Rosario: Too much of a good thing should make you sick

I knew it from the moment the Jamaica-bound plane with sneezing, hacking and coughing Minnesotans lifted off: Yeh, mon. I’m going to get sick at some point.

Given my cancer-suppressed immune system, I should have worn a mask coming and going, as I’ve done before. I had read studies finding that colds may be a hundred times more likely to be transmitted inside an airplane than during daily life on the ground. I suspect it’s the shared air in close quarters. But the main culprit, other studies found, is likely extremely low cabin humidity that dries up our noses and throats and makes us more vulnerable to infection.RubenRosarioSIG

I’m telling you all this because I was justly punished after thoroughly enjoying the first “ideal” vacation since my honeymoon more than three decades ago.

I mean no dishes or clothes to wash, no mandatory friend or relative visits, no long lines at amusement parks, just time to chill in a warm place and shut off the brain from the outside world for awhile.

If it sounds self-indulgent, it was meant to be. We squirreled away to make it so. And it was a long-delayed trip for my wife, who has spent the past seven years caring for two cancer patients: myself and her mother, who spent most of the last year of her life in 2017 in hospice care inside our home.

I snorkeled in the ocean, along with my teenage son, for the first time since my late teens. I scaled a 600-foot-tall waterfall. I enjoyed the very entertaining but very insistent street and flea-market hustlers in Ocho Rios (tip: speak a language other than English, and they will pretty much go on to the next tourist mark).

I don’t have a bucket list, but I did something I wished to do at some point: I swam with two dolphins. At one point, pushing my feet through the water with their strong beaks, they thrust me high above the surface with enough time for me to do the famous Usain Bolt bow-and-arrow pose before I came back down. My wife said she had never seen me smile showing teeth as much as I did that day. I beg to differ. I do grins, not teeth. But she has the pictures to prove it.

Pioneer Press columnist Ruben Rosario poses with a dolphin during a trip to Jamaica in Dec. 2017. (Ruben Rosario / Pioneer Press)
Pioneer Press columnist Rubén Rosario poses with a dolphin during a trip to Jamaica in Dec. 2017. (Rubén Rosario / Pioneer Press)

I confess I felt a slight gust of guilt as I lay on a palm-tree-shaded, poolside lounge chair in balmy 80 degree weather while Kiron, one of the waiters at the Moon Palace Grande, kept me adequately hydrated with Bob Marleys.

That was when I picked up the phone and sneaked a peek at the low temps back home so far that week: minus 9, minus 8, 3, minus 6, minus 14, minus 16. I feel for you, homies, I said to myself as Kiron placed another Bob Marley on the nearby table and flashed a smile and a thumb’s up.

There was not that much coughing on the plane back home about a week later, on New Year’s Day. But it was my luck that the airport cabbie we got was hacking far worse than anyone on the planes. He’s my prime suspect, for I came down with symptoms four days later: Cough, sniffles, a slight fever, chest congestion, chills.

I’m still recovering, but I feel really good that I got sick. Though I had a worry-free, great time on vacation, I felt a need to suffer or pay for it in some way. I’m cautious and leery about having too much fun. I’m too much yin-yang in outlook, that you cannot comprehend happiness without experiencing sorrow. Maybe it’s a Catholic “grace through suffering” thing. I’m not even sure a very stable genius would understand what I mean. Now, back to the grind.

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