Story: American Allergy

Derek Baron

By Derek Baron
Written on 30 June 2008
2 favorites, 1575 views

I used to think how much I would love to simply travel the world forever. Now, due to a most unique allergy development, I just might be forced into doing exactly that.

I am coughing and sneezing. As expected.

I suffer from what is perhaps one of the most bizarre allergies known to mankind. I appear to be allergic to none other than the USA itself, finding myself coughing and sneezing uncontrollably no matter where I am within the 50 states (I am not allergic to St. Thomas or America Samoa though). It does not matter if I am in Boston, Miami or Austin, I cough and I sneeze and I cough and I sneeze often. London, Delhi, Prague? No coughing. No sneezing. Santiago, Melbourne, Saigon? No coughing or sneezing there either. New York, California? A whole lot of coughing and sneezing.

Generally, the allergy attacks me within the first twenty-four hours of my crossing the border, whether by land, air or sea. It then remains my incurable enemy until the moment I cross the border once again, on my way out of the country. It is as precise as a Rolex, as certain as the nightly presence of the pad thai vendor at the corner of Khao Sao Road and Soi Rambutri in Bangkok.

Pills and cough drops have proven powerless, therapeutic teas with exotic names completely useless. Meditation (both sitting and walking), sauna sessions and simply pretending to be in a foreign country have brought absolutely no relief whatsoever and at times caused great embarrassment (usually when I pretend that southern Florida is actually Dhaka, Bangladesh – the people here just don’t appreciate a good tissue-less blowing of the nose).

Anyway, for the time being I am ok with having this allergy, simply because I know that I will be leaving the country again soon, in 9 days from now. When I walk back onto the Queen Mary 2 on July 8th, the coughing and sneezing will undoubtedly remain, that is until our fine Captain maneuvers the vessel out under the Verranzano Bridge just after sunset and towards international waters. By the time I wake up for work the following morning, my allergy will have once again vanished for no understandable reason.

At least I have a valid excuse for my more than frequent trips overseas. It’s for my health of course! Who in their right mind wants to deny me good health? You can tell me it’s time I finally settle down, time to end the constant travels, but you certainly would not want me to suffer in the process. Would you?

Now that I think of it, I am also allergic to cats. But only American cats. Honestly. When I am around my sister’s hissing ’Sheba’ or my friend’s ugly ‘Patches’, my eyes instantly swell shut, my face inflates like a bag of Orville Redenbacher and my inner ear tickles so intensely as if I am the victim of torture. Cats in other countries have no affect on me whatsoever. I could hold them in my lap and lick their fur clean or even use them as a pillow and still I would resemble the non-inflated version of myself.

What does all of this mean? Is my body trying to tell me something? I just may be destined to forever wander the planet, to be forced into exile by the unknown cause of my “spasmodic contractions of the thoracic cavity” and "convulsive expulsions of air". Could I be so lucky?

Even my doctor friend is dumbfounded and unable to offer a reasonable explanation of my situation. Although he did suggest a treatment that involved a game of Scrabble and some blueberry muffin tops, not surprising once I discovered that he actually studied to become a podiatrist.

If anyone else out there has any suggestions, please let me know. Maybe there is another baffled traveler in the world suffering from this strange disorder too. It would be of great help to find the cure, not only to eliminate this annoying cough, but more importantly so that I can return to using tissues to blow my nose.

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