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Bitten by the Bug : Rx for a Day in Bed: Get Lots of Catalogues, Clip Plenty of Coupons


Do you find yourself sneezing, coughing and becoming one with a box of tissues at this time of year? If so, you are among the countless Americans who suffer from cold or flu but just don't have the time to stay home. Here's someone who dared to be different and took the day off. Sort of. 8 a.m.--I cannot open my eyes. They feel as if they're tied to the bottom of my feet.

I am one of the thousands of Californians felled by either the flu--Type A, Type B--or the non-flu, 100 other viruses that go around masquerading as the real thing. Life, unfortunately, goes on.

8:30--Take child to baby-sitter. If I'm gonna be home sick, it'll be without the help of a 2-year-old. Come home, tumble into rumpled confines of bed with touch-tone telephone, morning newspaper, stack of old magazines, TV remote control and the dogged determination to spend the day resting.

This is harder than it sounds. Experts say Americans are beset by a new national malaise: the inability to rest, especially when we need it most. Yet I'm willing to give it a try.

9--Call best friend for comforting chat from pillow-pocketed depths.

"You're going to stay where?! " she says, incredulous.

9:05--Quietly repeat the words: Just for today, I will drink juice, I will eat canned chicken-noodle soup, but I will not work, I will not be a mother and I will not feel guilty.

I will be, by 1990s standards, a slacker.

9:30--Turn on radio.

9:31--Turn off radio.

9:35--Switch to TV, universal balm for the flu-ridden. "Well, Jan, pessimism is the word most Americans use to describe their feelings about the economy. . . . "

9:40--Turn off TV. It all sounds like this ! Don't they know you have a fever ?

9:45--Go back to sleep.

11--Prop up pillows, take two aspirin and reflect on English essayist Charles Lamb's pungent observation: "Sickness enlarges the dimensions of a man's self to himself."

He is right: Just lie back, gaze out the window and ruminate on the profundity of it all.

I lie. I gaze. I see the filminess of the window. I reach for the Yellow Pages.

11:15--Start punching numbers from the phone book, an amazing compendium of cures for everything that ails your house, your yard, your life in general. I find a window washer. Thirty-two, in fact. I also find tree doctors, tile grouters and patio-jackhammerers.

12:30 p.m.--This combination of modern telecommunication and febrile enervation is a match made in home-repair heaven. For one thing, you are actually there, by the phone, when the call-backs come. For another, when you're sick, you don't think cost--just results.

The result: Doug is coming next week to do the floors ($110), Marty to do windows ($85) and Carlos to remove the bee swarm from the holly bush while biodegradably spraying the wintering cherry ($187).

1--I have become a dial-tone junkie. Take out stack of catalogues from under bed. Think about Christmas presents for next year. Jog memory for upcoming birthdays of friends and spouse's family. Consider these catalogue offerings: Waterproof barbecue cover, $27; a special winder for keeping heavy electrical cords tangle-free, $34.98; nail polish tilter; set of cordless suction-cup "candles"; rolling scissors to make accurate cutting a breeze.

1:30--Punch more numbers. They're toll-free. The friendly operators draw your attention to specials you might have missed on other pages. Pay by credit card now, return the junk later when you're well.

2:45--While you're on a roll: Call banks about possible mortgage refinancing.

3:15--Call banks about debt-consolidation loan to clear credit cards used to pay for points on original mortgage and upcoming debt on catalogue purchases.

3:30--Give fingers a rest after flurry of calling. Pick up newspaper for stint of restful reading. For the first time in years, take time to actually read it--all the way through.

Marvel at fact of bridge column; read auto section and discover cars named Eagle Talon, Ford Probe, Oldsmobile Achieva; read weather report for every major city in the world. (Make note: Call friend in London to ask about snow. Allow for nine-hour time difference.)

3:45--Wonder how I ever got along without this information.

4--The mail box clinks. Stumble downstairs to retrieve contents. Go back to bed and read: Two offers to join book clubs (four books free with membership); three packets of dollar-savings coupons (buy three packs of vacuum cleaner bags, get one free); prayer letter you shouldn't open unless you want to change your financial fortunes; six-page computerized explanation of how you already may be in line to win $10 million from the Publishers Clearing House.

4:30--Figure that being sick is nature's way of telling you to save money.

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