Believe it or not, I hardly ever get a cold.
But after I had suffered what any fool could see was massive jet lag, resulting in my body being convinced that night was day and day was night for one solid week, I caught a cold. After another week I thought it had run its course, because most of my symptoms disappeared.Except one. My abnormal voice. After four weeks, my voice continues to sound just terrible.
I sound exactly like Bill Clinton - and if it keeps up I may even run for office. It's nasal, weak, scratchy, sometimes low and gravelly - and I clear my throat constantly.
People love that. They think I either have a nervous tic or I am the most obnoxious person they've ever met.
A sick voice is a problem in other ways. Whenever I pick up the phone and say "Hello," or some other legendary greeting known only to our family, such as "Lythgoe summer home - summer home, summer not," the first thing anyone says to me is, "BOY, YOU HAVE A COLD!"
Of course, my reaction is always, "No kidding."
I got tired of that response, so I started using another cliche: "It's OK. I sound worse than I feel."
That progressed to denial. Now I simply say, "This is the way I ALWAYS sound!"
It really doesn't matter what I say, because the person on the other end has one of two subsequent comments: "I was going to drop by your house, but now I'm absolutely sure I'm not going to after all, because I don't want to catch whatever horrible bug you obviously have in abundance," or "It's really bad and you're actually dying, aren't you?"
If it is the former, I lose the caller more quickly than you can say William Jefferson Clinton.
If it is the latter, I get a lecture about how colds can turn into pneumonia and even lead to death, about how I should take a few days off, and then even a list of physicians to see.
"It might be a secondary infection!"
So the problem is, all this has had an impact, and now I'm actually starting to worry. What if I really AM dying?
So I took one of those 12-hour decongestant-type super tablets, and it made me immediately drowsy and produced the most annoying cotton mouth EVER.
Is it better to sound nasal and scratchy when I talk, or to give the impression I have peanut butter stuck to the top of my mouth? Or that I am so unbelievably nervous and maladjusted that I need liquid refreshment every 20 seconds?
I happened to be teaching a class at the time, and I had to keep stopping and smacking my lips and running my tongue against the roof of my mouth in a vain effort to get rid of the cotton.
It was thoroughly embarrassing - so no more medication for me. The side-effects are clearly worse than the symptoms.
Now I'm just writing notes. If that doesn't work, I whisper. That unsettles people, but the interesting thing is that when I whisper, the person I'm addressing whispers too.
It's some strange, cosmic reaction.
Besides, the other person assumes there is some unknown need to be quiet, instead of thinking I have a voice problem.
If the phone rings, I let someone else answer it.
One other thing - I've stopped holding press conferences. Those rude reporters don't deserve to know what I'm thinking anyway.