Monday, November 16, 2009


I vaguely remember what it was like to live in a carefree world. Where every day brought the potential for excitement and the promise of tomorrow brought hope for an enchanting future. A world where dreams could come true if you just wished on a star. Where you could put on a pair of Nikes and JUST DO IT, whatever "it" was. A world where the bogeyman didn't lurk behind every corner.

Then I opened the paper and turned on the TV and it all went to heck. Thank you, global media, for not allowing me one sleep-filled night of carefree abandon and optimism. That would just be silly.

So by now it should be clear to us all that the H1N1 virus is out to destroy the human race. Yes, it won't be long until the only residents of Planet Earth will be germs and toxins and ragtag gangs of bloodthirsty survivors with inexplicable Australian accents who occasionally meet in the middle of deserts to listen to Tina Turner sing songs about Thunderdome.

Okay, maybe it won't bring on the Apocalypse, but you can't pick up a newspaper or turn on a television these days without being haunted by the spectre of swine flu. With such massive media coverage of our new microscopic visitors, it sure would be nice if everyone got their stories straight. CNN tells us that H1N1 is now the world's dominant influenza virus around the globe, yet just a couple weeks ago CBS News was reporting that only an estimated 20% of the folks who think they have H1N1 actually DO (the rest, presumably, have either a particularly nasty seasonal flu or a particularly active imagination.)

Either way, there's one clear message to take home from the media about H1N1: Be afraid. Be very, very afraid. And if there's one thing I'm super good at, it's cowering in fear.

As a long-standing, card-carrying germophobe, an invisible menace like H1N1 is super fun to have around. As I type this, my fingers are cracked raw from the constant application of Purell ("moisturing formula," my fanny.) My desire to write a good newspaper column is trumped only by my desire to be sure not to touch my nose, mouth, or eyes at any cost. Those little menacing buggers could be on my hand right now. Or maybe on the very newspaper and/or computer mouse that you're touching this second. Shh, listen -- I'm pretty sure I heard some of them plotting against mankind as we speak.

But surely I'm over-reacting, right? They say that the flu virus can only live for a few hours outside of the human body, and everybody's been reading the papers and watching TV and following the advice of healthcare professionals, right? Well, let's just say that I pay attention in public restrooms (in a 100% non-perverted way) and I know which of my co-workers do their lavatorial duties WITHOUT WASHING THEIR HANDS (you know who you are.)

So I think until the menace of H1N1 recedes from our headlines, the best coping mechanism is to assume that every one of you are tainted, toxic, and covered in a thin layer of contagious mucus. The truth is, my immune system is comprised mostly of the nutritional elements of the Taco Bell menu, so I'm fighting a battle that I'm destined to lose -- but I'm not going out without a fight.

I love my colleagues at the newspaper, I really do. All of them. But this month? They kinda suck. It all started some three weeks ago when one of my co-workers mentioned that her stepkids were sick with the flu. Gulp. A week later, that co-worker was sick herself - but not before showing up to work for an hour and presumably spreading her cooties around the office all willy-nilly. A few days later, her nearest cubicle dweller came down with the flu. The week after that, MY nearest cubicle dweller got it... and decided that rather than keep her germs to herself, it would be more fun to sit some ten feet away from me, sounding like an alien from Close Encounters of the Phlegmy Kind, reassuring all of us by repeating, "Don't worry, I'b DOT sick!"

I'm now on the shortlist of flu survivors. No-one's been tested, so we don't know if it's H1N1 that's been going around, but I don't want to take my chances. I feel really bad for my co-workers and friends who've come down with this yuckiness, I really do. But I'm also horribly shallow and selfish and don't exactly want to experience the fun for myself if I don't have to. But here's where it gets dicey.

About a month ago, I came down with a whopper of a head cold. The kind that debilitates for a few days and then lingers for a few weeks. I've still got a gnarly cough from it. And when I was at the height of sick, my caring and loving girlfriend doted on me like a trooper. I never had to move a muscle or worry about a thing, because she was constantly by my side armed with soup and love.

So last week, when my girlfriend told me that she suddenly wasn't feeling well, I knew what I had to do:

"Ewww! Seriously?!?! GO HOME! Don't touch anything!" Oh, and then I sprayed down my entire living space, up to and almost including my cats, with a liquid inch of Lysol.

Okay, so Boyfriend-of-the-Year I ain't. But flu-free I remain for the time being (knock on wood.) And I wasn't entirely without caring: I made her a delightful care package, which I placed at her doorstep while maintaining a minimum distance of six feet. I bought her soup and water and a vaporizer and Vitamin C and anything I could think of to make her visit with the swine flu as short as possible. She even complained about being bored so I got her this great High School Musical 3 Activity & Coloring Book. Strangely, she didn't find it as funny as I did.

Happily, she's much better now. Happier still, she continues inexplicably to like me. I've allowed her back into the apartment and might even kiss her in a few days. I, meanwhile, am putting my faith in a regimen of vitamin supplements and elderberry syrup. Little did I know, though, that the answer to flu avoidance may be staring us all in the face. If, that is, you're currently staring at the severed liver of a duck. More on that next week.

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