Sunday, June 03, 2007

Spreading the Mucous

Remember when we used to think that in the year 2000, we’d all be flying around Jetson-like in our own personal spaceships? Well, that’s sort of how I view the health care system. By the time I get to be really old, I figure scientists will have found a cure for just about everything. Cancer. Alzheimer’s. Bunions. Maybe even the common cold.

Seriously, is anyone even working on that last one? We need an antidote, and we need one soon—a one-shot-only deal, although I’d prefer a single chocolate-flavored liquid dose. Because by the time I’m 80, or even 60, I am not going to be able to open those foil packets of Sudafed tablets. I can barely spring the capsules now, even with all my manual dexterity still pretty much intact.

The common cold has been on my mind lately because I happen to have one and it sucks. I can’t breathe, ergo I can’t sleep. I have a sore throat—from coughing so hard. And I know it’s not tuberculosis or anything, but I still feel really crappy.

I started to do the math. Figuring that each cold lasts about a week and that I come down with maybe a half a dozen every year, and that I will probably live to be about 90, this minor nuisance suddenly adds up to years of misery and enough boxes of Puffs With Lotion to circle the globe. Or something like that.

So I’m a little miffed that Tuberculosis Guy got all the ink this week. Yes, I appreciate that TB Guy flew not one, but two, trans-Atlantic flights while carrying a killer germ. But hey, he had a wedding to get to, and fellas, correct me if I’m wrong, but your sole job as a groom is pretty much to show up where and when your bride tells you.

Now, after much hand-wringing from the CDC, the creation of an international incident, and a public scolding by Matt Lauer, it turns out that TB Guy isn’t particularly infectious after all. Probably even less of a threat to the public health than the person who gave me my cold.

And where, exactly, did I catch my cold? The most likely culprits: 1) the CTA, while on my way to work or 2) a public restroom along the Indiana Turnpike, while traveling Memorial weekend. Somebody carelessly, recklessly, rudely and wantonly spread their bacteria in one of these massively public places. And the ensuing CDC manhunt? Well, of course, there wasn’t one.

That’s because Americans (especially the percent without health insurance) are trained to ignore illness, particularly something as seemingly harmless as a cold—or a fever, or bronchitis or walking pneumonia. We show up to work come hell or high temperature. And if we can drag our asses into the office while feeling like we’ve got an ax lodged in our forehead, we’re damned well not going to let inflamed sinuses keep us from having fun, either. And the next thing you know, this mentality has us coughing up a lung on our fellow passengers en route to Greece.

I’m not excusing TB Guy’s behavior—he is, after all, the kind of person who plans a “destination wedding,” which ranks, on my list of annoying trends, right up there with the sudden explosion in peanut allergies. I’m just saying that in the past week, I’ve spread my own mucous far and wide: I’ve been to the movie theater and the movie theater’s ladies’ room, gone to work, ridden the El at least six times, tried on pants at American Eagle and returned them to the rack, and, perhaps most egregiously, blown my nose at Costco, which had more patrons on a Sunday afternoon than an airline could dream of cramming onto a 747.

Just returning the favor.


Post a Comment

<< Home