Death by Toxic Mold

02 Oct 2006

My opening theme today is "I Can't Believe ... " I can't believe it's October already, for example. I can't believe it's Monday already, either. Finally, I can't believe how sick I've been lately. RE that last item ... I'm generally a relatively germ-resistant organism; rarely am I laid up for an entire weekend. But, that was the case for the past three days. Just me and the cats, fast asleep in the attic. I observed those cats during my waking hours and can confirm with reasonable confidence what many already believe to be true vis-a-vis the feline disposition: They sleep roughly 23 hours per day. It's no wonder our petite little Trillian has ballooned up to 8 pounds from her former 5-pound stature in the few months since her rescue from the shelter.

My 11-year-old daughter and I have a nightly ritual. She likes to have a piggy back ride to her bedroom each night before bed. We've been doing this for probably seven or eight years ... maybe longer. The bedrooms in our house are on the 2nd floor and, by evening, I'm usually on either the 1st or 3rd floor. So, these trips generally involve stairs. Needless to say, last night I was in no condition to cart the kid (who now weighs something like 80+ pounds, I think) down two flights of steps. So, I told her we'd have to walk. I think this got her wheels spinning. Jeez , just how sick is daddy? She seemed to have forgotten that I picked up this nasty bug from her in the first place. Let me back up a bit, though ...

Since last night was a "lay around" evening, we watched some television: Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The show focused on a family from Detroit that had lost the father (a fire fighter) one evening after he'd been fixing something in their dank basement, which was filled with "toxic mold." Turns out the guy had an allergic reaction to this, suddenly went into convulsions, and died -- all in the span of a few minutes. While that's clearly awful and painfully tragic, it's at least readable as I've written it, right? I mean, presumably, you didn't need to run off in mid-sentence for a tissue to wipe away the tears, right? Well, that wasn't the case on Extreme Makeover; they purposely engineer that show to make it as moving as possible. Unfortunately, television producers are really good at doing this.

But, I sometimes wonder whether they see that "line" of decency. For example, we got the fact that the guy died; we got the fact that it's been tough on the kids and that the mother was devastated, but did we really need to hear the actual 9-1-1 call -- the wife literally screaming bloody hell "I MUST HAVE HIM BAAAAAAACK!!!"? I mean, Jesus Christ, is there a level to which television producers will not stoop in the name of ratings? (That's rhetorical, btw. I certainly already know the answer.) It's times like this that I'm glad we hardly ever watch television.

My daughter doesn't understand all of this background stuff, of course. She's a kid; she processes what she sees on TV at face-value. So, I got one hell of a hug goodnight last night. She wanted to make damn sure that I knew how much she loved me in the off chance that I bit the dust last night because of the dreaded "toxic mold." Which was nice and touching, of course. But, I also had to explain that (a) it's just a cold and will go away, just like it did when she had it a few days ago, and then (b) what she saw on TV was one thing, but why it was presented in that way is quite another. We talked about ratings (and the positive boost gained through hard-core drama), about advertising revenues, about corporate greed, etc.

"That all may be true," she said, "but they did help those people."

"That's a good observation," I told her. "Even though I think they over-dramatized the whole thing, they did help that family out. I'm not saying that Ty Pennington and the others on the show aren't great people -- because they are. I'm just saying you don't need to worry about anyone here dying from toxic mold. And, I also wanted you to understand a little more about why TV programs are the way they are."

We talked a bit more, and I think she finally realized that the chances of my dying during the night were relatively low. Since she's so young, I held back any more complex thoughts I may have had regarding Extreme Makeover's motivations. For example, there's the whole "help out a firefighter" thing, which plays into the whole patriotic post-911 "hero" psychology. Don't get me wrong; I'm not disparaging firefighters. In fact, with a blog name like mine, I think I probably have a lot in common with those types (i.e., the pyromania). But, they don't have a "honor a fallen accountant" edition, do they? Why is it that when a fireman or police officer dies (even if the death was not in the line of duty), they're always "fallen," but when a plumber dies, he's just a dead plumber?

A should run ... I feel a big sneeze welling up.

Original Comments

Below, are the original comments on this post. Additional comments may be made via Facebook, below.

On October 3, 2006, Anonymous wrote:

Such a good Daddy!

On October 3, 2006, Grant Miller wrote:

You are Superman if you can still give your daughter a piggy back ride. I outlawed those with my 6-year-old last year. She would have broken me in two.

On October 4, 2006, Anonymous wrote:

Yeah, I understood the hidden meaning. I love that song.

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