Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sniffle This!

Winter is just around the corner. And, like every other year, this winter season beckons with arctic winds and sporadic snow showers, not to mention hot apple cider and unflattering turtleneck sweaters. Non-singers can revel in the beauties of the changing season, frolicking in piles of snow, humming a pitchy version of "Jingle Bells," and even -- gasp! -- holiday shopping sans scarf.

Singers, on the other hand, are well aware of the truly malevolent nature of the winter season. A beautiful falling snowflake is nothing more than a pretext for hundreds of dastardly microbes that float innocuously among the population, biding their time until they can find a singer to attack.

Within a few minutes of this first contact, a singer's vocal folds are coated with a layer of impenetrable phlegm. Soon after, the sniffles begin, followed by a rasping cough, aches and pains, the loss of high notes, the loss of low notes, the loss of all remaining notes, and, in some cases, the loss of sanity.

Scientists have studied this phenomenon for centuries and, despite spending billions of dollars on research and performing dozens of illegal experiments on opera singers (the results of these experiments are known as counter-tenors), they still have no good explanation.

At this point in my post, you probably expect me to provide some sage advice on how to avoid Mother Nature's minions of winter fury. Sorry, but I usually just lock myself in a bomb shelter lined with Ricola cough drops and Kleenex boxes and hope that my supply of ding-dongs and coffee will last until March.

That said, don't despair! Your Texas-sized wad of contaminated phlegm may have ruined your summer program auditions, but there is no reason why you can't use it to ruin someone else's summer program auditions as well.

Biological warfare in the winter months has been a standard practice for ambitious opera singers for centuries. During the French and Indian War, Lord Jeffrey Amherst gained notoriety by sending smallpox-infected blankets to the enemy tribe and effectively starting an epidemic. What the history books failed to mention is that Amherst's wife was a lyric soprano in fierce competition with Little-Doe-With-High-F-Like-Thunder, the famed Native American coloratura.

Coincidence? Perhaps. Then again, after just a few choice blanket deliveries, Mrs. Amherst's squeaky high notes were once more unrivaled by anyone in Massachusetts.

These days, opera singers don't need to go to quite so much trouble for the sake of their competitive spirit. Besides, the waitlist for a vial of smallpox pus is always excessively long this time of year.

But, just in case, here are the top four foolproof strategies for a little biological warfare:

1) It may be the oldest trick in the book, but nothing beats the used Kleenex technique. The most popular method of delivery is simply to drop a wadded-up Kleenex into a purse or book bag. If you are unobserved, you can make the most of the drop by first wiping the inside of the Kleenex along the outside of the purse and/or wallet within. Symptoms develop within seven hours.

2) Another brilliant method is the water spit technique. When your rival is distracted (it might help to introduce a diversion of some kind, possibly in the form of a tenor or baritone), simply open their water bottle and spit inside. Be sure to shake the bottle in order to disperse the phlegm before replacing. Symptoms develop within six hours.

3) A slightly messier but no less effective strategy is the death via boyfriend technique. Contaminate your mark indirectly by seducing their significant other and engaging in 3-4 minutes of saliva exchange. If the significant other is strangely immune to your charms, knock him over the head with your nalgene bottle and place the viral strain directly into his blood stream. Symptom develop within three hours.

4) Last is my personal favorite: the subtle, but oh-so-sneaky cough in vocal anthology technique. Simply borrow one of your enemy's vocal anthologies for a few minutes and cough into the pages as you flip through. By coughing at a rate of 8 coughs per minute and flipping the book at a speed of 13 spm (songs per minute), you will effectively spread your contaminated germs across 73.8% of the anthology after only seven minutes. Symptoms develop within twenty minutes.

Some of you may be appalled by my zeal for contaminating other singers. After all, you argue, wouldn't it be better to spend your time recovering instead of infecting other singers with your disease? do raise a good point. I had never considered the well-being of my fellow opera singers in that context, and I am now horrified at my own behavior. Clearly, I need to go think about your argument for a few minutes and reassess my life.

But while I am gone...

...would you mind holding this used Kleenex for me?


Rhona-Mae Arca said...

This is priceless!

Love your writing style. Looking forward to your next post.

Eric P. said...

You're hilarious! And a fantastic writer! This blog is so true!