Watch Out! This Sickness Is Catching!

I cannot pinpoint the exact moment I began to suffer. But for months, I’d been feeling a sense of malaise. I avoided dinner parties. I found reading newspapers debilitating. I felt tired, and irritable-skipping the Op-Ed page, channel-surfing at the first sight of Geraldo, drifting aimlessly through Time and Newsweek .

At first, I’d hoped the symptoms might go away and disappear on their own. Perhaps in 2001. Or 2002, at the latest. But then I saw it. A symbol. An omen. A grim harbinger of the future, and a personal breaking point:

The navy blue Yankees cap.

Perched on Hillary’s head.

Like a crown.

And it was at this moment I knew I had to seek professional help.

“You have a particularly acute case of C.F.S.,” Dr. Trend-Fazer sighed, standing in the examination room of his Park Avenue office.

He was a specialist in Manhattan toxicology-those obscure, incredibly expensive diseases known to afflict only the upscale dwellers of our most rarefied ZIP codes.

I cocked my head like an uncomprehending puppy. “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?”

” Clinton Fatigue Syndrome,” the doctor corrected me, as if he was, in fact, talking to an uncomprehending puppy. “We’re seeing it all over the place,” he said. “People are fed up with spin. Tired of the card tricks. The prospect of six more years of this-after the White House-is thoroughly depressing.”

I remained fixated with the Yankees cap. “I just don’t get it,” I said. “On the first Saturday in June, Hillary proclaims that she’s neutral between the Mets and the Yanks. Then on Thursday-five days later-she uses some incredibly tortured piece of logic to announce that because she grew up in Chicago, she couldn’t root for both the Cubs and the Sox, so she was actually a lifelong Yankees fan. Please, Doctor, tell me: What is wrong with these people?”

He shook his head sympathetically. “We call it ‘Inhalus-Denius-Nervosa.’ It’s a nervous tic. At the slightest scrutiny, the Clintons begin to dissemble, even when there’s nothing to be gained from it. It’s completely pathological: Did she really think New Yorkers were going to go for … that ? That blatant pandering? Wouldn’t you think that someone in Hillary’s brain trust-say, Harold Ickes-might have done some research and discovered that the most successful candidate in recent New York history-Daniel Patrick Moynihan-never came close to putting on a Yankees cap?”

I shrugged. I was worried about my health. “Is there a cure for C.F.S.?”

“In the old days, I’d prescribe a hypo of Cuomo, straight to the heart,” the doctor said, then shook his head wistfully: “Poor Mario. Wasting his talent on the radio. He’s rested. He’s ready. He’s a registered voter. It’s a damn shame he’s been forgotten in all of this.”

“I agree,” I said. “I’m surprised there’s no ‘Draft Mario’ campaign. But I feel almost as bad for Mark Green: Forcing that smile day after day, pretending to be oblivious to the fact that Hillary’s candidacy has totally diminished him-as if she’s decreed that even in middle age he’s still not ready for the big leagues.”

The Doctor looked at me thoughtfully. “I want to make sure it’s Clinton Fatigue, and not Lyme disease,” he said, “or Dole-eur, which you may know as ‘the Doledrums.'” He handed me a bag from the Gap, and two Viagras. “I’ll need a sample. You can deposit it on the blue dress, inside the bag.”

As the doctor left the room, I felt a twinge of self pity for having been diagnosed with Clinton Fatigue-until I thought about other diseases that cripple so many Manhattanites these days. Consider:

Dunleavy’s Disease. An extreme form of C.F.S.; it starts with spittle collecting around the mouth at the mere mention of any Clinton. Currently at epidemic levels among the more rabid members of the pontificating branch of the press corps; not to be confused with Pundit’s Palsy-the maniacal repetition of the phrase “on the other hand.” On the other hand. On the other hand.

Hampto-Virus. A seemingly incurable compulsion to drive 26 hours every weekend, visiting the 62,000-square-foot house you’ve built nowhere near the beach-while wielding a platinum American Express card like a Jedi warrior ( Whomp! “More Cohibas!”), buying things you don’t need to impress people you can’t stand. The first symptom is numbness in the right hand-you may notice a glass of the local Chardonnay frozen to your fingers at a $500 charity benefit. Often accompanied by “Rover Syndrome” (a.k.a. “S.U.V.-osis”)-the need to dominate the highways on the way out to the Hamptons, in a big-assed 10,000-pound sport utility vehicle.

Brown’s Disease. It starts with a buzz-an annoying buzz in the press. Then something goes wrong in your brain, which makes you believe that nothing is worth anything unless a boldface name is attached to it. There was a particularly virulent outbreak in The New York Times last month, most notably in an article about installing urinals in the home. The writer managed to name at least eight celebrities (Spielberg, Hanks, etc.) in only 16 paragraphs-proving, perhaps, that even urine is only golden when it’s celebrity urine.

Ipo-dementia: An irrational exuberance about the stock market valuations of Internet start-up companies. Unless treated early (see our prospectus for the new mood leveling drug “Ipo-profin”), Ipo-dementia can lead to the dreaded “Dotcomatose” disease (a.k.a., heart seizure, stroke and death) when investors discover that all companies whose names end in “dot.com” are not equal in value to the gross domestic product of France.

R.L.D.: Real life deficiency. See all of the above.

Twenty minutes later, I met the doctor for a final consult.

“So what’s the prognosis?”

“Were I a betting man,” he began, “I wouldn’t be surprised if, at the last minute, she decides not to run. But …” And thus began a 45-minute dissection of H.R.C. (Her Royal Clinton’s) New York candidacy. The patient had obviously infected the physician. My advice? Take 24,000 Prozac, and call me in the next millennium.

Watch Out! This Sickness Is Catching!