A WEEK OR SO ago, I noticed a change in atmosphere on the trains and in my office. No, I didn't cut down my fiber intake. Rather, I could hear one of the more familiar sounds of autumn: coughing. The traditional fall cold was making the rounds.
Soon, at work, I could hear two of my cubemates hacking away, one of them to the point of losing her voice and having difficulty breathing. She actually left early today (I know that feeling) for a doctor's appointment to dope out once and for all what was screwing up her lungs. I tried not to inhale when I was in her presence, but being directly on the other side of her wall, there was little practical that I could do, aside from decent sleep and nutrition.
So far these practices have spared me the current outbreak. When I bring water or tea to my desk, I cover the mug with a lid to prevent cold viruses from dropping in. I wash my hands well, and avoid touching my eyes, which is a major and little-known vector for cold transmission. I have little contact outside of work with people who have children. And although there have been few coughing folks so far on the train, I generally relocate when one sits nearby.
It's really not the common cold that worries me. Nor is it this super bird flu over which Bush is now flapping his feathers. Rather, it's the garden-variety influenza that I am trying to avoid. I get vaccinated every year. I am not immuno-compromised or feeble or in the health care field or anything like that. I am always out — on the train, at work, in a mall. If I have armored my system against the virus du jour, and it doesn't turn me into a sneezing, highly contagious mess, I cannot then pass it along to someone else who is in one of these risk groups, or, even more deadly, an unimmunized senior.
Also, I don't need to tell you that having the flu utterly sucks. Figure on a solid week dead, stuck on your ass with not even the lure of the Internet enough to get you off the couch. No fuckin' way. Twenty-five or thirty bucks to avoid that is cheap as hell. Consider also that I go to casinos and play in a poker game where some of these goons will play with a half-sawn-off leg if it's not their accelerator foot, to say nothing of a cold. Last time I played, the guy immediately to my right was coughing and sniffling, and I couldn't relocate quickly enough. I lucked out in that case. My luck may not last forever.
I didn't even bother to bring up the topic of a flu shot when I went to the doctor on Monday. I suspected that most places besides hospitals hadn't gotten their serum in yet. Sure enough, right on the glass partition in the front where I stood to announce my arrival, there was a sign stating exactly what I suspected: no shots yet. Hospitals in my area have been giving clinics, but most of them are scheduled for midday or early afternoon. Good for suburbanites or seniors, not for me. I actually just checked to see if St. Vincent's, a hospital near me at the junction of Chelsea and the Village, offers shots, but no dice.
With a projected Las Vegas trip in January, coworkers who never take sick days or have kids, and the steel box of contagion in which I ride filling slowly with pathogens from afar, I'd really like to get a shot in sometime soon. I may just have to bite the bullet and take a day off to sneak into the hospital. Either that, or wait until the senior center behind my building offers shots again, then lurch in dressed like Grampa Simpson. I've got the patter down: "I remember before we had flu shots, we had to wear a toad in our overalls, that being the style of the time, real frogs being scarce 'round about then due to the invasion from Canada, which in those days we called Mexico. . . . "