By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Mountains are turning green and flowers are blooming. Winter and all its nasty hazards seem to be well out of the way. Hopefully, no freezing temperatures, icy roads or downed power lines for a long time. The sun is shining and the sky is blue.
Then the wind blows and a grainy sensation goes down your throat and up your nose. You notice a yellow-green powder adhering to your windows and your car. Winter weather is gone, but pollen season has arrived. In fact, it’s almost two weeks early this year.
When I was growing up, pollen was a bane to my existence. Watery eyes, a running nose and itching were parts of my summer vacations. Sometimes, my eyes would swell up so much that I could hardly see. I didn’t have asthma, thank goodness, but sneezing and coughing gave me a rough time.
My family was living in South Charleston for most of my childhood, so my allergies didn’t harass me all of the time. We were in a semi-rural area, so there were no big fields of grass. There were plenty of forests, but tree pollen — except for oak — didn’t bother me quite that much.
The situation changed when we visited my grandparents in Fayette County. There I was exposed to a lot more grass. Worse, I had a passion for praying mantises, those carnivorous bugs with the claws and the swim goggle eyes. I tried to find one every year — preferably a baby mantis — and raise it during the summer.
Sometimes I found one quickly, and other times they proved to be very elusive. I would go into fields of grass and hunt for hours before I found one and emerged with a mantis in my jar and grass pollen all over my clothes.
My allergies got even worse when I grew older, so I finally had to take weekly injections to desensitize myself. They worked, so now I can get around and cut grass, and while other pollens are still irritating, they don’t turn me into a mess.
This year the early warm temperatures and lots of moisture have put pollen into the air earlier than usual. A local physician recommended over-the-counter medications, prescription medications for more serious cases, staying indoors during windy days, and undergoing desensitizing treatments if necessary. Wearing a mask can help, too, though fashion-conscious teens might rebel at the idea of wearing something that clashes with their looks.
Today is the big day for millions of people who hope to win millions of dollars. The Mega Millions Jackpot reached $500 million, more than enough to pay the bills for the rest of your life.
I’m about to head out into the world and see if I can talk to a few people about their hopes of winning and what they plan to do if they are lucky enough to get those winning numbers. I understand you stand a better chance of being eaten by a shark or a polar bear, or getting struck multiple times by lightning and surviving it, than winning the jackpot.
I rarely play the lottery myself, but like many other people, I’ve wondered what I would do with all that money. Other people have told me that they would get their families together and pay off everybody’s mortgage, buy everyone new cars and trucks, send all of the kids to college and pay off everyone’s debts.
I think I would do those sort of things, too, but I’m not sure I would let too many people know about my sudden wealth. Years ago, a local person won a substantial lottery. One person we interviewed remarked: “ He’s going to have relatives he never knew he had!”
Likely I would suddenly have a bigger family and hear from people I had forgotten long ago, but I would try to help out my friends. I doubt that I would buy a big mansion simply because I wouldn’t know what to do with all of that room. A big yacht isn’t on my list, either, because I don’t go sailing that much; frankly, I’ve never been sailing at all.
Traveling would be on my list. I would visit Japan, China and Australia, and then move on to Europe and the British Isles. I might venture into Russia, too.
I’m sure plenty of people and organizations would be asking me for donations, so I would set up a foundation to handle all of those requests. Part of me would be suspicious of any request while another part would readily hand over the cash. A board of advisors might help me keep it all straight.
Even now, I don’t know whether I will buy a ticket or two. The odds of winning are low, but I have to admit that the odds dropped to zero if I don’t buy a ticket. And there is always that wild chance that I will dream up the winning numbers off the top of my head. If that happens, those dreams could start to become realities.
Greg Jordan is the Daily Telegraph’s senior reporter. Contact him at email@example.com