And while I’m on the subject, here’s another item that is a lot easier to appreciate after you do without it for a while: the ability to stand up. I don’t mean the ability to walk; I haven’t taken that for granted since 1980. I mean the ability to remain vertical.
Let me explain. Marie was sick with a rather nasty cold over the weekend, and as she began to recover, it became clear that I was coming down with it. I started feeling the first symptom, a dry, scratchy sore throat, on Monday evening. I was able to work Tuesday but felt worse as the day progressed: nasal congestion, general aches, weakness, and so forth. Along with these came a symptom I hadn’t experienced before: the infection messed up my inner ear, interfering with my sense of balance. By the end of the work day I was already feeling dizzy, and by nightfall my internal guidance system was completely offline.
I spent the next twenty-four hours in bed. I would have done this anyway because I felt awful and needed the rest, but in this case I had no choice; I could not stand up without hanging onto some kind of support. Any movement caused the room to spin around me, and I lurched and staggered as if intoxicated. I have never actually been drunk, but this must be what it’s like. Frankly, I don’t see the appeal of it. I found that it was best to simply stay prone and try not to move until my semicircular canals recovered.
I think Ford Prefect summed up the experience best when, in The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, he described the sensation of hyperspace travel to Arthur Dent:
FORD: It’s rather unpleasantly like being drunk.
ARTHUR: What’s so unpleasant about being drunk?
FORD: Ask a glass of water.