Toxic Shock Cure

Thirty years ago, I was a smart-assed, upper-management young man with an attitude and with no clue who I was or who I’d become. Purely by chance, “opportunity,” and bad luck, I’d ended up in a job with a few more than 100 employees, a two million dollar department budget, four bosses, and absolutely no interest in being in that position. It’s not like I had designs on the CEO or CFO’s jobs. I didn’t even want my own job. I was working 50-70 hours a week, desperately hanging on to my pipedream of getting a bachelor’s degree of some sort before I left California, the sole support of my 3-dependent family, running two garage music-services businesses of my own, and heading down the path of severe burnout at light speed.

One of my employees complained that all I and my manufacturing engineer ever did was bitch, but he was a 9-to-5 guy who arrived at work 3-4 hours after we’d begun our day and left when we were taking our first break of the day. When his day finally came and he took over Manufacturing from me, the first thing he did was begin to move all manufacturing processes to China where he could visit/vacation occasionally and pretend to be in charge while real manufacturing people did the nasty, day-to-day job of making products. Don’t get me started on bullshit Trump-lies about how Americans just won’t do manufacturing jobs or that equally idiotic anti-union crap. The problem is, and always has been, that American mismanagement is incompetent, lazy, and always takes the easiest way out of actual management. Me included.

Actually, I didn’t hate managing manufacturing, but I despised having to manage the people above me. Selling them on every idea or process improvement always meant convincing them that it was their idea. Something that took more time than it was worth and provided me with absolutely no value. And so, after five years of fighting this battle, I was done. Burned out. Ready to abandon ship and get the hell out of Dodge (or, in this case, our Huntington Beach, CA apartment and my job in Costa Mesa). I had interviews lined up, a fairly good job offer in the can, and was about ready to jump ship when the four upper management guys called me in and gave me an ultimatum: quit, get fired, or take a minimum of 10 days vacation before they and I decided what to do long term. They even gave me $3,000 to vacation with, if I left that week.

They even offered their own time-shares in Hawaii and Arizona, but I knew what I needed was some kind of “roughing it experience.” I spent the money on a 14-day Outward Bound mountaineering course in Yosemite National Park. I’d wanted to take on that park since I moved to California but work didn’t allow the time and my family of three poor-traveling women (especially my wife) made the whole “family vacation” concept impossible. Without asking permission from anyone, I was gone that Friday morning and by noon I was loaded up with a 60-p0und pack, my own camping gear and that of some of the smaller course members, and more than a fair share of the group’s food supply. Contrary to some of Outward Bound’s marketing literature, participants are not required to carry their own weight and gear. OB’s system is more along the lines of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

So, me and one other reasonably fit guy carried about 150% of what we needed so that some other campers, women, wouldn’t have to carry their full gear load. Naturally, he and I commiserated and ended up hiking together a good bit ahead of the group. One of the many rules the OB guides had laid on us was “do no share water, you’ll get sick.” So, we immediately passed our canteens back and forth in revolt for the overload we were shouldering. The next morning, I had one hell of a cold. Obviously, the OB guide had damn little sympathy. However, he did offer a “cure.” In case he ended up getting a cold on one of his courses, he packed a whole bulb of garlic. He recommended eating a whole, raw clove, twice a day. He broke one off for me and I hiked on for a while, gathering the courage to chew the damn thing into garlicky, bitter pulp and swallow it. The cold continued to get worse and, eventually, I couldn’t breath and was falling behind the group. So, I bit the garlic bullet and almost gagged. At the time, I wasn’t much of a spicy food fan, so this was serious desperation. Two days out of a 14 day trip and if something didn’t work I’d be straggling back on my own and I’d have wasted almost $2,500. I don’t remember much about the next few hours, but the fact that I continued on for the rest of the course is evidence that the garlic cure worked.

Travel forward to this week. I was sick for a week over the holiday break and two weeks later, it all came back last night. By 2AM this morning, I was so congested I could barely breathe through my mouth. My nose was totally non-functional. I gave up trying to sleep and wandered the house looking for a non-decongestant cure (can’t take ‘em). Finally, I bit the garlicky bullet and chomped down on a big old clove. Damn, it was as nasty as I remember. Heartburn and bad breath smoking away, I went back to bed. A few minutes later, I began to salivate so intensely I thought I was going to vomit and my stomach burned like I’d swallowed a pitcher of Tijuana water. Out of bed again and prowling the vicinity of our bathroom, I was almost drowning in my own spit and close to doubled up with stomach pain. It felt like the descriptions I’ve heard of drug overdoses. Then, suddenly, those symptoms went away and . . . I COULD BREATHE. I went back to sleep and got at least six more hours before I drug myself out of bed.

My breath probably smells like the back end of an Italian cook, but I’ve downed two more cloves today and this damn cold appears to be dissipating. This spring, I’m taking a trip or five on the 250. Garlic cloves are going with me.

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