As if slogging through winter isn’t bad enough, when you add the threat of influenza, it turns into a really scary season. Social events are like running the gauntlet, with every hand you shake and every air-kiss you give, you’re wondering, is that the one that’s going to get me? Is it the air-kiss with Susie that’s going to bring me down, giving me hoarseness, eye and lip swelling, headaches, fever and nausea? Or the handshake with Gene that’s going to put me in bed coughing and groaning for ten days? These kind of worries can really wreck a party, leaving one wondering, did I get infected and am I going to wake up sick in the morning?
It’s enough to turn you into a germophobe, squirting endless dollops of sanitizer into your palm and washing your hands so often they begin to dry and crack.
Supermarket carts really give me pause. I look at them and see millions of tiny microbes swarming over the plastic handle, I mean the bubonic plague could be lurking there so I furiously wipe them down with the sanitary wipe provided. No matter how silly I look standing at the entrance of the grocery store massaging the handle of my shopping cart with a moist cloth, I’m confident I’m killing millions of tiny critters with every swipe.
Every winter, there are all kinds of flu triggers that appear. Like the commercials where someone coughs and a cloud of blue smoke billows out of their mouth? That visual sticks in your mind so when someone behind you in a movie theatre coughs, you see the blue cloud seeping down into your row. When this happens, my solution is to stop breathing, hoping that the blue cloud will pass me by. Needless to say, holding your breath in a movie is not the best way to enjoy the show. But if it keeps you from getting infected, who cares? You can always watch it again on Netflix.
Out in public, I have to resist the urge to hit the floor when someone emits blue smoke in front of me. Often, I’ll just quickly step aside to let the noxious blue stuff pass by. So going downtown can result in a lot of open field running, dodging this way and that, trying not to make a big thing of it so people will think you are nuts.
The friendly warnings from the CDC don’t help either. “People over 65 should be particularly cautious of situations where you can contact the flu as it can be life-threatening for older people.” I was sixty-five a long time ago, now I guess I’m a sitting duck for the flu, ready for some virus from Hong Kong or Vietnam to take me down. One little air-kiss and that’s all she wrote for Tony.
So every winter is running the flu gauntlet again. Who cares about slipping on a frozen sidewalk or going off the road when you hit black ice? That’s preferable than ending up on the wrong side of the dirt just because you shook someone’s hand.
When you hear that Louise has the flu, you scan your memory to see if you’d had any recent encounters with her. Even when Louise is fully recovered, you still give her a wide berth, turning your cart around at the supermarket when you see her coming down the aisle, or staying on the far side of the cocktail party and watching her warily to make sure she doesn’t invade your space and infect you. I mean, this girl had the flu and remnants could still be lurking around in her smile lines.
For me, traveling during flu season is a no-no. Getting on an airplane is like entering a flu tube and is at the bottom of my bucket list–for to me, the inside of an airplane is one dense blue cloud. Not to mention tray tables that make shopping cart handles seem harmless. Just think of all the germs lurking there.
As much as I enjoy watching UVa basketball, during flu season, I turn down every invite, fearing that 18,000 people screaming and cheering will exude enough blue smoke to take down the whole crowd. Same thing goes for elementary schools, in the winter, I wouldn’t be caught dead in one.
Not that I’m a hypochondriac, I just don’t want to die from going to a movie or air-kissing someone.
Fortunately, my wife has all kinds of preventative pills, chalky orange ones that supposedly boost your immune system, over-the-counter remedies that reduce flu’s effects, witch doctor potions like olive leaf extract and oregano oil. Normally I’m not much of a pill-popper, but during flu season, I chomp them down like candy.
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Only In Keswick, continued from page 14 <<<
Unfortunately, my preoccupation with the flu makes me a pretty boring person. When someone asks me how my winter’s been going, I don’t have much to say since all I’ve been doing is keeping my head down. I can’t say, “I’ve been doing everything I can to duck the flu,” so I say, “Not much, it’s been a quiet winter.”
If they persist and ask, “Done any traveling?” I have to answer, “No, not really.”
Around here, people are pretty sociable, so they continue, “So what have you been up to?”
I want to answer, “I’ve been wiping off shopping carts, holding my breath in the movies, imbibing oregano oil and staying away from JPJ,” but instead I say, “Life’s been pretty dull, how about you?”
Asking about the other person always gets you out of a hole, so I’m home free in this conversation and just happy as hell he didn’t ask me to shake hands.