For the last few years now I have found myself the victim of misplaced cabin fever.
Cabin fever — as any Northeasterner knows — is a condition marked by extreme irritability and restlessness from living in confined quarters during the long winter months. Should these quarters happen to smell like ripe socks, then we bump it up to acute cabin fever. Should these quarters happen to house a loved one who is at the receiving end of merciless jabs and pokes, then we categorize it as harrowing cabin fever of the worst order.
For the longest time, cabin fever only took place within the four walls of someone’s home. And rightly so. Who or what better to unleash your crazy, unfounded wrath upon than the person, pet or plant nearest and dearest to your heart?
The problem is, and for some time now, I’ve noticed an uptick in misplaced cabin fever in the public arena, especially this year.
What do I mean, misplaced cabin fever? I mean the kind of cabin fever that is free-floating and misguided — the snarky kind that someone unfortunately forgets to leave at home, for whatever reason, no cat to dropkick, no spouse to snarl at, no door to slam— this misplaced fever gets dragged into public, felling victims in its wretched wake.
Based on personal experience, I have found it rears its ugly head most when it comes to public encounters that involve patience. For example, I am a fierce coin-rooter, digging deep into my purse during most transactions to see if I have any change. During past winters, no one, from the clerk to the person behind me to my shopping comrade, seemed to care. But that’s not how it feels this year. These days, I am such an irritant. Oh, the eye rolling, the testy sighs, the sagging shoulders, the drumming fingers; I can only attribute it to misplaced cabin fever.
I seem to be bugging waiters more than usual lately. Yes, I can have a hard time making a decision and, true enough, I often ask for removals and substitutions, but none of this seems to matter during those months when we are not cooped up like caged animals. Now, I ask for a small slice of lemon in my water and I get treated like I instead asked for a kidney to go, please.
Misplaced cabin fever also presents itself in the way services are rendered. Normally, the person who cuts my hair is gentle while shampooing and then slow and deliberate while cutting. But this last time, she slapped my head around like a dirty basketball and then hastily cut it, all the while complaining about her high heat bill. Thankfully, my cut was as good as always and I will certainly return, but it was an unnerving experience, what with those sharp scissors coming my way.
I confess. I, too, have unleashed more than my share of misplaced cabin fever this winter, and I’m not sure why. But I’ve decided to work harder at containing it where it truly belongs — in my husband’s ear.
Anne Palumbo writes this column for Messenger Post newspapers. Her email is