A Dangerous Thing

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again.
Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism

I’m always a step behind. I was well into middle age before I learned of the fashion diktat against combining black and navy, and only because a niece informed me that this hitherto-unknown-to-me order had been rescinded by the Colour/Color Combination Commission. I was a senior before I learned that our bodies contain ten times more bacteria cells than human cells, only to have to relearn this rule of thumb as the currently accepted ratio of roughly one:one, with the rough edge going to the bacteria.

It’s enough to make me stop picking up new things. I mean, what’s the point? I’ll just have to put them down again.

But I can’t seem to help myself. And so it was that I recently learned how much mucus your body produces. I say “your” because I’m sure my body would never do anything so indelicate; indeed, so downright icky. I say “icky” because the number is “1 to 2,” the unit of measurement is “quarts,” and the time period is “days.”

Yes, that’s right. Our 30 trillion human cells cooperate with about 30 trillion bacterial cells (give or take) to produce 1 to 2 quarts of mucus in our sinuses, nasal passages, and mouth every day. Most of it gets swallowed, and a good thing, too, at least for sidewalk safety. But no wonder it’s so hard to lose weight.

I haven’t done the calculation of a lifetime total and its equivalent in Olympic-sized swimming pools. I mean, at some point the drinking from the Pierian spring must stop.


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4 Responses to A Dangerous Thing

  1. Tom Watson says:

    I’m well beyond middle age and still didn’t get that memo about black and navy not going together! I’m going to have to consult my fashion coordinator and ask why nobody ever told me that. You’ve just shot half my wardrobe.

  2. This source of information may be the funniest you have written in my memory. Perhaps it is because the sniffling season is upon us. The grands next door are catching everything the school has to offer except education. And a “rescue inhaler” is getting some use in this house. I guess it’s good to know what the standard (bucket) of normal represents!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Hahaha. Yes, it’s always good to calibrate. Good luck with the kiddies – everyone (including my niece who is a pediatrician and a mom of two pre-schoolers) says this is an unusually bad year for respiratory viruses.

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