We have yet to discover the cure for the common cold -- but that doesn't stop us from spouting off enough home remedies to make the sufferer truly sick.
I'd barely started coughing a couple days ago when friends started insisting I drink tea laced with honey, suck zinc, rub Vicks on my feet and wear garlic around my neck.
Or maybe that was to ward off vampires.
We have doctors, but they are unnecessary in the face of a little mountain magic that the sister of an uncle's neighbor of a cousin twice removed swears he was paid off by pharmaceutical companies to keep secret because it would put them out of business.
It's like that relative we all have who knows a shortcut to everywhere.
The other day, I said to my brother-in-law, ''Hey, hold for 30 seconds. I need to run to my mailbox.'
''Thirty seconds!' he yelled. ''That's ridiculous. I know a shortcut to your mailbox that will take only 20 seconds. Fewer traffic lights and no speed traps.'
It took me 10 minutes to get my mail by the time I finished arguing that there were no lights or traps in my front yard.
I once made the mistake of telling him about an eight-hour trip I planned. He insisted he knew a better way to my destination -- a place he'd never been, by the way -- that took only six hours. Not only did the trip drag on for nine hours, but I got carsick because he sent me through a bunch of mountains.
That's the way it is with colds. It's your cold, but everyone else claims it so they can fix it -- and add a half dozen symptoms to your suffering.
I have one friend who wants to rush over a gallon of chicken noodle soup any time she hears me clear my throat. A co-worker wants to keep halved onions lying about the room. One buddy got absolutely annoying with the number of times he worked the word ''zinc' into the conversation when someone sniffled. He no longer uses zinc himself, by the way, having moved on to chicken feathers dipped in soy sauce. Or something like that.
Someone else insisted that I slather the bottoms of my feet with VapoRub even though the congestion was a considerable distance north of my big toe.
It's made going to the store confusing. The other night, I stood stymied in front of the cough drop display for 45 minutes: ''Let's see, those have honey. Terry said honey is the only thing to use. Those have echinacea. Daryl swears by echinacea. Those have ...'
But fear not for I have come across the cure! Dark chocolate!
According to Wikipedia, the Internet encyclopedia of all knowledge written by anyone who cares to contribute: ''Recent studies have found that theobromine, a compound found in cacao, is more effective as a cough suppressant than prescription codeine. This compound suppresses the 'itch' signal from the nerve in the back of the throat that causes the cough reflex.' And dark chocolate has up to 10 times more cacao than milk chocolate.
Is there nothing that chocolate can't do?
Actually, I have no idea if it works. But anytime another friend offers another miracle cure, I just pop another dark chocolate Hershey's Kiss in mouth and smile. I'm still sniffling, but I sure feel better.
Neither the surgeon general nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorse this column one bit. In fact, they ran for their bag of Kisses as soon as they read it. Ask Burt for more chocolate tips at email@example.com