Sam Venable 

Department of Irony

Oooh, the Excruciating Pain!Along with a bunch of other writers at our newspaper, I recently got my annual flu shot. We lined up in a meeting room on the first floor of the building, rolled up our sleeves, got zapped, and had the obligatory Bandage of Honor pasted onto our shoulders.

Oooh, the pain! Oooh, the misery! Oooh, the suffering!

Not from the inoculation itself, you understand. Maybe they make sharper and thinner needles than I remember from my youth. Or maybe shot-giving techniques are much improved. Or, more likely, childhood fears caused the pain to ratchet far higher than it actually was. Whatever the case, getting the shot was a piece of cake.

But that itty-bitty bandage they slap on your arm afterward?

Holy $#@! I swear six layers of skin, not to mention half an acre of arm hair, came off with it the next day. What do they use for adhesive in those things—Gorilla Glue?

(OK, so maybe I exaggerated. It was more like four layers of skin and a bushel of hair.)

Nonetheless, this is a minuscule price to pay for gargantuan protection. A flu shot’s the cheapest medical insurance policy money can buy. If you’ve ever come down with influenza—the honest-to-gosh, equatorial-fever, arctic-chill, ache-till-you-moan, sick-for-two-weeks, please-Lord-let-me-die variety—you know what I mean.

Anytime I hear someone shrug, “I had the flu yesterday, but I’m fine now,” I’m reminded of “Mannix,” a private-eye television show from the 1960s.

In nearly every episode, the bad guys would beat poor ol’ Joe Mannix into a lifeless pulp, shoot him full of holes, and shove him off a cliff inside his car—which would invariably explode at the bottom. But by the next scene, Joe would have fully recovered, with only a junior-sized bandage over one eye. Ten seconds later, even the bandage would be gone.

They don’t make good guys, or bandage strips, like that anymore.

Ah, but medical treatments certainly have improved—even if you’re unlucky enough to meet up with the flu bug or some other noxious cootie.

I keep at my desk a book called East Tennessee Lore of Yesteryear. It’s a long-out-of-print tome by Emma Deane Smith Trent and is full of odd procedures once used around here to cure the sick. The fact that many of these remedies include directions to “continue until the patient improves or dies” should tell you something about their basis in scientific fact and effectiveness. Here are a few gems:

“To cure a fever blister, kiss a dog.”

“For frozen feet, apply roast beefsteak.”

“To cure chicken pox, go to the chicken house after the sun goes down and let a black hen fly over you.”

“Take new nails, put them in a bucket, and pour water over them. When the water is rusty, take it for blood medicine.”

“A pan of water placed under the bed will prevent night sweats.”

“For sore throat, cut slices of salt pork or fat bacon, simmer a few minutes in hot vinegar, and apply to the throat as hot as possible. When this is taken off, wrap with a bandage of soft flannel.”

Strange, for sure. Ineffective, perhaps. But at least I bet that bandage peeled off easier than the flu-shot ones they use today.

Sam Venable is an author, comedic entertainer, and humor columnist for the
Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel.
His latest book is
“The Joke’s on YOU! (All I Did Was Clean Out My Files).” He may be reached at