By Jeff Levene
As the son of a cardiologist, one might assume that all my health fears would revolve around overzealous amounts of bacon, drive through windows, and having Paula Dean as a personal chef. Well you should know that I’m currently munching on some deep fried Sweet and Sour Chicken and am also considering running to Cook Out for a Reese cup milkshake as a reward for finishing this article. No, my worst medical nightmare isn’t triggered with the thought of maxing out my cholesterol or being reduced to a motorized wheelchair (thank you outrageously overactive metabolism) but instead the subtle hint of a cough or sneeze. Well, more the subtle hint of a cough or sneeze during one of America’s toughest flu seasons. The flu, stomach bugs, common colds, or even just basic feelings of unpleasantness are hard enough to deal with when you can stay home and sleep it off. But throw in excessive interactions with other infected students through classes, intramurals, or hugs at rush events and those brief nose tickles and a froggy throat can lead to a campus wide epidemic of viral destruction.
It’s always frustrating when that random person shows up in class with a saturated hankie and death in their eyes. Classrooms definitely can count as biological bacteria study environments during flu season. I felt like an unfortunate test subject last week then when my history professor came into class, bubbly as always, bragging about how she had what she described as “the plague” all weekend. Her curly spunky hair and sassy attitude about the French Revolution couldn’t distract me away from the swelling red around her nose and what brief moments of insanity that seemed even crazier than usual. I cringed, realizing I had chosen to sit in the front row, and held my breath for minutes at a time whenever she meandered over to my section of the classroom. Next class the bug had jumped the front row to the seat behind me , and I felt several sneeze sprays grace the back of my neck.
Come to think of it, as of now I think all of my professors are sick. In Immersion Journalism, the rich sound of Dr. Tevis’ reading voice was clogged with stuffiness. Her recitation of a passage from The English Patient sounded more like a Kermit the Frog broadcast than a poetic reading by Garrison Keiller. Italian Film followed suit with Dr. Letteri’s harsher than normal New Yorker raspiness reminding me that not only does the film Bicycle Thieves reflect an overall failure of Italian culture to help the workingman but also that disease is currently everywhere.
While in public I can garner myself with hand sanitizer and a gas mask, I feel utterly vulnerable to infection when a roommate falls ill. This weekend my next door neighbor stopped by to borrow a phone, his plea coming from a gunky throat that had changed his unusually manly voice into one I would instead identify as the voice of someone named Eugene. Cringing, I obliged him, looking into my liquor cabinet, questioning whether scrubbing tequila on my phone would work the same as rubbing alcohol.
The ironic truth is I have no right to take such precautions with other people’s illness because I rarely take them when I myself fall victim. I’ll shamelessly touch the TV remote, the Xbox controller and the Wii nun chuck without washing my hands. I’ll blow my nose without fear of reprisal even though my father often calls the noise a “foghorn solo”. The honest truth is I’m probably getting sick as I write this. Sure I can give you tips on ways to stay healthy and combat a trip to the infirmary. But, sometimes you just get screwed by the flu. You can do everything right and your immune system will still putter out. So why avoid the inevitable. I’ve personally decided that rather than worry about how I’ll have walk to class in feverish conditions, I may just hit up some OJ to get vitamin C. Maybe I’ll add a shot of the tequila mentioned above for luck. As FX spy Archer once stated, “alcohol is what they sterilize hospitals with.” May as well give it a shot.