My sister Nicole and I grew up in a house full of cigarette smoke. Our parents both smoked, Dad about twice as much as Mom. In their defense, when they started smoking, the evidence of its detriment wasn’t as widely known as today. On road trips to see our folks in Kansas City, Dad would roll the window down an a fraction of an inch to suck out the smoke in the car, then rolled it back up prior to blowing out his last fetid lungful of smoke.
Nicole and I both cite this as one reason she and I both had so many upper respiratory infections growing up. At one time, when I was 10 and she was seven, we were hospitalized in a room together for several weeks with pneumonia, which Mom later described as the worst December of her life.
I thought of this the other day because a particularly dry December led my wife Abby to ask me to find the humidifier in the garage. I couldn’t find it, and decided instead to buy a new one, since they are not expensive. The one I found at the store is from Vicks, the brand on the popular but inefficacious Vapo-Rub. Once I got it home and chugging away, it reminded me very much of something Nicole and I had by our bedsides growing up: the cool mist vaporizer.
The vaporizers we had were beige, with a rotating snout to direct the mist. Mom would put them on the night stand. They made a distinctive “wishzzshzz” sound when they operated. They put out copious amounts of mist, such that if you were too close, moisture actually collected on your face. I have no idea if they helped decongest us, but I doubt it. They were popular during the same period in medical history as oxygen tents, which Nicole and I were under during the 1973 pneumonia. Oxygen tents are quite rare now.
My sister and I survived the cool mist of our youth.