It has been over 40 years since “Desiderata,” a litany of uplifting thoughts (e.g., “Be gentle with yourself”) penned by Max Ehrmann in 1906 and recorded by Les Crane, was lampooned in “Deteriorata,” an “answer” spoken record which punctured the myth of each individual’s perceived significance with pithy putdowns like “You are a fluke of the universe” and “You have no right to be here.”
Although it has easily been three decades since I last heard that novelty hit, the refrains of that parody returned when I opened a bag of cough drops recently and discovered that one company is including “a pep talk in every drop.” Instead of wrapping your troubles in dreams like the title of the well-known song from the Great Depression, this company wraps each drop with encouraging messages like “Power through” and “Nothing you can’t handle” meant to help users endure the agony of colds.
The reality is that if sufferers could handle anything they would not need of bursts of cherry-flavored, mentholated glucose to cope during their two-week ordeal of head and chest congestion. Clichés borrowed from athletic trainers and coaches do not flow easily from inflamed throat and mouth membranes. A dose of reality is just what the doctor ordered, especially if that medico learned from phony physician Demento.
We are told “Let’s hear your battle cry.” All right, here it is: “Don’t touch any doorknob without wearing less than two pairs of gloves!”
“Put a little strut in it” belongs on the same work order with “Rotate your tires.”
“Conquer today” is taking too long a view when “If I can just keep down breakfast and make it to lunch” is the one constant thought of the victim.
“Get back in there, champ” is best answered by “I’m tired of buckling down and pushing forth!”
The gullible will opt for “Tough is your middle name.” The crafty chose “SOS is my initials” and “Where do I go to surrender?”
Does it “Inspire envy” to “Dust off and get up” and “Keep your chin up”? Of course not. A better tack: “Grovel in abject agony while sinking into obscurity.”
The truth of the matter is that when one is suffering through the miseries of a cold the only thing that matters is getting past that miserable time as quickly as possible. As we grow older, each ride aboard the rhinovirus seems more agonizing, and reading trite expressions like “You’ve survived tougher” only prompts one to reply sarcastically, “Not since I visited Job in Uz.”