In the midst of agony, a song….


Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to reflect at great length on a song that many of us know by the simple title “Head and Shoulders.”

That’s because I had come down with a severe mid-summer bout of something that the medical profession has chosen to call West Nile Avian Swine Mad Cow Pox Influenza.

Maybe you think I’m hyperbolizing, but I am in fact simply exaggerating.

Actually, I take that back. I’m being serious.

At some point in early August I picked up a virus that took over my immune system and ordered my body to go into Absolute Discomfort Mode.

I’ve felt miserable before, but this was the equivalent of getting your wisdom teeth removed via ear canal while simultaneously donating two pints of blood with both arms. I was basically reduced to a lump of carbon that was capable of nothing more than sitting on the recliner and staring with glazed eyes at the TV.

I couldn’t even find the energy to shower, brush my teeth or apply deodorant.

I could, if necessary, occasionally muster the stamina to change the channel if something of less cultural value than “Judge Judy” came on.

Food had lost its flavor. The entire cast of the Mucinex commercials had taken up residence in my chest. Crawling to the bathroom was only permitted on emergency occasions.

There I was sitting in my own filth with a 102-degree temperature on a 108-degree day while the room was spinning wildly around me and my back ached and my legs ached and my abs (I discovered I had some) ached and my feet ached and my head, shoulders, knees, toes….

And then it began. Without warning, I had a song stuck in my head.

(Alert: If you do not want to have a song stuck in your head, stop reading this column right now. And maybe wash your hands.)

“Head and shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes. Head and shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes. Eyes and ears and mouth and nose. Head and shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes.”

It got me thinking: whoever wrote this song must have had a major case of the flu, because it pretty much covers every part of the body that becomes a burden during a time of illness.

The second verse goes on to sing, “Ankles, elbows, feet and seat, feet and seat. Ankles, elbows, feet and seat, feet and seat. Hair and hips and chin and cheeks. Ankles, elbows, feet and seat, feet and seat.” (Yes, my hair did hurt.)

If you think about it, the human body has hundreds of arguably more important parts (heart, lungs, colon, semicolon and that little dangly thing in the back of your throat), but this song only goes so far as to bring up the ones that in one way or another hurt when a person becomes sick.

The song doesn’t make any mention of, say, the spleen.

But wait, it gets worse.

After I had that epiphany, my overheated brain got another song stuck in it: “Dry Bones.”

It’s an old spiritual that goes, in poor grammatical shape, like this: “The toe bone connected to the heel bone. The heel bone connected to the foot bone. The foot bone connected to the leg bone. The leg bone connected to the knee bone. The knee bone connected to the thigh bone. The thigh bone connected to the backbone. The backbone connected to the neck bone. The neck bone connected to the head bone.”

I became upset because—and bear in mind that I was out of mine—this song is not only incomplete in its bone cataloging, but it’s downright misleading!

Right away, it blasphemes the foot bone. I’m sorry, but in high school health class I learned that the human foot in fact has 26 bones, plus an additional tiny sesamoid bone in the big toe that no one really ever pays attention to.

Actually, I’m just kidding. I looked that up online. I don’t remember anything from high school health, except that it meant we didn’t have to play dodge ball in PE that day.

And how about the thigh bone (if such a thing even exists) going straight to the backbone? Whatever happened to the hip bone?

But perhaps I’m being too critical. I’d better quite before I put my foot bone in my mouth bone.


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