Robert Leroy Ripley was a sports cartoonist for the New York Evening Globe. He drew his first “Believe It or Not” December 19, 1918. It showed, among others, a Canadian who ran the 100-yard dash in 14 seconds — backwards — and a Frenchman who (believe it or not) actually held his breath underwater for more than 6 minutes. Soon he ventured beyond the sporting world (“Boy died of old age at age 7”) and an industry was born.

Growing up, one of my favorite books was Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. (I believed it.) And one of the stories in the book, although I can’t say I recall more than its gist, was of an auction at which a man paid a thousand pounds for a book billed simply as, “the secret of good health” — or something like that.

He won the bidding, grabbed the book, and found that all its pages were blank except the first. It said: “Keep your feet warm and your head cool” and you’ll be a healthy man. (Not an easy thing to do in a world where heat rises.) Well, he immediately got a hot head at having been taken this way, and cold feet about going through with the deal, but all sales were final.

But it’s not such bad advice. Here’s a little more. It may not be worth a thousand pounds to you, but has been to me — and it’s free.

You know that little tickling feeling you get at the back of your throat where it connects to your nose, and the next day you’re sneezing and pretty soon you’re coughing and it goes to your chest and the Contac is making you sleepy or the Sudafed is making you feet tingle at night and no amount of orange juice keeps the damn thing from running its course?

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you are a lucky mammal.

Anyway, a friend seems to have solved this problem for me: apple cider vinegar. At the first hint of a tickle, I now just screw up my face and take a tiny, tiny sip of the stuff (it’s really not so bad — think of the dressing on a salad, sans the salad), tip my head back and let it swish around the tickle as much as I can before swallowing it. Then maybe a second or third time.

End of story.

Obviously, I can’t say it will work for you, or continue to work for me. But it’s worked for the friend who turned me onto it, and I’m convinced it’s worked for me. Placebo effect? Perhaps — that’s just fine with me. At least it hasn’t cost you a thousand pounds.

Tomorrow: Your Kids’ Summer Jobs


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