Aye, seafarin’ maladies are scuttlin’ kids
Avast, little mateys! Belay those Nintendo and PlayStation remote controls and get out on deck and soak up some sunshine. Else you little lubbers will find yerselves bent over like an olde St. Croix crone, bones a-creakin' like t'gallant crosstrees in a gale.
That, basically, is the warning from health officials to millions of chubby, sedentary kids who eschew the out-of-doors and vitamin-enriched comestibles in favor of sitting in front of television and video game consoles, gorging on sugary snacks. Amazingly, in this land-o-plenty, kids apparently are becoming so malnourished that diseases common to 18th-century sailors are popping up again.
Rickets, for example. The last time rickets was a health issue was when Lord Nelson and his ilk sailed the seas in fighting frigates. Rickets, forsooth! Among the young lads and ladettes of today! What's next? Scurvy and marthambles? Beriberi, chilblains and the "griping of the gut"?
Rickets is a disease of the bones caused by a lack of vitamin D. Vitamin D is that strange vitamin mysteriously imparted into the human body through sunlight. (I've never understood how that is possible. I mean, if you can get vitamin D through sunlight, why can't you get folic acid through a balmy breeze and vitamin C though exposure to Alpha Centauri?) Vitamin D also is available in fortified milk. So the fact that kids are getting rickets means they are avoiding both milk and sunlight. That's pretty shocking considering that kind of behavior used to be confined only to vampires.
I HAVE TO say that I sort of predicted this would happen. I was just off a bit on the exact disease. I warned that scurvy actually could make a comeback considering the nutritionally void junk food kids exist on these days. All you see are plump little blimpie-pies on every street corner sucking on 5-gallon vats of soda with a backpack full of Slim Jims. (I'm not sure kids today would even recognize an apple or a green vegetable as being food.) Living on Pepsi and meat sticks is a good way to contract scurvy, that seafarer's disease that makes your teeth fall out and old wounds open up.
The way ship captains dealt with maladies like rickets and scurvy during long voyages was to give the sailors grog several times a day. Grog was basically rum, water and lime juice. The lime juice is what cured the disease. The rum was just the delivery system.
I suggest all schoolchildren be tested immediately to see if any have rickets, scurvy or marthambles. The kids with the worst cases should be easy to identify: They'll be the ones with the eye patches and a parrot on their shoulders. Then the kids should be exposed to sunshine and given a daily ration of grog.
I know, it sounds like a radical solution, but we know it works. And the only side effect of grog is the inadvertent use of phrases like "Make a lane, me hardies!" and "God rot your vitals, you infernal lubber!" which, coming from a shy 8-year-old girl, is kind of cute.
Buy Charles Memminger's hilarious new book, "Hey, Waiter, There's An Umbrella In My Drink!" at island book stores or online
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