January 15, 2013

Dear Sick People, Just Stay Home

Shutterstock
Shutterstock

I’m sure that by now you’re all well aware of the fact that we’re in for the worst flu season we’ve seen in years. Sick people are everywhere — and frankly, I trust no one. While I’m ever-diligent in my quest to overdose on any and all supposed “immunity-boosting” supplements, the fact remains that I feel uncomfortably vulnerable 24/7, and the anxiety is slowly ruining me.

For example, I’m all out of dirty looks after having given them to nine — yes, nine — people on the train this morning while en route to work in New York City. Four of them coughed, four sneezed, and one was wearing a protective medical mask.

It should be noted that the medical mask guy actually got something that was more like a “dirty stare of intense jealousy,” as I repeatedly contemplated stealing the mask from him so that I could benefit from his shield of protection. But then I figured that rather than shielding myself from others’ germs, I’d just be getting his germs — and maybe he was wearing the mask because he already has the flu and doesn’t want to infect anyone else. But then I was like, “Wait — if he had the flu, he’d be home,” so I went back to fantasizing about knocking him out, taking the mask, and being invincible.

The worst part about all of this is that I’m a total hypocrite. Because I myself have a cold. I spent the entire train ride in question sniffling and occasionally coughing — probably eliciting my own dirty looks from all of these people, but didn’t notice because I was too caught up in that whole imaginary mask theft fiasco.

And this is the big problem. We’re all so self-consumed — in that very special “they’re-only-my-germs” kind of way — that we seem to forget the fact that our germs are still germs — and to someone else they are, indeed, the germs of a gross stranger who needs to not be allowed to breathe in public.

I get it — our jobs our important. God forbid we stay home, without access to a fax machine, and put our duties off until we’re healthy enough to actually show up and evade them in person. Plus I don’t know about you guys, but I always develop a very severe type of anxiety when I stay home from work sick. It’s not really anxiety over the work I’m missing, but more so anxiety over my unreasonable fear that co-workers will take me for a malingerer. Which I’m totally not.

So what have I been doing? Going to work with a cold. And therein lies another problem — the scarlet letter that you’re forced to wear as that guy who comes into the office with sick voice, a box of tissues, and a presumed disregard for the well-being of humanity.

Clearly, being sick is a lose-lose situation. So let’s all choose the lesser of two evils, do a favor for humanity, and just stay home. I know that’s what I’ll be doing tomorrow. Although I suppose I shouldn’t rule out the possibility that, when the time comes, I’ll change my mind and proceed to get on that same train and make that same trek to the office — all while passionately hating every sick person around me for joining me in making that same horrible, horrible choice. TC Mark