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Surviving the plague

March 12, 2011

I am sick. Do not come near.

I caught a virus recently. This is not hard to do, and whenever I get really sick with a bad cold, it reminds me how easy it has been, throughout human history, for people to die from the plague.

We have learned to blame rats and ships and fleas, but in fact, I find it much easier to blame the person who gave me this cold, and now I’m trying not to feel antipathy toward a student who sat there snuffling and sniffling through our encounter the other day.

It’s not her fault, I cough, trying to let her off the hook, but I cannot summon enough energy to quite forgive her as I search for more tissues and imbibe endless cups of  Celestial Seasonings’ “wellness” tea. That’s tea made of cheap ingredients where the owners of the company wish you well while you pay for their vacations in Tahiti.

I think the reason I feel such antipathy toward people who give me their cold is because colds nowadays aren’t the colds of my youth. It seems to me that colds have become much more determined in the time I’ve been on the planet. The “common cold” has developed a desire to kill me, and it didn’t used to wish death upon me. Colds lasted, what, a week at the most? Now they go on and on and on, and I become less capable of functioning, and more capable of understanding what it must have been like for those who survived the Great Influenza Epidemic of 1919. You feel so grateful when it’s over, and, like Rip Van Winkle, who fell asleep for 20 years, wonder how much time you’ve lost in the real world when you’re finally well enough to rejoin the living.

There are all kinds of theories out there now about how we, as a society, are overdosing on antibiotics and that’s partially why we’re no longer immune to colds, but once you learn to hate having a cold, a more productive way to think about viruses is that they are out to get us. It’s in their nature to want to do us in. That’s why they exist. They don’t exist to have a symbiotic relationship with humans; they want you to die, don’t you understand that? Having a virus in your system is like living out a science fiction story, except it’s your cells that are conducting nuclear war. A very tiny version of “The Matrix” is playing out every time you sneeze, hack, or cough. Those nighttime battles inside of you are your body, declaring war on the virus-machine that has penetrated the walls of your white blood cells. It’s so gruesome in there it defies belief.

It's all fun and games until somebody loses a life

For many years, I dutifully got my annual influenza vaccine. Every year, like clockwork, after getting the vaccine, I also got incredibly sick, with symptoms remarkably similar to the flu. Every year, I said to my allergy doctor, a famous man who has all kinds of awards, You are killing me with this vaccine, admit it. Every year, he denied it. Finally, I stopped getting the vaccine, because I don’t care how many awards he has, I am smarter than he is, and I know that in spite of the popular myth about how the flu vaccine “cannot” give you an actual flu, my body knows when it’s being invaded. Coincidentally, as soon as I stopped getting the stupid flu shot, I also stopped getting my annual bout with kneeling to the Porcelain God of the Toilet.

Therefore, I have built-up umbrage about getting sick. Furthermore, all sickness can be blamed on someone else, since I know I didn’t spontaneously create sick cells! I had to get this from somewhere. I figure this is what it must have been like to be part of the Spanish Inquisition. Members of the Spanish Inquisition were very judgemental, and blamed anyone who wasn’t devoutly Catholic for the sins of the world. Well, I blame everyone who is sick for my illness. This leads to a lot of judgementalism on my part toward sick people, who I believe have a duty to stay home.

Unfortunately, we live in such a rapacious society, we’re not allowed to stay home. Instead, by the Laws of Capitalism, we are forced to work when we’re sick, thereby insuring that when another honest-to-god plague hits, those who work hardest will be the first to die.

This could be you

So if I were you, I’d cultivate laziness now. Learn to live with less. Don’t feel compelled to pay all your bills. That’s the only way to get used to not going to work, or working less frequently. That way, when the plague hits, you’ll be used to staying home, away from all those terrible people out there who will give you this damned thing. They are out to get you. I don’t know why they want you dead, but I fear a terrorist plot, some sort of zombie takeover, wherein all the people with really bad chest colds infect the rest of us. No one is safe, and no one who is sick feels sufficiently guilty, in my experience. If you’re well as you read this, go make some sick person feel really guilty, okay, cause I’m currently too sick to do my part.

Here is a list of things you should not touch, and if you touch them, for god’s sake, go wash your hands right away:

  1. Restaurant menus: Cold and flu viruses survive for 18+ hours on hard surfaces and NO ONE washes off restaurant menus. You know they don’t. It’s hard enough getting a clean fork, let alone a clean menu.
  2. Lemon wedges stuck on drinks: Yeah, they look pretty; they also carry microorganisms. Anything that’s been sitting out and isn’t fresh is gross. Be more careful.
  3. Condiment dispensers: Even the IDEA of a condiment dispenser in a group environment is disgusting, but for those of you who are foolish enough to frequent baseball games and amusement parks, if you’re the first to die during the coming plague, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  4. Restroom door handles: Yes, I know, you’re going in there to wash your hands. You’re better off using antibacterial wipes and avoiding the bathroom altogether, if all you’re doing is washing your hands.
  5. Soap dispensers in public bathrooms: Weird, right? But no one cleans these things and fecal matter builds up. Enough said. Again, gross and disgusting. Be very careful.
  6. Grocery carts: Nowadays, you can get an antibacterial wipe outside my grocery store, which I always use (and in fact, I hold on to it during my shopping expedition). Anal? You betchya. I’d like to survive you and your cavalier habits, thank you very much.
  7. Airplane bathrooms: E. Coli homes. Again, use with caution, constant vigilance and conscious awareness that germs fulfill their function when they kill you.
  8. Doctor’s office: Those people sitting next to you are there for a reason. Duh. Avoid them. Sit far away, or as far as you can. This need you have to talk to strangers has to stop, and for god’s sake, do not touch them!!
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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 16, 2011 5:51 PM

    Is it just me or am I the lucky one noticing how many people >spit< in public? Can't they simply swallow? Sorry to hear you haven't been well and hope you are better now.

    • March 16, 2011 5:53 PM

      Oh my god, DO NOT get me started on spitting in public!!!! That’s a rant and a half. Thank you for your well wishes, but I think I am transmitting this from the beyond because I have already died. 😉

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