I can remember a client coming into my office building recently. She walked up to my desk, set down her papers and coughed directly into my face. It was no tiny accidental cough either. This was an honest, hearty, bottom-of-the-lungs, body-wracking cough. I was talking at the time, so I’m pretty sure some of that even hit the back of my throat.
After she walked away, I ran to the nearest bathroom to scrub my hands and face like I was Howard Hughes. Of course I knew it wouldn’t do me any good; by then those goddamn germs must have been working their way into my lungs, quite possibly latching onto my brain and working their way into my spine… Yikes. Thinking that way is a bad way to start your Wednesday morning.
When I sat down at my desk again, there was a new headline on my online news ticker. It read: “WHO predicts ‘explosion’ of swine flu cases.”
Well, that did it for me. A heavy swine flu scare has set in at my residence. It is now Thursday at 1 p.m., and the door to my bedroom has been shut, barricaded and locked for 17 consecutive hours. In a few minutes I will run from this bed to the bathroom, stagger downstairs, cook a bowl of Campbell’s mushroom soup, eat and stumble back to bed. I will repeat this process for as long as necessary, because not only am I sure that I’ve been infected with swine flu, I’m also sure that if I get out of bed for more than 15 minutes, they will be my last 15 minutes.
When swine flu first broke out back in April, the only certain thing according to the nightly news was that every single one of us had a high possibility of dying. But even as the virus spread and was declared a pandemic by early June, a wondrous thing happened – we didn’t.
Swine flu didn’t even seem scary anymore and the farmers were getting upset, so they changed the name to H1N1. Later, they changed the name again to A/H1N1. Centers for Disease Control even started calling it “novel Influenza A (H1N1).” Personally, I liked that. I’d much rather contract “novel H1N1” than “SWINE FLU.” The former sounds much safer and relaxing, even sort of like a good book.
Sadly, it looks like H1N1 is about to get scary again. A resurgence of the virus is expected for this fall, as so many young people will be returning to school. For the second time this year, only one thing is certain: That every single one of us could die. Again.
Well, probably not. But fear can reign supreme at times like these. Somewhere along the line, people even started talking about shutting down schools to contain the outbreak. Thankfully, that idea was shot down by every sound-minded medical authority in the world.
That being said, nobody really wants you sitting in the back of their biology class hacking up your right lung. So if you feel sick (and it isn’t a hangover), put down this newspaper right now. Get to bed with a few bottles of water, a few boxes of Kleenex and your body weight in Aspirin. Take a day off. There are advantages to being diseased.
You might even get some writing done.
Rob Holt is a University of Winnipeg student. He got better.
Published in Volume 64, Number 3 of The Uniter (September 17, 2009)