess she was worried she would get lonely on the fifteen foot walk and couldn't bear to leave her cigarette in the ashtray for ten seconds. Maybe twenty seconds if she got winded. As soon as I finished eating, my tongue tasted of tobacco and my eyes felt gritty. Our hair and clothing reeked. We all had the sinking feeling we had just shaved three to six months off of our life expectancies.
To add to the annoyance, they turned out to be a cash only establishment, probably because they can't be assured their customers will actually live long enough to make a payment on their credit card bill. We tried another cupcake joint back in town and it was also closed on Mondays. At that point, it was reaching the level of the absurd. We finally found a bakery that was open and bought cookies instead, since, clearly, the forces of fate did not intend for us to be able to feast upon cupcakes this day.
An hour after leaving the Den of Smoke, my respiratory system basically thanked me for bringing it along by trying to shank me. My sinuses and nasal passages more or less swelled shut, my cough became horrible and fits lasted for several minutes, my eyes were gritty, and in general, I was miserable, sleep- and oxygen-deprived for a week. I finally broke down and bought some Tussin Tab DM from Good Neighbor Pharmacy. I've spent a lot of the weekend taking some heavy duty naps and recovering. I'm back to running regularly tomorrow, I hope. It may be indoors, on the treadmill, and it may not be pretty, but I'm gonna run.
I mean it.