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Uh, oh, I have symptoms. Is it COVID or isn't it?

My right pinky toe hurts.

I think it's COVID.

Or, I suppose, it could be that I hooked it on the hallway wall corner while walking in the dark a few weeks ago, causing a 'CRRAAACCKKK' so loud that the cat woke up, looked around, and said 'mmmrrrfff.' Or something like that. I'm not sure, I was hopping on the other foot and cursing so loudly they heard me in Loyal (I don't live there). Kind of scary the words that come out of your mouth when you snap one of your own bones, ain't it?

I'm not sure I broke it, but the next morning it was the color of the Baltimore Ravens uniforms (purple and black, in case you're not a fan). It hurt, sure, but there isn't much to be done about it, so I figured why spend my outrageous annual health insurance deductible on a pinky toe X-ray when I could instead pay $3,000 to have my earwax blown out. Health care is all about choices, really. Skip the colonoscopy. Get the open heart surgery. It's not all that difficult.

But anyway, I started to talk about my toe pain feeling like a coronavirus symptom, and I was, of course, joking, because this is supposed to be a humor column and if I just flat out led with some line about a sore foot digit, you'd turn the page and see who got caught for speeding this week instead. Obviously, a sore toe is not one of the classic COVID indicators -- fever, dry cough, loss of taste and/or smell, fishy farts (well, I dunno, somethin's causin' 'em) -- but I said it anyway to signal to you, 'Hey, somethin' funny's goin' on here.' Or not. I do what I can.

As it turns out, early last week I did have some possible COVID symptoms, so I did the responsible think and licked everyone I knew on the cheek and kissed a few strangers in the store parking lot (turns out, not all of them liked it all that well). Oh, you know I didn't, but I did retreat to my own home and stay put until I could get a COVID-19 test and learn the results. Good gosh. An excuse to stay home and sleep on a weekday. Is this pandemic awesome, or what?

My initial symptoms included feverishness, excessive sweating for a short time, an intermittent runny nose, and general fatigue (although that started at about age 47 and really has never gone away). Those are all possible coronavirus indicators, but then again, they're also fairly common maladies, so, how is one to know, other than a formal test? It could be that I had just a slight cold, or some late-season allergy, but then again I may be a prime carrier of an epidemiological agent capable of eradicating all human life from the planet. Although that would probably help with the global warming thing, if you're looking for a bright spot.

My symptoms had largely subsided before I even had the sword-length cotton-tip swab rammed so far into my nasal cavity that I could feel it poking under the skin on the back of my head. Still, I had to wait almost three days for the official result, and by the time the clinic person finally called to say it was negative, I pretty much knew I either never had the virus or that I had actually died on Thursday and was in one of those 'The Sixth Sense' scenes.

'I see dead people.' What a classic. Bruce Willis. Donnie Wahlberg. Rent it now on NetFlix.

I'll admit it was sort of difficult staying in self-isolation mode when I was all but certain I did not have COVID-19, but that's just the way it has to be these days. If I had just ignored the symptoms, no matter how mild they were, I might have spewed viral droplets all over the place (I do kinda' spit when I talk), left contaminated handprints all over town (I like touchin' stuff), and infected multiple at-risk people (the elderly, those with autoimmune disorders, election fraud conspirators). The way I saw it, better safe than sorry, especially since 'safe' involved extended couch time, excess eating (you have to keep up your strength), and a call from Mommy every day asking how I was feeling. Never underestimate that.

One of the peculiarities of COVID-19 has been the variable way in which it impacts people. I know some folks who have tested positive, yet say the worst symptom they had was a light cough, or a headache that comes and goes, or a just a little tiredness. On the flip side, you have some people, who were quite healthy before, and they get slammed with a miserable fever, acute shortness of breath, muscle aches and fatigue. Come to think about it, that's how I feel after dancing a polka. Doubt it's related. I was reading something recently about the long-term impacts of this pandemic, one of which will be a general awareness among people that they really ought to stay home when they're feeling ill. For so long, with our need for a paycheck and socialization, we have all headed out into public places while sneezing and sweating and dripping mucous out of multiple orifices, but now perhaps this disease outbreak will encourage us to stay in bed to help prevent the spread of whatever we have to everyone else. Me personally, from now on, whenever I'm bleeding out my ears or experiencing such terrible abdominal cramping pain that I can't uncurl from the fetal position, that's it, I'm calling in sick. Well, unless it's pizza potluck day for lunch. Daddy likes his pepperonis.

I was relieved to hear that my COVID-19 test was negative so I could resume my daily routines. With the rapid spread of the virus through the area population, though, I'm figuring it's just a matter of time before I inhale the bug somewhere and become one of the infected. It's anyone's guess as to what symptoms I may get, but I'll just have to cope as they come along.

By the way, my right little toe still hurts.

I think it's Lyme's disease.