Saw a sign the other day that made me think: Ohhhh, right. That thing. Are you kidding me? Of all years, are you kidding me?

It was a sign for flu shots.

Usually we start to think about the annual poke around the end of September, right? We see the signs, ignore them because the trees are green. Plenty of time! Then we put it off until we see newspapers run stories about how this will be a bad flu season, like they always do.

They never say, "Frankly, it's going to be a wonderful flu season! It's so mild that the worst case gives you a low-grade fever for 10 minutes, like the flush of first love. And since it's from pigs this year instead of ducks, it makes bacon taste better. Best of all, it's not very communicable. Doctors say it's hard to spread without getting a 4-quart blood transfusion from someone infected with the strain.

" 'And we do mean 4 quarts,' " said Dr. Garbonzolla of the Mayo Center for Stuff You Can Just Laugh Off. " 'Three quarts 11 ounces, that's not going to do it.'

"Doctors caution that they may be wrong about the severity, but note that this is unlikely, since they are doctors, and hence have a godlike faith in their own intellects and abilities."

No, it's never that. It's something nasty that percolated and brewed in livestock guts, hopped a slow boat or a fast plane, and starts the annual flu season, which runs from early September to late August. Then the old strain punches the clock and heads into the sunset, and the new one takes the next shift.

But this year? We have to have a new flu on top of the novel coronavirus. You might have some questions. (Please keep in mind that I do not know what I am talking about.)

Q: Is it possible to get both?

A: No, the new flu will realize you have COVID and step back, thinking "He's been through a lot. Wouldn't be fair." Ha! Of course you can get both, because Nature hates you.

Q: Is it true that it takes weeks for flu immunity to take hold after a shot?

A: Yes, but we don't believe it. We get that shot, and think, "I'm bulletproof." There might be five strains out there, and the shot has 35% effectiveness, but we think "pointy stick went in arm and gave me potion! No flu for me."

Q: I hate shots. I guess I'd rather be sick than get a shot!

A: Relax. Needles have gotten so thin it doesn't feel like anything. When I was a kid they inoculated you with screwdrivers, I swear. And not the tapered Phillips head, either.

Q: Isn't this actually going to be a good year for flu, because everyone's already so paranoid about communicable disease you have people who yell at store owners who don't put masks on the mannequins?

A: It would seem so. Usually the start of flu season has stories about how to cough (into the crook of the elbow, and most important, into the crook of your own elbow), how you shouldn't touch doorknobs with your eyeballs, and so on. In fact, I think more people could describe the new protocols better than the Pledge of Allegiance:

I pledge adherence to the guidelines

And to the effect of flu on the glands

One nation, 6 feet apart

With PPE and Purell for all.

So if we're all taking special care and not going to loud bars and shouting out spittle-cloud conversations 5 inches from someone's face, there's the possibility that this will be a historically good flu season. I want to see this headline: "Flu season ebbs; national cases total two."

If two people got the flu, you'd want them to be interviewed.

"With all that's been going on, how did you get it?"

"Well, I'm young and hence suffused with a buoyant sense of immortality, so I grabbed my smokes, got on my motorcycle, and drove in the rain to the gym to work out, and I guess I forgot my mask along with my helmet. After I left the gym I went to my job at the hospital and was handling a vial of concentrated flu germs, and I was, like, I could be famous on YouTube if I inhaled the whole thing, so I did. Had it for about a day."

"I see. And you, the other person who got the flu, how did you contract it?"

"Oh, I'm his roommate. We were playing Xbox and he was like coughing all over and I'm like, 'Dude!' and he's like, 'I need both hands to play the game, bro,' so I guess that was it."

"And how does it feel to be the only two people in the country to get the flu in 2021?"

"Awesome! We're in the record books. I feel bad for those NyQuil dudes not selling what they usually do — it makes an awesome mixer, by the way. But hey, there's always next year."

Yes. When it comes to the flu, there always is. • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks •