Monday, February 7, 2011

Sick & the City

If one could carryover excess sleep like rollover minutes, I'd be good for at least another week.

I've been sick since last Monday evening, and my coughing-sneezing-fever-chills-toothache-earache-body aches have put me under the covers for up to 12 hours a day. I even stayed home from work last Tuesday, which is pretty rare for me.

I felt slightly better Wednesday morning and wearily dragged myself to work. My cold, however, left me exhausted, and the freezing air instigated coughing fits. Each night after work I could barely change into my pajamas before I was out for the night. One evening I went to bed at 7, got up at 8:30 to eat supper and then went to sleep for good an hour later.

I got home from work Friday shortly after 7 p.m. and won't have been outside again until I leave for work this morning. I finally went an entire 24 hours on Sunday without taking any medicine, and I wasn't about to take any chances by making a foolhardy trip to the grocery store. I don't need a loaf of bread that badly.

At first glance, being sick in New York is the same as being sick anywhere else. And why wouldn't it be? Illness knows no boundaries, and the blankets that ward of the chills are just as comfy in Columbus as they are in Brooklyn.

But it doesn't take long -- just a single subway ride in the winter -- to realize what makes sickness in New York different. It's more public.The hacking coughs. The sniffling noses. The sneezes and looks of death. I've given and received them all in a single evening commute.

Luckily this bout with the cold wasn't accompanied by nausea. In Ohio, in an emergency -- if you really, really had to -- you could always pull off and be sick on the side of the road. It wasn't ideal, of course, but it was an option. No one would have to know.

In New York, though, you better be sure you can handle the jostling crowds of the subway before you even think about getting on. Not only are there no restrooms on the trains, but you'll also have a hard time finding any in the subway stations themselves.

Even if the wave of nausea passes, you still aren't off the hook. Every grimace of pain is on full display to all of your fellow commuters. No privacy here -- and maybe not even a seat. Unless you have a crutch or are visibly pregnant, you're on your own.

Honestly, I don't even like dabbing my nose with a tissue on the subway, although that's usually inevitable in the winter. I can practically feel the people around me willing some antibacterial gel onto their hands, no matter how discreet I try to be.

I've long heard that children pick up all sorts of illnesses in daycare and preschool. The New York City subway is no different.

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