The Cure for Swine Flu

I know, I know.  Nobody is freaking out about swine flu anymore.  But, the experts are direly predicting a comeback of this hysteria-producing disease, come autumn.  Consequently, just in case they are right, we should all protect ourselves with a little common-sense preparation.

I’m not sure if everyone knows this, but the surefire antidote to swine flu is bratwurst.  Yes, bratwurst – not the turkey or the beef kind, mind you.  It’s gotta be the pork variety.  It’s a very simple concept: fight swine with swine. 

Before you roll your eyeballs right out of their sockets, think about it.  What did they do to stop the polio epidemic?  They injected everybody with a weakened polio virus.  How did they devastate measles, mumps, and chickenpox?  Same story. 

I’m not suggesting that we inject bratwurst into anyone’s veins.  Swine flu is a most virulent disease, and a weakened dose of pork will not do the job.  The bratwurst must be applied full strength via the digestive system, in large doses.   Besides, immunologists are just beginning to realize that the more fun a vaccine is to take, the more effective it is.  Modern science is wonderful, isn’t it?

This is why in Wisconsin, where we are progressive and savvy about most things, every man, woman, and child will be porking up on bratwurst all summer long.  Cumulative dosage is key to jump-starting the immune system.  Here in the Badger State, we are anticipating eating an average of 39.35 pounds of brats per capita between now and Labor Day. 

You may ask, “Why, if bratwurst is such a wonderful cure, was Wisconsin the #2 state in the nation for swine flu cases in the spring of 2009?”  Obviously, if you have to ask such a question you do not understand the culture and climate.  The swine flu hit before it was warm enough to grill brats outside, and we were caught off-guard.  Besides, you didn’t hear of anybody in Wisconsin being seriously harmed by swine flu, did you?  This is because, as soon as the cases started appearing in hordes at our hospitals, the medical personnel knew exactly what to do.  They started stuffing Nesco roaster-loads of brats down the patients’ gullets.  They power-dosed the victims by force-feeding them quarts of sauerkraut (loaded with vitamin C for immune system boost).  It worked, and they all went home feeling euphoric about the whole recovery experience.  Nary a complaint was heard about the deplorable state of hospital cuisine. 

As everyone knows, not all drug brands are alike.  Sometimes those generic versions do not work as well.  This is why it is important for Americans to understand that not all brats will work equally as effectively in protecting against swine flu.  Johnsonville brats are still at the top of the heap, and their priceyness is well worth it, if you want to stay healthy.  Klements are a somewhat distant second in efficacy, while the low-income or exceptionally frugal-of-heart individuals will have to muddle along the best they can with the greatly inferior store brands. 

A tragic epidemic among people of lower income could be averted if President Obama would merely issue an executive order allowing the federal government to seize ownership of the Johnsonville Sausage Company.  He could then declare free brats for everyone to make sure all is fair and square.   As a by-product, many jobs would be created, as the company would have to go through enormous expansion to meet the demands for all that free food.  The new jobs would mean more income for the IRS to abscond with, thereby creating a bottomless barrel for pork projects dear to the hearts of politicians.  More pork in the barrel would mean more swine flu antidote, and the cycle would spiral ever upward into an increasingly healthy economy. 

So there you have it, folks.  Bratwurst – the answer to all the nation’s problems, from swine flu to the economy.  You heard it here first, and I don’t mind at all if you share it with Wall Street and the American Medical Association.

Retirement Dinner

A couple of weeks ago, we attended the postal retirement dinner held in honor of my husband.  You might think it is odd to have a retirement party five months after the fact, but hey, they don’t call it Snail Mail for nuthin’.  Truthfully, they always have them in March, and all those who have retired during the entire previous year get their moment of glory … unless they have died before it gets a chance to happen.  The party happens even if no one has retired — because of the free dinner.

This year there were two retirees — a conventional one and the not-so-conventional one (my husband).  They both wore suits and ties, much to my surprise.  Beebee and I managed to keep our man from wearing the bowtie, so we were happy.  The conventional guy’s suit was ill-fitting, in keeping with how postal workers normally dress when not in uniform.   I have noticed this tradition before, at every retirement dinner I have attended over the last thirty years.  Mr. Not-So-Conventional looked dapper.  His suit fit him.  It did not sag and bunch in weird places.  My coaching on attire had absolutely nothing to do with it this time.  He pulled off a proper appearance all by himself.  I was proud of him.  (I married him for his elegant figure.)

We ate the standard banquet affair victuals.  Postal parties truly must be abhorred by banquet facility owners, due to letter carriers eating so much.  I do not know where they stuff it all.  Even the skinny ones manage single-handedly to put more chicken in their gullets than a whole pack of foxes invading the hen house could ever hope to accomplish.  I suppose a ten-hour day out in the cold contributes to this talent.  They slide it all down with the help of the cole slaw and jellied cranberries.

They all talked about the ten-hour days. Sixty-hour work weeks are the norm right now for everyone, and have been for the last few years.  It costs less to work them to death and then get new ones than it does to hire more help.  The morale is low.  They all thought the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, but it has not taken effect in the U.S. Postal Service yet.  (They must have an exemption clause.)  Paul was one of the fortunate ones: he had a bum ankle and a consequent doctor’s excuse that kept him to a forty-hour work week.  If that had not worked, he might have tried what some of the others did: mental distress exemptions from the psychotherapist.  (I would have felt bad if he had had to stoop that low, but some did, in order to survive.)

