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Opinion >  Column

Paul Turner: Allergy rivalries are Spokane’s spring pastime

UPDATED: Mon., April 23, 2018

Before I get into why I think seasonal allergies are a competitive affliction in Spokane, let me tell you a story.

My first real date was with a girl named Susan Morgan.

When I say “real date,” I mean borrow my parents’ car, wear the letter jacket, pick her up at her house, meet her parents … the whole schmear.

I had just gotten my driver’s license after failing the road test twice. Yes, twice. That’s another story. But if you know any teenagers who actually listen to you, give them a piece of advice. It’s this: Don’t announce to your friends that you are about to go get your driver’s license. Makes it awkward if things take an unfortunate turn.

Anyway, Susan and I went to see a movie called “Little Big Man,” starring Dustin Hoffman and Faye Dunaway. It was released in December 1970, but I’m quite certain it did not come to Burlington, Vermont, until 1971.

Yes, going to a movie is a classic date. But in hindsight, I wouldn’t recommend it for a first outing. I mean, that’s basically two hours where the two of you can’t talk. Not ideal.

But things seemed to be proceeding in a congenial fashion. Until, that is, I looked over and saw that Susan appeared to be crying.

This was bad.

I couldn’t imagine what I had done to precipitate her unhappiness. I was stunned.

Was this dating thing a whole lot more complicated than I realized?

Eventually I must have asked her if everything was all right. She probably smiled and said yes. It was then I realized that the film’s images were being reflected by her eyes in the dark theater and made it appear, for some reason, as if she might be producing tears.

Which brings me, at long last, to my point.

As allergy season ramps up in Spokane, you are going to see plenty of people with wet, glistening eyes. Do not automatically assume they are crying. Chances are, it’s their allergies. Or a movie.

And if you want my advice, do not bring up the subject of allergies – especially if you yourself are a sufferer.

I’ll tell you why.

Spokane allergy sufferers have one point to make when discussing their pollen sensitivity. It’s this: Their allergies are worse than yours.

Way worse.

Doesn’t matter how severe your own allergies might be. Doesn’t matter how many medications you take to relieve your symptoms. Doesn’t matter how long you have battled this seasonal affliction, how many years you have being seeing an allergist, etc.

Their allergies are worse than yours.

Now I find this noteworthy, because it’s not how I think of people in Spokane behaving. Do you?

Usually, people in Spokane are pretty compassionate. If you have a problem, they are there to listen.

Sure, they might share their own stories. Still, one-upmanship isn’t always the order of the day.

Not so with allergies.

If you tell someone in Spokane that the spring pollen is getting to your eyes and nose, well, stand back and prepare to have your puny symptoms crushed under the weight of a full-phlegm comparison.

“My hay fever would kill a weaker man.”

The implication being, of course, that the weaker man in question just might be you.

Never mind that your allergies can trigger asthma attacks. Never mind that, in addition to all manner of grass and tree pollen, you are also sensitive to cat dander, dog hair, molds and what-have-you.

It’s been awhile now. I admit that. But I don’t remember people elsewhere being quite so competitive about their allergies.

So why would this be a Spokane thing?

I think it’s because of Cajer Neely.

Neely, a banker and consultant, was a Gonzaga University basketball fan long before that was something almost everybody around here claimed.

You say you have been a Zags fans since that first NCAA run? Big deal. Cajer was a Zags fan for years and years prior to that.

So since there isn’t much chance people are going to win that particular competition attached to a Spokane obsession, they turn to allergies.

The rules there being a tad more subjective, people can feel free to stake their claim and assert their Inland Northwest lifestyle martyrdom.

“My allergies are like the trials of Job.”

Well, mine are worse.

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