On Being Sick and Losing One’s Mind

6 min readJun 4


William A. Gralnick

I’ve been sick. What my doctor called, “very sick.” Almost “go-to-the-hospital” sick. It isn’t Covid; I’ve escaped that scourge by being careful and being vaccinated. I came home from a vacation in chilly, damp Scotland with both a bronchial and sinus infection. I have this cough that begins at my toes and exits the top of my head. To tell you what it drags along with it is TMI. I’ll spare you. The question is this: what does one do with oneself when sickness prevents concentration, eyes are too light-sensitive to read an electronic book, and generally you’re wet dishrag weak? The answer is reach for the remote. And there lies the rub.

Unless one is a person who “tapes” things for a rainy day, you’re left what can be found on television. Mind you, that’s a lot. When I was a kid in Brooklyn, I had four channels from which to choose. Failing a ball game, that meant I watched a lot of soap operas until Howdy Doody came on. When my grandma came over, we also listened to them on the radio. I remember some of the storylines and a lot of the short, upbeat jingles, many for soap products. Oxydol and Dreft come to mind. Tha friends, is why they were called soap operas. Then the commercials were a quick interlude from the program. Today the programs seem to be a quick interlude from the commercials. In those days, commercials made sense. The message was direct. Use this soap, it will clean your clothes. Use this starch, it will stiffen your collars. This product is soft and gentle, that product is super-strong, and will clean a dirty elephant — if you could get it into a machining machine. Today, not so.

Today we are insulted. Tell me how using an electric uni-cycle that throws you into the ocean because you can’t control it and hit a railing is a reason to buy insurance? Have you noticed that the line, “Only get what you need” has morphed into a telephone tagline from having been the logo line of an insurance company? Are you standing in line to sign up for insurance because you love Emu’s? At the point I was ready to take out a hunting license, ole Doug rolls out his commercial kid. This child has a mustache and a young Emu in his motorized kiddy car. Dad challenges him to carry on the legacy. The kid kicks it into gear, says goodbye to “Uncle Emu,” and then drives across the flower bed and lawn onto the sidewalk at which time his father calls to him to stay off the highway. Good grief! If you’re stuck in front of the TV for long enough…


Bill Gralnick, born in Brooklyn, has written over 900 op ed columns for newspapers and magazines over his 45 year career. He has published three books.