The U-turn Flu


You’re heard of the bird flu, the swine flu, and the Spanish flu. I think I’ve discovered a new strain in the wild: the U-turn Flu.

Sounds mighty serious, eh? But let’s not get alarmed. I haven’t seen any headlines that indicate that this year’s flu season is particularly menacing.

But among kith and kin this U-turn flu is cutting a pretty wide swath.

Here’s how the U-turn Flu operates: First, it just brushes by the victim. After a couple of days of feeling just a little bit lousy the victim easily bounces back and returns to a full holiday schedule of socializing, shopping, and traveling. The flu recedes from vision like tail lights growing dim as they move away.

All is well. Well, for a while, at least.

And then, like a demonically-possessed car in an old horror flick, the flu whips a U-turn. It heads directly for the victim. It hits the gas. The engine roars. After that: squish.

Someone we planned to see during a post-Thanksgiving trip wound up in the doggone hospital after the U-turn Flu swerved into pneumonia. Not that we made the trip: Be they slated as the visitors or the visited, just everyone on the roster came down with the U-turn Flu.

Of course, even when you’re lying down that’s no reason to take things lying down, so it’s time for home remedies. I have no idea if any of them really work, but, then again, I have no idea if any of them don’t work, either.

Chicken soup is probably the most well-known of the American remedies. It’s so well-known, as a matter of fact, that I’ve always associated it with being sick, which probably dampened my enthusiasm for it as a normal food.

My grandfather, a doctor, often prescribed a shot of Scotch for many ailments, a treatment not unpopular with his patients. That was a long time ago, though, so I don’t know if it would pass muster as an accepted practice given modern sensibilities.

My favorite home remedy is tea made from dried bitter melon. I heard about this from a Vietnamese pharmacist who regarded it as a marvel of the herbal realm, though he cautioned that it’s not advisable to consume it if you have certain medical conditions. I never thought to find out if bitter melon grows on Saipan, but it is a tropical plant, so maybe it does. As for the bitter melon products I’ve seen as teas, I’ve seen them exported from Vietnam and from China.

One tropical plant that certainly grows on Saipan is the noni. The juice is quite popular as a health supplement, and there’s been some commercial action on Saipan on that note.

An over-the-counter concoction that’s popular in my circles is something called Airborne. It comes in tablets that fizz after they’re plopped in water. Of the several ingredients, two are zinc and vitamin C, so the big idea is that they help shore up the immune system. Does it work? I don’t know. Do I buy it? Sure. I can’t see any harm in it and, well, fizzy stuff is cool. Yeah, I am easily amused.

Apparently, though, some people weren’t amused by some of Airborne’s marketing claims. A few years ago there was a legal kerfuffle and Airborne had to pay out some money. I never followed the affair, though.

Lots of people are buying lots of stuff, of course. If there’s one common element in the world’s retail shops it’s the ubiquity of cold-and-flu remedies. The brands are so well-established that we can recognize them at a glance even if we’ve never bought them.

And then there are the products we can’t recognize, let alone pronounce. The Korean potions are intriguing, sold in mysterious little bottles with very dignified-looking labels. Whenever I see them in a sari-sari store I forget to ask anyone what’s in them, or what they’re for. The only thing I can think about when I’m in a store is getting out of the store, so my attention span is nil. After that, though, I’ll spend a half-hour wondering what was in the little brown bottle with the white label and the blue lettering. Maybe it’s some ancient Asian remedy that would be a great, life-changing discovery.

Well, I’ll never know. Some things are just destined to be mysteries.

Which leads me back to this mysterious U-turn Flu. Keep an eye on that thing, that’s what I say. If it brushes up against you it might be planning to make a more memorable appearance the next time around.

Visit Ed Stephens Jr. at His column runs every Friday.

Ed Stephens Jr. | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Visit Ed Stephens Jr. at His column runs every Friday.

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