I was 26, in my last year of grad school, living in a tiny studio apartment across the street from the University of Washington. It was the worst Thanksgiving of my life. Much worse than the one where Technogeek cut his hand open on a food processor blade, because, well, it wasn’t MY hand.
Back then, if you were a student, you could get good deals on airplane tickets through American Express. (If you’re a student, you should check and see if they still offer that.) So I had my $189 non-refundable ticket home to Ohio to see my folks. And I had a fever.
I’m not a big wimp about illness, but 103 is a lot of degrees. And some weird little blisters appeared on my skin. Fever blisters? I’d never had such a thing before. So I did something I normally avoided—visited the student health center. If you’ve ever been to a student health center, you know why.
“Did you have the chicken pox when you were a kid?” the doctor asked.
“No. My mom sent me over to play with every kid who had them, but I just couldn’t catch it.”
“Well, you’ve got it now.”
I went home and crawled into bed. I was too sick to go to Ohio. I was too sick to go to the grocery store. On Thanksgiving I ordered a pizza. They didn’t have a turkey-and-stuffing pizza, so I just got a regular one.
“Be sure and send someone who’s had the chicken pox,” I told the guy on the phone.
“Oh…. Dude,” he said, sympathetically.
I watched Gone With the Wind on TV. I remember talking to my dad on the phone.
“I’m watching Gone With the Wind,” I said.
“That’s a good movie,” he said. “Well, gotta go. Turkey’s ready!”
was more than a week before new blisters stopped appearing, and another
week before they were all scabbed over and I was officially not
contagious. I missed a lot of classes.
I went to see my professor. “I’m way behind,” I told him. “I had the chicken pox.”
He glared at me suspiciously. “Chicken pox?!” Everyone knows you get chicken pox when you’re a kid, not when you’re a grad student. I resisted the urge to pull up my shirt and show him all my scabs.
In order to get my non-refundable plane ticket refunded, I had to go to the student health center again. They wrote a letter explaining that I was too sick to travel that day. Then I had to take a bus downtown and give it to the American Express guy.
He said, “You had the chicken pox on THANKSGIVING? Dude…”
That was 15 years ago, and I’ve never fully recovered from the trauma. But I’ll tell you this: As God is my witness, I’ll never have chicken pox again!