June 11, 2001
Germ Warfare


My boss is in Boston for the next two weeks, enjoying a combination industry conference/marketing opportunity/personal vacation. Before he left on Saturday, though, he gave me a little something to remember him by: his snotty, sneezing, hacking head cold.

Or at least he tried to give it to me. I refused to accept.

Every single day last week he came into my office and hung around in front of my desk in the mornings ... sniffling, coughing, spraying *sick molecules* all over my workspace, picking up my banana, fiddling with my paper clip holder ... and every single day last week I said "Quit touching my stuff!  Get the fudk out of my office!!" 

(Well. OK. That's not exactly what I said. What I actually said was "Gosh, I hope I don't catch whatever it is you've got." And then I antibacterialized my banana, as soon as he left.)

Secretly I was thinking Oh great. Here it comes.

This is something I have been worried about ever since we first put the big red circle around July 21st on the calendar: the fact that our wedding date is plunked right in the middle of what has historically been *Secra's Summer Sick-Time.*  Who could forget my thrilling bout with bronchial incontinence last summer? Or my Pulitzer Prize winning journal entry, "Robitussin & Urine,"  the year before that? It's all about phlegm and urine with me in the summer. Every year, for most of my adult life, I've come down with at least one big, wet, overblown case of Upper Respiratory Crud, usually around the end of June/beginning of July. It starts out small but quickly blows up into this huge, horrific, debilitating THING that lays me flat for weeks.

So, with less than five weeks left until the wedding, it's not surprising that I would freak out when my boss sneezed on me. (Again. And again.) Even though I told myself I'm not going to get this ... I'm not going to get this ... by Saturday I was starting to feel an ominous tickle in the back of my throat. David and I had been planning all week to get up and ride twenty miles on Saturday morning  --  plus we had a coffee date with Bev, scheduled for the middle of the afternoon  --  but when I woke up I wasn't sure I had the oomph to crawl into the bathroom and tinkle (she says delicately), let alone climb onto a Schwinn and ride around Bay Farm Island a couple of times.

"I think I'm getting sick," I said to David experimentally. 

At that point I still wasn't sure whether or not this was actually the case. I thought that maybe by saying it out loud -- I think I'm getting sick -- I would either make it true, or else make it go away.

"Maybe you shouldn't ride today then," he said. And he reminded me that we can always try the twenty-miler when I'm feeling better.

But this was something I really wanted to do. I'd been gearing up for this ride, physically and mentally, all week long. We almost made it to twenty miles last weekend  --  we'd stopped short at eighteen, mainly because my butt absolutely refused to make contact with my bicycle seat for another minute  --  but I knew that with a little warm-up and a lot of determination, this week I could hit the big two-oh. So even though I wasn't feeling 100% on Saturday morning, I got up and got dressed ... glugged down a half glass of o.j. and a cold pill ... stuffed a bunch of Kleenex into my bike bag ... and off we went.

The first couple of miles were tough. It was cold and foggy and the wind was blowing in my face and I was shivering and my nose was running and I was thinking Well, this sucks.

But by the time we were pedalling our way across the million dollar bicycle bridge, half an hour later, I was beginning to feel just fine. Slightly congested, maybe  --  slightly more worn-out than I might have felt otherwise  --  but that was it. In fact, by the end of the twenty miles I didn't feel "sick" at all. I didn't have that vague, headachey, Oh crap! I'm getting sick! feeling anymore: it had vanished completely. (It came back again later in the afternoon, when we were sitting at Starbucks having coffee with Bev ... maybe because we were shivering in the shade, or because the cold pill was wearing off ... but I went home after our get-together, and I went straight to bed with juice and magazines, and I coddled myself outrageously for the rest of the evening.)

What can I say? I got lucky this time. I don't know whether it's because I've managed to build up some germ-resistance over the past few months, through all of this proper nutrition and exercising and stuff ... or whether I simply scared the cold bug off, through sheer force of will. Either way, though, I felt markedly better by Sunday morning. (Enough so that I got up and rode again  --  seven miles this time.)  By Sunday afternoon I was running back and forth to the laundry room. By Monday morning I was completely back to normal. I can't explain how or why it happened. But I definitely feel like I dodged a bullet here. That's the good news.

The bad news, of course, is that I've got to stay healthy for another thirty-nine days, four hours, thirteen minutes and forty-four seconds.

There's probably no way I can prevent all bad germs from violating my airspace between now and July 21st. There are only so many times an hour I can wash my hands, after all. But I can at least try to remain vigilant about who might be a *carrier* of bad germs, and how I interact with them.


I'm not kidding: between now and July 21st, stay as far away from me as possible.

Don't hug me. Don't shake my hand. Don't blow me kisses. Don't volunteer to carry my Fed Ex packages or refill my coffee cup or install my new marketing software. Keep your hands off my mouse, my telephone, my doorknobs, my paper clip holder. Don't sit in my chair. Don't borrow my Chapstick. Don't sneeze as you're building my 6" Turkey No Cheese/No Mayo/Extra Jalapeno Club Sandwich (and don't wipe my VISA card off with your face).

If you're sick and we work together ... I'll be available for *phone meetings* and *e-mail discussions* and *telepathic conferencing* only.

If you're sick and we encounter each other in the Produce Department ... please don't sneeze on the groovy vegetables. (Aim for the cucumbers instead.)

If you're sick and you come over to my apartment ... I'm going to spray everything you touch with Lysol. Don't be offended. I'm probably going to spray everything you DON'T touch, too, just for fun. (And because I like the smell of Lysol.)

And if you're Roy Orbison, come back to life expressly for the purpose of singing "Born To Be Loved By You" at my wedding, and you're sick, and you touch my banana ... you're a dead man all over again.

P.S. Special Note to Mother Nature: Don't think I don't have my eye on YOU, too, you sneaky conniving bitch. I've seen the way you've been skewing my menstrual cycle the past couple of months or so. Four days early in April? SIX days early in June?? And no *warning,* either time? I know what you're up to, and it's not going to work. You are NOT invited to the wedding.

throw a rock