Thought Catalog

Dear Sick People, Just Stay Home

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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

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