Editor’s note: Billy Warden is a writer, marketing exec and multimedia producer based in the Research Triangle, where he co-founded the p.r. agency GBW Strategies.  He writes a column exclusively for WRAL TechWire which is published on Mondays.


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – COVID is no laughing matter, but my reaction to recently having it was often ridiculous, frequently head scratching and perhaps not uncommon.

So, from a safe distance, I give you the thoughts that preoccupied my hazy brain while sharing my body with the world’s least welcome invasive species:

Puberty all over again?

Getting the news felt like one of life’s rites of passage. As at the onset of puberty, my brain exclaimed: “Oh my gosh! I’ve heard about this … and now it’s really happening!”

Photo courtesy of Billy Warden

Billy Warden, left, at one of his many public appearances – pre-COVID

The comparison isn’t perfect. Unlike turning 12 and everything that goes with it, my thoughts did not rush to: “Now, how and when will I get to third base with someone??”

On the contrary, gnawing dread – not nervous delight – crawled through me.

But that tingly sense of something momentous happening was undeniable. After all, I had not been subjected to such a build up since “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” I hoped that, yes, the Force would be with me – and that the whole experience would turn out much better than that movie.


After that initial rush of weird feeling, I took a knee. Literally, I thanked God for having the resources to deal with this and prayed for those who don’t.

Meanwhile, the Catholic calculator in my frontal lobe reminded me that while I have never missed Christmas or Easter Mass, I’ve been MIA for hundreds of Sundays in between.

I squinted away visions of the calculator and prayed harder.


Wait, wait, wait. Hold it. Just stop for a second … How did this happen???

Once I got my bearings, my mind, long marinated in mystery novels, started sleuthing.

I don’t mean I dug into the conspiracy theories and other crackpot gossip. OK, maybe a little I did – but stopped at the one which suggests using vodka as hand sanitizer. I know from pre-pandemic times that’s not the best use of vodka.

And, yes, I was tempted to dig into the one about the French government baking an enormous loaf of garlic bread. Because, ya know, garlic fights the virus. But that would only make me want to fly to Paris – and I was in no condition to fly.

I just needed to know how and where I picked this up. For the sake of contact tracing – AND JUST TO KNOW. The way you want to pinpoint the fateful moment you missed the inspiration for the big idea that would have amassed you a Musk-like mint.

Turns out I probably got it from someone who’d recently been to a professional event involving a profession known for a tendency to, well, bloviate. So much talking, so many unleashed molecules!

I resolved to do the world a favor and never myself bloviate again – except in print.

‘How’s it going?’

A decision point: Outside of the folks I needed to inform, would I share my diagnosis?

On social media? No, not there, I decided. I use Facebook mostly to track my unruly Chicago cousins (a trait that apparently runs in the family) and Twitter to scare the bejesus out of myself when I don’t have time for a Stephen King novel.

What about on my many Zoom calls with clients? No, I resolved to stick with business as usual.

So, naturally, on my first call, when a client casually asked, “How’s it going?,” I blurted back, “Well, things are a little hazy here in Club COVID.”

I couldn’t help it. I felt alone and in search of connection. This on Day Two.

And, indeed, once I sprung the news, everyone who’d suffered their own bout had a memorable one-liner describing their symptoms. Maybe because COVID leaves you too tired to come up with more than a single line:

“I had a constant face ache – not just a headache, but a migraine of my entire face.”

“It felt like a train hit me – and I mean a fully loaded train before the supply chain crisis.”

“I was tired on top of tired on top of dead beat.”

For me: “It pretty much feels like allergy season – as possessed by Satan.”

And then, almost without fail, a grenade of a sneeze would explode right there on screen.

Side effects

Many complain of a second wave of illness that quickly follows COVID: FOMO.

That’s ‘fear of missing out.’ On parties, concerts, clubbing, tennis (or pickleball depending on the state of your knees) etc.

Not an issue for me. I mean, I love y’all, but taking a few days off from the runaround was about as troubling as winning a trip to Tuscany.

However, the use of the house became an issue. One couple I know essentially locked their infected teenager daughter in her bedroom. (I believe she’s out now; but who knows what’ll happen if she misses curfew).

I didn’t end up under lock and key, buy my marvelous missus and I did take to separate sleeping quarters, one being the dank abandoned bedroom of a now out-of-state offspring.

We really should’ve had a haz-mat crew get in there long ago. Live and learn.

The upended sleeping situation further confused our aged hound. He spent restless nights trudging between our different rooms, apparently basing his wanderings on whoever was snoring loudest.

Career change?

Lucky me, my fast-fingered doctor called in an order of COVID treatment Paxlovid, which I snatched up within a couple hours of the diagnosis.

One word: Miraculous! Follow-up words: Placebo effect?

Yes, I felt better right away. But could a drug really be that good? Or was my mind racing to the conclusion that this cocktail of pills would indeed be my salvation?

Certainly, it tasted like something significant was up. As with many others, ‘paxlovid mouth’ left my piehole tasting like a moldy bucket.

Still, the prescription was doing the trick, one way or another. Which got me thinking: This is cool – maybe it’s not too late to get into the business of making medicine?

I checked my resume: writer, executive producer at E! Entertainment Networks, p.r. maven, band leader. Sure, that’d be a little unconventional for a scientist. But hey, I’d liven up the lab. Give me a call …

Over and out?

So, now that I’m recovered, we’re done here, right? Ha! COVID is a reminder that all our misadventures – in love, business, medicine – are but prelude to more misadventures. COVID came out of the blue, and there’s still lots of blue out there. (Monkeypox, anyone?)

My takeaways from Club COVID about life and the future: Eat, drink, invest in preparation, invest in equity, be merry and be leery.

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