Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wawa (And Drugs) Saved My Christmas Eve, But I Give Most of the Credit to Wawa

I could feel the cold coming on the weekend before Christmas.

Which was fun, because I'd just gotten over a cold that had basically lasted since Thanksgiving and had made my head feel like somebody had injected lukewarm glue into my brain.

But this cold was different. While the previous one had lodged itself in my skull, The 2015 Christmas Cold was definitely zeroing in on my throat and chest, making it hard to sleep through the night despite the best efforts to self-medicate with everything from throat lozenges and expired Mucinex DM to pineapple soaked in vodka and several belts of Ranger IPA from my neighbor's new Kegerator.

Even The Force (or, more accurately, THE FORCE AWAKENS and a Crunchburger from Bobby's Burger Palace) couldn't stave off the inevitable, but the Vanilla Bean milkshake was damn comforting.

Alas, I was going to be sick for Christmas.

Which sucks because I really love Christmas. Always have, always will. I love the look on my daughter's face when she sees the presents Santa left, the cookie crumb stained note he writes each year and the reindeer food that inevitably gets tracked in from my in-laws' beach house deck. I love the Christmas Eve party that my in-laws throw, which has turned into a craft beer bacchanal to go along with the awesome cheese-stuffed filet that my father-in-law and I make each year.

Determined to keep the illness at bay as long as possible I loaded up on over-the-counter medicines as I struggled through a client meeting, the three-dimensional Tetris game that is packing the car with presents and gear for the holiday, and even a quick trip through New Jersey to see my niece and her husband at a cool beer bar that I wish had existed when I lived in Haddonfield and Collingswood (NJ) all those years ago.

But when I woke up on Christmas Eve morning, it was clearly not a pretty sight. I have vague recollections of fevered dreams from the night before and I literally felt like I was drowning but it all paled in comparison to the swallowing, which felt like being stabbed with thousands of tiny knives.

"How long can I go without swallowing?," I asked myself in the mirror while I wondered if the strep throat somebody at THE FORCE AWAKENS mentioned was going to be my Christmas present to one and all.

With a short last minute shopping list still in hand I decided to combine trips and make my way over to the mainland for a visit to the urgent care facility. Complicating matters was that my wife recently switched jobs so while we have health insurance we don't have insurance cards. What do people do that don't have insurance?

After declaring I was fine to self-pay and later submit bills to my insurance I was seen by a doctor, diagnosed with bronchitis and some throat malady and given a prescription for antibiotics and steroids to be filled at a nearby, albeit sketchy, Rite-Aid pharmacy where the pharmacists on duty couldn't have been nicer or more helpful, even giving me discounts to reduce my out of pocket costs.

Prescriptions filled I dashed to the car and guzzled my meds and some Day-Quil, washing to the whole grim cocktail down with some lukewarm Wawa Dark Roast that had been sitting in the car throughout my adventures in healthcare.

Though I was still pretty fuzzy and couldn't remember exactly where the nearby Target was, I fought my way through the cobwebs, attempted not to swallow, grabbed the remaining Christmas presents and craft beer samplers then made my way to the one place I knew would provide the loving care my body needed.


Granted, I've been a little down on Wawa of late. Our local store finally opened after about a year of longing and well, I have to admit it has been a bit of a disappointment. I hate the layout, the staff seems overwhelmed and uninspired, and I've actually had to – gasp! – cancel a sandwich order because it was taking too damn long.

But on LBI, the Wawa at the end of Pennsylvania Ave. is like our own private oasis, especially in the winter months. Barely any customers, a friendly staff, Michael almost always at the register ready to buoy my spirits about our beloved Flyers thanks to his unwavering confidence in his main man, Ron Hextall.

Eschewing my usual faves – Italian Hoagie, Egg White Breakfast Sandwich or Chicken Salad on Rye with Bacon – I eyed up the menu board and zeroed in on Chicken Corn Chowder, a remedy for a painfully sore throat if ever there was one. Add in a buttered Wawa hoagie roll and whatever illness was racking my body had zero chance of ruining my holiday.

Soon enough I was parked at the counter in my in-laws' house, warm spoonfuls soothing my throat while the chewy buttered roll sopped up every last drop. By that evening's festivities I was in fine spirits and even worked my way up to a couple beers – including an oddly delightful Smoked Belgian Stout from Flying Dog that made me feel like beer and ham had a baby – to go along with a plate of delicious, oh so rare stuffed filet.

Sure, doctors will tell you that it was the prescription meds that speeded me on my way back to the land of the living but just to be sure I asked my wife to whip up a heaping helping of Chicken Corn Chowder once we got back home to Maryland. She doesn't use the jalapeno and adds in a little cubed sweet potato but it is a great recipe whether you're dying from throat knives or not.

I hope all our readers had a very Merry Christmas (sans illness!) and I wish everybody a safe, happy and healthy New Years holiday and 2016! – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor and publisher of The Hungover Gourmet and you can follow his food, drink and travel exploits here as well as via Twitter and Facebook.

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