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I waited in line for a long time.

It was the kind of line where, when people would turn the corner and SEE the line, they'd stop dead in their tracks and moan, "Noooooo" before continuing to the back, heads hung low.

Any other day, faced with a line like this, I might've reconsidered my plans. I might've said: "This line is too long. I'll come back another day." Or "I don't need an order of fries with a side of ranch THAT bad."

But on this day, the only thing that stood between me and sweet relief was that line. So I wasn't going anywhere.

Yet, when my turn finally came, I pushed my cart forward with a little trepidation. Glanced behind me. Then whispered to the woman behind the counter: "So … I hear this is where I get the good stuff."

"What's that?" she asked.

"The good stuff," I repeated. "The good Sudafed."

She nodded with a knowing glance.

"Yes," she said. "I'll just need your driver's license."

I handed it over. I would've given her the entire contents of my purse and the keys to my car at that point. I just wanted something — anything — that would make my head feel like it wasn't about to burst like an overfilled water balloon. You know, if that balloon were filled with mucus.

To my mind, my request was clearly on the up and up. Anyone standing in that line could see it. My cart held only four other items and they were all boxes of tissues — including one that was already open because I couldn't wait. Also, I was in paint-stained yoga pants that should never see the outside of my house, a winter hat pulled low to cover my unwashed hair, glossy eyes, and a red nose covered in the flaky, dried skin of thousands of nose blowings.

I was obviously someone who needed the kind of hardcore decongestant you can only get by presenting your ID.

Yet, I still felt guilty going to that window. Possibly because, it occurred to me, my appearance could also be that of someone buying the good Sudafed to make meth — my cart full of tissues was just a cover.

The truth is that, at this writing, I'm mucking through the worst cold I've had in, I don't know, ever. I've spent the week between New Year's and now in a stuffy-headed fog.

I'd been pretty lucky in avoiding this fate over the years, even when my kids would bring runny noses and coughs home from school with them.

A "mother's immunity," my mom always called it. But this time, my mother's immunity failed me. I will say this, though: The "good Sudafed" did exactly what I wanted it to do. As of this writing, my eyes no longer hurt. My molars no longer ache. My raw nose hasn't had a Vick's-infused tissue rubbed across it in at least 23 minutes.

I'm fairly certain it's put me into an even deeper fog, though.

Ever since I downed that first dose, it feels like my head is on a 5-second delay. Everything feels slower and takes more time to understand.

This afternoon, I tried to talk to our mail carrier through a closed window, twice. I got a grammar question — a grammar question! — wrong on Trivia Crack. And my son's only response to a conversation we had before dinner was, "I hope you're not planning on driving anywhere later."

And even though ALL I WANT TO DO IS SLEEP, I was awake until 3 a.m. last night. They weren't kidding when they called it a non-drowsy formula.

But it has to be this way. I see no alternative. Before finally succumbing to the big guns, I tried the other stuff. I choked down 30 ml of thick and syrupy cold-and-flu medicine. I took several doses of the fake Sudafed — the kind you can get right off the shelf. I went through — and this is going to sound like an exaggeration, but it isn't — six boxes of tissues.

And I still felt as bad on Day 5 as I did on Day 1.

So, yeah, I'm taking the good stuff now. Because it's time to return to the world … even it's a spaced-out, foggy world.

Jennifer Koski is associate editor at Rochester Magazine. Her column appears Wednesdays. Send comments to

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