I was slicing strawberries this morning for my normal breakfast—sliced strawberries with a few dollops of Fage yogurt and a half cup of granola sprinkled on top—when out of the blue I remembered a time when I found strawberries gross.
I was 18, it was the spring of my senior year in high school right before Prom, and I had a part time job in a local grocery store. I was hired as a cashier but they needed help in the produce department so that’s where I was scheduled to work. And it was strawberry season, so I had to get the strawberries out and put in the display cases for people to bag up. This was before the ubiquitous packaging you see now; people scooped berries into a plastic produce bag and bought them by the pound. Not only did I need to keep the display cases appropriately full, I also had to pick out the bad ones and dispose of them. It was a messy, messy job and I had sticky pieces of strawberries and strawberry juice all over my hands and up to my elbows.
I was working on a Friday night, and had a cough and didn’t feel well—but I stayed at work and finished out my shift. The next morning I woke up with a fever and a cough and things just went downhill from there. My dad checked me out, told me to take Tylenol and so that’s how it went on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Tuesday I could hear myself wheeze so I told my folks. Dad had me get a chest x-ray, and the radiologist told my mom that Dad should put me on a stronger antibiotic because I had pneumonia in one of my lungs.
Fortunately it wasn’t a bad case—just one lung and not a lot of it but boy if that’s what a mild case of pneumonia is, I don’t ever want to get a bad case. I missed the full week of school and begged—BEGGED—to go to my prom that next Saturday (which was my first day out of bed). My mom said I could go but I had to be home by 10. I bargained to stay out til 11 and in fact was home in bed by 9. I coughed for weeks, missed the big choir trip that year and just generally felt wretched for longer than I ever would have thought.
And for some reason, I associated the smell of strawberries with all that. I didn’t eat them for a couple of years although I’m over that aversion now. But I remember very well how awful pneumonia was, and didn’t hesitate for a second to get the pneumonia vaccine a couple of years ago.