Thursday, October 29, 2009

Swine flu: Avoiding everyone and everything

(DrTom is now prepared to go to the grocery to pick up some milk and bread, no longer fearful of the H1N1 virus.)

The swine flu, or H1N1 virus, is now prevalent and is highly communicable.  I don't want to get it, and either does Management.  We will get the vaccine when and if it is available to us, but I'm one of those who is not sure it helps anyway.  Therefore, there is only one real preventative action we can take--avoid other people at all cost.

The logic is simple, the plan is sound, but the execution of our strategy is not so easy.  Fortunately, we both work at home, so we can avoid the workplace and all its germs (and its gossip and politics, which are about as unhealthy as viruses).  We simply don't invite anyone over to the house.  If someone shows up uninvited, we just hide in the house and pretend we are not home.  I perfected this technique as a kid in Lima, when the Longworth sisters from next door would come over on a Saturday morning.  My brothers and I were always in our underwear watching cartoons on tv on Saturdays, and we did not want to be disturbed.  Those girls knew we were in there, but the door was locked, so we had the advantage.  After several minutes of  "we know you boys are in there", they would burn out and go home.

But on occasion, you need to have a repairman come inside the house for one thing or another.  Last week, the electrician was here to do some work.  Of course, he came from town, where the germs live, so I was nervous.  I basically stayed at the far end of the house and pretended to be working.  When he asked me a question about the wiring, I would yell something like "IT SEEMS TO GO OUT WHEN WE TURN ON TOO MANY LIGHTS".  And, at the end, "JUST PUT THE BILL ON THE TABLE IN THE KITCHEN.  THANKS".

This virus is a persistent little devil; it can apparently remain viable for up to two hours on any surface to which it is transmitted.  So even if you stay away from people, you must not touch anything that other people have touched for at least that long.  I did not go near the kitchen table for half a day after the electrician put his bill there.  Die, virus, die!  We leave our mail in the mailbox until the next day.  UPS parcels remain in the garage until sundown.  Stray dogs are given wide berth--you don't know who may have petted them recently.  You have to break the chain of transmission.  I no longer trust my wife, and she has not been anywhere.  But we eat in separate rooms just to be safe.

My immediate concern is that we are having our grandkids here for Thanksgiving.  Holy crap!  They go to school, and after-school programs, and guitar lessons, and soccer practice with dozens, maybe hundreds of other kids.  A veritable cesspool of dangerous pathogens swarming in, around, and through their contaminated bodies.  Runny noses.  Sneezes and coughs.  I'll be dead by Christmas.  I've suggested we set them up in the basement when they arrive to sleep and to eat; we could use Skype to see and hear them safely from upstairs.  I think they would do fine down there, but my wife and daughter think I am overreacting. 

And so it goes.  I continue to dodge all humans, and their possessions, and their air, and their space.  Remember the plague of earlier centuries in Europe?  People living in close proximity in cities.  We should learn from that experience.  Live in the country.  Find that deserted island.  Go backpacking alone until flu season is over.  Have supplies dropped to your rural home from a chopper, then let it sit for a day (or should it be "let it set"?).  Live simply (and alone), so others may simply live.


  1. live lonely, so others may simply live? I guess.

  2. You were correct Ryan. I changed the wording.

  3. Tom's subtle way of saying "No more visiting students!"

  4. Disease-free students are OK.