The union representatives’ speeches were all the same as they are every year.  We heard about how much better working conditions are now than they were before the Rebellion of 1970 (the year of the illegal postal strike, which brought the Postal Service, the President, the Congress, Wall Street, and Joseph’s Fish Market to their knees, and introduced collective bargaining).  Even with working sixty hours a week, the guys were encouraged to be grateful that they no longer work seven days a week for $.35 an hour (my slight exaggeration) and live on cat tuna and welfare assistance.  Whenever the president of the union’s name was mentioned, there were little ripples of reverence in the speaker’s voice.  Someone should have played ethereal music to enhance the moments of awe, but I guess they didn’t think of that.

The speakers encouraged us to vote for Obama or Hillary, whichever gets the upper hand, so that all our postal workers do not have to go back to cat tuna or worse.  And the guys were also encouraged to think about using the hours left after working sixty hours a week to campaign for whichever Democrat eventually wins the nomination.  They wanted them to work hard campaigning for the incumbent Democrat in Congress, too, but most of the guys probably aren’t fool enough to do that, because in the last election, he promised the postal workers at our office a big box of free doughnuts if he won, and he never came through with the food.

When the union mucky-mucks got done with their speeches, the retirees got their chance.  The conventional guy made a standard speech of gratitude which was very nice.  He had to behave himself, because he had brought a whole tableful of his relatives to the dinner.  Mr. Not-So-Conventional behaved himself relatively well, considering he can always be a bundle of surprises.  He paved the way for the rest of his speech by telling what a wonderful support his wife had been to him through thirty years.  (I was, too!)  He had gone to all the effort of tallying up how many sandwiches I had made for his lunches in all that time (about 6900, by his count — that’s a lot of Wonder Bread!).  He went on to tell his funny dog stories in his engaging way.  And he topped it off the way they had all known he would, by telling them about Jesus, and how they could be as happy as he is, if they would give their lives to Him.

They gave us gifts.  Paul received a watch, and I got a green plant the size of a cedar tree.

I think Paul enjoyed his evening immensely, and the rest of his little family were pleased for him.

Stay in Touch, Mr. Bell

We are decidedly phone-challenged at our house.  For years after everyone else had touch-tone phones, we still had our old rotary model on the kitchen wall.  We had it so long after the rest of the world had pitched theirs, that once a repairman needed to use it and had to ask how it worked.  Although I am not very technically savvy, I would have thought the process was obvious, but perhaps there are some repairmen who are less techy than I am.

We finally kissed the old rotary goodbye when it got to the point where we couldn’t get through to businesses with automated systems anymore.  For a long while, they had an option at the end of the “press 1, 2, or 3” messages that said, “If you have a rotary phone, please stay on the line.”  But eventually they abandoned the stay-on-the-line option, and just hung up on us.

My husband is the most phone-challenged of the two of us.  I am not far behind him, but I manage to avoid phones that I don’t know how to work so that I don’t look silly, while he plows ahead and tries, revealing to all the world that he doesn’t know what he is doing.  Some of the phones around our house require hitting a talk button in order to proceed.  Some require that you don’t hit any buttons to answer them.  Inevitably, Paul gets them mixed up.  He cuts off calls by punching buttons when he shouldn’t, and stands there yelling, “Hello?  Hello?” with the phone still ringing in his ear on the ones where he should use the button.  We can’t seem to get him trained.  Sounds like something straight out of The Addams Family, doesn’t it? 

I think we need to write our congressman and see if he can do anything about getting all phone manufacturers to standardize the way the equipment works.  We’ll present it as a senior citizen issue.  Maybe we can get AARP to enter the fray on our behalf. 

It could even become the deciding factor in the presidential race!  Mr. McCain, looking very grandfatherly, could do commercials saying that he understands how it is.  He could bemoan his own difficulties with technology, and promise every senior citizen in the country a standardized, easy-to-use, free telephone.  Mr. Obama (the young whipper-snapper!) would not be able to relate in the slightest, and would lose that election hands-down.

But I digress.

My husband has a cell phone.  As I have said in a previous post, he has it, but he does not know how to answer it.  He can call home just fine, but when I try to reach him, I get a computerized voice telling me that the user of this phone is unavailable.  He’s not unavailable!  He’s strolling the aisles of Menards or Home Depot!  He’s either got the phone accidentally turned off, or else he can’t hear it ring.  And he cannot figure out how to set up voice mail.  (I probably wouldn’t know how, either, but that’s neither here nor there, because I’m the one picking on him, not vice versa.)

Paul’s cell phone is usually off when it should be on, and on when it should be off. This morning we were at a family funeral.  In the middle of the service, we were all treated to some music that was not part of the program — The Russian Dance from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite.  It went on for several seconds.

“Paul, is that your phone?”

He gave me an innocent, vigorous shake of the head that indicated, “Uh-Uh.  Not me.  I wouldn’t be doing that in church!”

I listened to it for several more seconds, and finally decided, since no one else was turning it off, that the dance music must be emanating from Paul’s pocket.  (Besides, no one else in the whole world has Tchaikovsky as their ring tone.)

“Paul!  It is TOO your phone!”

He decided I might know what I was talking about after all, and got it shut down before it finished playing the entire piece.   It  flowed rather nicely into How Great Thou Art, or whatever we sang next, but it’s good he got it stopped.  Everybody knew the words to How Great Thou Art, but they didn’t know how to sing The Russian Dance.

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