That lingering scratchy throat, the persistent cough that won’t dissipate, the groggy exhausted feeling on Monday mornings. It’s cold season, but that has little to do with this lack of personal wellbeing.
The slow moments at work spent passionately poring over weather forecasts, the impossibly slow drives through the middle of God-knows-where spent diligently scanning the roadside for any sign of the next hood ornament, the shrill call of an alarm clock at some hellish hour on a day off: these are the cause.
Signs and symptoms vary between individuals. It’s hard to pinpoint what causes the onset of such a self imposed affliction, but a rapid onset of irrational behavior and decision making start to become noticeable by friends and loved ones around Thanksgiving. It can be earlier in the higher elevations, and by the end of the year it is too late.
The sudden onset of severe symptoms have been observed in males and females as young as 13, and once afflicted the disease seems to linger for life. The disease takes hold, conversations go unfinished as gazes freeze on snowflakes falling. Laundry begins to pile up in the hamper. Vehicles start to take on a hazy glaze of salt and grit. Stubble hangs onto jawlines and hidden legs, hair gets longer and knotted from being stuffed into helmets and toques. Living rooms are perpetually littered with cans of beer, sleeping pads, dirty long underwear, and the wretched scent of rot and mildew seeping from damp boots.
Social skills revert to the limited esoteric slang and pathetic romantic commitments reminiscent of male adolescents. Personal hygiene can begin to suffer; daily bathing begins to disappear from the routine. Technical clothing with GoreTex laminates begin to trap the odors of stale beer, sweat, blood, and tears.
It’s hard to comprehend how dramatic the change can be. Even more startling is how quickly
symptoms dissipate. Social skills and personal hygiene can come back in a matter of weeks. Raccoon tan lines, stubble, and patchwork beards are shorn for the looks more consistent with the impending warmer weather. Simultaneous to the disappearance of outward physical symptoms; the scratchy throat and persistent cough recede. The only documented permanent change is the glossy eyed stare survivors have when in the mountains. A look of longing, seemingly as if they are dreaming, cascades over those who have come down with it, and this is the life long affliction.