You trudge through the cold at 10 a.m., climbing your third set of stairs. You’re walking up past some dude who looks like his parka is about to engulf him. He’s wearing a thick woolen hat and two pairs of gloves. Just as you’re about to dismiss his entire existence, you watch his head pull back, arms go up and entire body fall into one spasm. He lets out an enormous sneeze; there is no controlling its path of destruction. Mucus and saliva go flying everywhere, you can see bits of it stick to his gloves, and touch the stairway railing that you were planning to hold just 10 seconds ago. He only really manages to cover half his mouth, but the sheer power of the sneeze leaves a touch of dampness on your neck. His body has been taken completely by surprise as he struggles to find his balance, while simultaneously succumbing to a set of wracking coughs. You don’t get a chance to say, or even think “Bless you”, before he begins to hack like an 88 year old. Time to move far away from his side of the stairway. You may be concerned enough to ask him if he’s okay, but it's November in Canada, and you’re more worried about leaping out of harm’s way.
Then it happens. Two days after your encounter with the sneeze man, you feel it as soon as you wake up -- prickly throat, stuffy nose, the odd pang of an impending ear ache. It’s time to get out of bed, but not before you curse the living hell out of that guy and his virus-infested, germtastic saliva that probably found its way past your pristine immune system. It may also have been the 200 other people in your last lecture, 80 of whom sniffled through the prof’s endless drone. Who knows? Welcome to the changing season. You take a hot shower, or skip showering altogether, and whip up a mug of the hottest substance you can find. It’s going to be a long day, one scattered with everyone's favorite phrases:
“I’m getting sick."
“I feel sick."
“I freaking hate this weather, I’m so sick.”
The evolution of sickness, I call it.
These are the first signs of the approaching holiday season. Every other person looks like Rudolph, red nosed and swollen faced. People clutch to their hot chocolates for dear life; if only Jack had held on to that little piece of floating wood as vehemently, he and Rose might have lived happily ever after and become millionaires. When did Kleenex replace cell phones in every person’s hand? When did Tylenol Cold & Flu become more essential than coffee? Thank you, schizophrenic Ontario weather, you can’t make up your mind about how you want to spend each day, so you decide to creep up on us with random temperatures and leave us all at the edge of sanity. It’s too damn difficult, thinking before taking a sip of someone's iced cap, or sharing forks. Everyone looks like they’ve been attacked by mono, the Health & Wellness Centre is packed with people looking for doctors' notes, and hand sanitizer is going out faster than liquid cocaine.
What do we do? Some rush to get their flu shot. Despite the fact that this is a common occurrence, the flu suddenly becomes an uncontrollable epidemic, and the flu shot is the anchor that will keep you on this side of the storm. We all feel like we’re in Noah’s Ark, GET ON THE BOAT! GET ON THE BOAT! (Or was it a ship?) Everyone left behind is a horde of zombies, waiting to welcome you into their ranks of mindless beasts. All you want to do is get back into bed and forget about organized education for a while. Maybe even forever, but let’s not get into that. There is no time to ponder the supposed preventative benefits of the flu shot, no time to count how many Strepsils you've sucked on, and how many bowls of chicken noodle soup you've sifted through only to eat the noodles and leave everything else floating in the broth. It’s time to either give in to possible sickness, or fight it and take a day off school or work, before it settles into your body for a few weeks of utter discomfort.
Game of Thrones is so right, prepare for the winter. Stocking up on Tylenol, chicken broth and hot tea is the only way you’ll win the seven kingdoms. That is, before you look into a mirror, and realize the sneezing man was actually you.
The doctor has spoken UTSC.