SOCIAL DISTANCING, Chapter 11: In Which I Lapse Into Hypochondria

 
By Liz McLeod
Still Your House Manager
 
“Mggpphhrrr!” I exclaimed, as Miss Carol T. Cat sunk her needle-like claws deep into my thigh. Miss Carol resists all attempts to trim her claws, viewing them as protected under the Second Amendment to the Constitution.  “Mgggrrrrph!” I repeated, as she slammed them in again, putting behind the attack the full force of her weight. Apparently she wanted my attention.
 
“I require social stimulation,” she declared, in a voice that to the uninitiated sounds like a freight train rattling thru the South End that you can hear all the way up in the North End. “I require at this time that you lie on the living room floor so that I may lie on my side and lightly paw you about the head and neck. You may, if you wish, refer to me at this time as ‘a good cat’ and as ‘a pretty cat.’ Do not, however, resort to infantile ‘baby talk’ in making these statements. I find such to be highly distasteful.”
 
“Mmgggrrph,” I repeated. I was seated at my desk, busy with matters of vital importance.
 
“You would communicate more effectively,” frowned Miss Carol, “if you were to remove that odd utensil from your mouth. It renders you even more unintelligible than usual.”
 
“It’s a thermometer,” I replied, removing it from under my tongue. “I’m takin’ my temperature.”
 
“You are hardly what anyone would consider ‘hot blooded,’” observed Miss Carol, turning to lick her furry flank. “No doubt your temperature is well within accepted parameters.”
 
“Yeah, well, I feel funny,” I snapped. “I felt funny when I woke up today and I feel even funnier now.”
 
“I have reviewed your comedy material,” she sneered. “I assure you that you are in no way funny.”
 
“That’s not what I mean,” I said, my irritation building. “I think I have – symptoms.”
 
“Nonsense,” declared Miss Carol. “You appear in every way to be asymptomatic.”
 
“I was cold when I got up this morning! I had the shivers.”
 
“If you heated this establishment sufficiently during the overnight hours, you would avoid such an outcome,” she countered. “I recommend a minimum temperature of 75 degrees Farenheit for best results.”
 
“I’d cook,” I protested. “Do you want to boil me alive?”

“I have no desire for such an outcome,” she said. “I merely call to your attention that ambient temperature is of considerable significance in determining personal comfort. If you have ‘the chills,’ consider this factor before drawing medical conclusions.’”
 
“I’ve been coughing,” I coughed. “See?”
 
“As you have often reminded me,” she replied, “you suffer from chronic bronchitis. You always cough. It is of no further significance.”
 
“I’m sneezing,” I sneezed.
 
“This structure is heavily laden with dust. You are a lackadaisical and indifferent housekeeper.”
 
“I had a sore throat yesterday!”
 
“A symptom caused by inappropriately raising your voice when I advised you that the hour for my morning meal had arrived.”
 
“It was 3:30 in the morning!”
 
“Ah,” she noted. “Again you raise your voice, thus irritating your larynx. Your symptoms will recur, but they do not denote a serious illness. I advise that you learn to restrain your emotions.”
 
“Look,” I said. “I been sittin’ here all day readin’ the internet. There’s all kinds of stuff on here about this virus, an’ it’s scary, okay? What if I *do* have it? What’ll happen? Who’s gonna take care of you?”
 
“A matter of legitimate concern,” she acknowledged. “I advise you to contact an attorney at once and draw up a power of attorney to see to my needs.”
 
“See,” I said, ignoring her usual lack of concern for my personal well-being. “Right here. This gal on this blog. She shows all these things you need to worry about. She’s got the truth about the virus!”
 
“Is this hew-mon a physician? Has she the necessary clinical training to diagnose illness and prescribe treatment?”
 
“How do I know?” I asked. “I come acrost her on this forum where I was lookin’ for advice on how to strip varnish.”
 
“Ah,” she nodded. “And there is your problem. You allow yourself to be agitated into a state of fear and panic by random hew-mons you encounter on the internet – persons no more qualified than you yourself to pass a medical judgement.”
 
“But the internet…”
 
“It has been my observation that ‘crowdsourced’ knowledge is generally of little value. A million hew-mons believing a fiction does not make that fiction a fact. Information gathered from improperly vetted, irresponsible sources and unaccredited, self-designated ‘experts’  is more dangerous even than no information at all.”
 
I thought about what she’d said, and I had to admit she was right. The deeper I plunged down the tunnel of Internet Self-Diagnosis the more I panicked – and the more confused I found myself. 

“You have taken your temperature,” said Miss Carol. “What is the result?”

 
I squinted at the thermometer. “Ninety five degrees,” I read. “See, I told you I was cold.”

“You have no fever, “ she stated with finality, “and you have no real cause for fear. Your temperature is, in fact, several degrees below normal. I suggest that you retire to bed at once, and I will join you there shortly. I shall sit on top of your chest and warm you with my body heat.”
 
I was touched. She was rarely so altruistic. 
 
“After, of course, you prepare my evening meal. And I recommend you prepare my morning meal in advance to avoid wasted time on the morrow. I am, as you are well aware, an early riser.”
 
So what did I do? Well, I did what you would.
 
I shut off the computer and I went to bed.
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