January 4, 2013

ON THE EDGE: Avoid it like the plague

By J.P. Devine
Correspondent

It's here. If you don't have it, the guy next to you in line at the market or sitting in the next chair at the barber shop does. They all have the same excuse, "Don't worry, I'm over it now."

A tip: worry. The flu is here, like a tipped over logging truck on Interstate 95, it's wiping out all human traffic.

Last week when I went to get my annual physical, I passed entire families, some not yet sick, but holding runny-nosed children. Small children are the ninja flu soldiers. They look cute. Be afraid of them. Be very afraid.

They were sitting in the urgent care waiting rooms reading 10-year-old magazines that surely had been touched by those who went in earlier. I wanted to speak up and warn them, but felt it safer to keep my distance.

OK, it's not the black plague or the Spanish flu that almost killed my father, but it's serious, and hits hard and heavy.

I am of the age that does not take kindly to the flu, colds, ice or fiscal cliffs. So I wisely got myself the flu shot. She, who hates shots, got one as well. I'm taking no chances. She teaches runny-nosed ninja terrorists.

I also take what some consider extreme precautions. Full disclosure: I enjoy the benefits of obsessive compulsion disorder. The ordinary person can touch something once, and escape without harm. But if you have to touch something three times so as not to bring on the end of the world, it triples your chances of catching something. Never mind, I deal with it.

Number one: I have great bladder control and never use public restrooms. If on the rare occasion that I am forced into one to wash my hands after touching something, I hit the faucet and dryer machine with my elbow, wait patiently for someone to come in, and then catch the door with my shoe before it closes.

Another tip. Always wear gloves from Halloween until at least the first of May. In summer, keep your hands in your pockets.

Or, when opening a door, you can pull your hand up inside the sleeve and use that as cover. The people behind you may snicker, but that snicker will soon turn to sneezing.

Warning: Notice that when that cute barista at your coffee shop prepares your coffee, she puts the lid on with the naked hand, even when she is clearly revealing signs of something wicked coming her way. Observe how she just smeared germs all over that tiny hole in the lid from which you sip. No need to cause a scene or embarrass them. Simply remove and discard the lid on the way out.

I don't have to tell you that the most dangerous place in America for exposing yourself to the flu germ is the gym. I stopped that nonsense three years ago. I'm not as trim, but I'm germ free.

The gym may seem to be a healthy place where one can develop muscle tone and burn calories. Stick to raking leaves or lifting large dogs over your head. I have one if you're just a cat lover.

I stopped going to the gym for other reasons. Half of the place is crawling with gorgeous 20-somethings in colored Spandex who cavort on the various machines with smart phones stuck to their ears. This is disconcerting for an older man who is trying to finish "War and Peace," propped up on the holding bars.

The other half is a collection of sweaty, grunting weight lifters, in black "wife beater" T-shirts, all festooned with prison tattoos and shaved heads. This is a corps de ballet of germ passers. Avoid them.

I had to be nice to one of them because it turns out that he's a big fan of mine. This is where it got sticky. He approached, dripping with sweat. He extended his hand, the largest hand seen outside of the Albanian mafia. I suppressed panic. I told him that I just hurt that hand. He offered the other. I've run out of options. His smile was fading. I shook it. That cold lasted two weeks.

This flu may last until spring, so watch your step. So far I'm safe. There is a slight tickle in the back of my throat but it's probably my imagination ... isn't it? OMG!

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

 

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