I finally got over my last bout with the flu one week ago. I could stay awake for more than two hours at a time and I could even keep food down for long periods of time. Then on Tuesday night I went to class.
Before I continue, it is important to understand a bit about the people who go to night school whether it is to learn a trade, earn their GED, or in my case, get my Masters. Everett community college doesn't have the distractions of flowers, fountains, or interesting architecture in the daytime and it is even bleaker at night when the only illumination comes from flickering fluorescent lights. Those lights make us all look a little green to begin with so it sometimes difficult to tell if someone is sick. The halls are polished cement, the walls a pale gray and the furniture a mix of the two. People who go to Everett CC aren't there to play hackeysack, run for student council, or join a Greek system. We're all there to learn a specific program. It is not the place to, “find yourself.” Most of my fellow students work at least part time during the day and several of them have young families as well. Because each class lasts four hours, to miss even one would be like missing an entire week's worth of instruction. And so, people show up in all kinds of horrible conditions. It is my theory then, that the germs at Everett CC are the harshest strain available. At the University of Washington and other schools, people get sick, they stay home a day and the whole campus can go about its business. Now, all it takes is one martyr and we’re all sick. By the time the afflicted feel better in my scenario, everyone else is sick or getting there. I’m no scientist but this doesn’t seem like a difficult task to manage. Heck, the Washington State health department even has songs aimed at the ten and under crowd on the radio. “Be a washertonion, wash your hands, cover your mouth, and stay home if you are sick.” The people we're dealing with here, however are not only well into their 20s or 30s, they are masters candidates!
And last Tuesday and Wednesday that is exactly what happened. On Tuesday we were down two people and on Wednesday they were back hacking away and trying to answer questions with cracked voices. Most of the afflicted sat at least ten feet away from me, but perhaps germs are super energized at that hour or that place. I tried not to shoot dirty looks at those who were sick because illness is not a moral failing or a question of willpower to me; it just IS.
I have come to class with an ankle sprained that day, migraines with throwing up and other non-contagious problems. If, however I'm running a fever, coughing like Lucille Ball circa 1965, I bring handfuls of tissues, hand sanitizer and cough into my sleeve. I will not to touch anything or anyone. No doorknobs, vending machines, shared pens etc. This is just good manners in my opinion.
Not everyone agrees with me though and when they sneeze. How rude of me to say something as offensive as, "Here are some tissues, could you cover your mouth please." Then the perpetrator acts all wounded and ticked off as though rejecting their gift of plague is a major faux pas.
And so, by five-thirty Thursday morning I woke up chilled and shaking, throat raw as though someone had taken a meat tenderizer to it, feverish and physically exhausted. Then the coughing started. I've been awake or moving for only a few hours a day since Wednesday night.
Here’s the deal: If you feel well enough to go to work or class, but are still coughing or have a fever, wear a mask and carry some spray Lysol with you. If you don’t, I will. If my fever breaks by tomorrow, I’ll go to class toting mountains of tissue and Purell. And if someone else sits there and coughs, he or she will get a mask and a spray of Lysol too, I don’t care if it looks silly. A black eye from me would look much worse. It’s not unreasonable to assume that I don’t need a hazmat suit to go to class, but I could be wrong. I’ll tell those germish jokers a thing or two…just as soon as these chills stop.