It's January and the rains have not missed their cue. Weeds are popping up, joyfully coating Southern California everywhere in a haze of unexpected green. Green everywhere and it's pretty for a moment until you blink and they've grown up into stinging nettles and the molds are proliferating with the best of them. I mean really, they put rabbits to shame. And it just so that happens that I have begun expressing my appreciation for this season by sneezing.
Mornings usually being worse, I have been known to wake up and declare with only a hint of melodrama that I am allergic to the entirety of Southern California. On most days I have a fine vocabulary for expressing a great many sentiments. But sometimes when my allergies are overwhelming I have no patience or brain power left to employ it and I curse my allergies with invective that could shock sailors.
Now don't go and misunderstand me. I love my immune system. It keeps me reasonably healthy and it has fought off all the crazy things that life and coworkers keep throwing at it. I know that immune systems are complex and difficult to understand and I do appreciate that mine is tirelessly working to keep me healthy and happy.
What I have a problem with is its training.
Yes, training. You don't think that the little army of immune responders called your immune system got to where it is today without training, do you? They drill and practice and work. They keep themselves in trim fighting condition all year round. They are trained, tireless, professional killers in the defense of my immune system. They are trained in the style of the German Imperial Army of old and they are extremely efficient. And that's the problem really.
My immune system doesn't have that much to do. I don't generally eat gently poisoned foods or sit around drinking mildly toxic water or have prolonged chats with infected herds of sheep for really any length of time. So, without any real threats, they drill. They are constantly on high alert for practically no reason. They've read the manual; I could be subjected to typhoid, mumps, cholera or trench fever at a moment's notice. And so they march, with a long list of rules and no credible attacks of dysentery in months and they are extremely bored. So they begin to frisk everything that crosses the borders out of sheer lack of something productive to do.
Molds and pollens accidentally land on my body due to the fickle air currents that brought them nearby. And my immune is waiting for them at the border in orderly lines and pointed helmets dating from the first world war and belonging to the German Imperial Army.
"Vat iz your name and rank!" Barks the leader of my immune responder patrol.
The harmless pollen blinks at them blankly.
"Vell, it must be a foreigner. Ve vill bring you to Herr Colonel"
My little Immune Colonel sees a foreign body and consults the manual. "Vell, vell vat do ve have here. Dis leeddle pollen seems to be having ze fun with us. Diz pollen does not have ze papers for being in dis area."
"But vat does ze manual say, Herr Colonel?"
"Ze manual says that all foreigners are invaders."
"Das ist richtig"
"Vait, vat iz dat?" A helpful immune soldier shouts, "Ze pollen iz bringing his friends."
"Dis iz definitely an invasion!" Herr Colonel says excitedly.
My immune system patrol falls into place behind the Colonel in perfectly distanced rows. Helmets gleaming they await the commands.
"Rechts! Rechts!" shouts Herr Colonel. And they stride off on their right foot in perfect order.
Herr Colonel begins a World War I version of beat-box and using only his God-given talents he sounds a trumpet tune mixed with a drum beat for their march. It would be enough to fill any military heart with pride.
And so my immune system, trained by the old German Imperial Army organizes itself thus. It puts on its pointed helmets every morning. The trumpet is sounded. It marches in orderly lines. The manual is consulted and everything that even looks like a pollen or potential invader is attacked. I appreciate the sentiment and devotion to my well-being. I really do. But I don't care much for the result. My body has decided, on the advice of my German Imperialist Immune System I might add, that the pollens and molds must be toxic and I should attempt to expel them with vigorous sneezing, eye-watering and a delightful but as yet not appreciated general itchiness.
Have you ever seen the film Those Magnificent Men and Their Flying Machines? If not, you should. Not only is it hilarious, it is filled with amazing and terrifying old flying contraptions. If you are wondering what this has to do with this post you should simply watch a portion of the clips that deal with the German flying team. You will know exactly what sort of thing my immune system is doing over here.
A sample of the German Imperial Army's finest trumpet/drum beat-box moments and a sample of what my immune system looks like while trying to maintain my good health.