Congestion Theory: Metros and Mucus

Growing up, my brother and I took a lot of vitamins. Mom was a huge fan of Shaklee and Bro and I would take 2 football-sized vitamin C pills and 8-10 Alfafa tabs. We’d max out our gag-reflex and take them all at the

Photo courtesy of Katsii

same time. I am not here to plug products, all I know is that, with the exception of chicken pox, Bro and I never got sick. Mom also didn’t let us eat overly processed things like pop tarts, mac and cheese and Count Chocula, and we lived in the country, where the air is full of nothing but oxygen, so who’s to say what played a role in our autonomy from infection, but I have always been grateful.

I moved to Washington DC 3.5 years ago, and my cootie-free bliss came to a hacking halt. Living on the Hill made using a car moot, so I became public transpo dependent. I could now be legally productive during my commute: Read the paper, respond to emails before getting to the office, take a nap, and critique fellow passengers’ choice of wardrobe. I loved it. Until I got sick.

The DC metro, probably unlike other train systems, is dirty. I had a lovely winter-white coat that turned inexplicably black that first winter, and I had made it a point to touch NOTHING. (Speaking of black, can someone please tell me why there are a few random squirrels that color in DC?)  I could race down the escalator (stand on the RIGHT, people. Look around you. Note where you see movement and where there is stillness) with strangers pressing against my back with the common goal of catching the train we could see at the platform, and not need to touch the sticky rubber hand rail. On the metro car itself, I would wear a glove or wrap an arm around a pole, but would avoid fleshly contact with those contaminated metal bulwarks at all costs.

Too many times I had watched supposed considerate sickos pack their snotty selves onto the already-full car, leave a rumpled tissue wake, cough who-knew-what into their hand and then placing the infected appendage onto the nearest solid object before the train lurched back into motion. Yes. Thank you for not shooting your particles of diseased phlegm into the air, but instead you spat it in a concentrated dose into your hand and then deposited it on the nearest public object to be gathered up by some innocent fool just trying to hang on and not topple over. Set to terrible music with sad choreography, here is the proper way to shield you cough or sneeze, if you decide to threaten the rest of us healthy folk by gracing us with your presence when you should have quarantined yourself in your bed. If you’ve ridden DC’s rush hour metro, though, you know that you will get whatever is going around unless you snort Airborne hourly. I’ve been so tightly pressed against someone random that I’ve gotten home reeking of someone’s cheap perfume or like their B.O., depending on the time of year…I’ve also probably counted their pores, pegged their shoe designer, and know whether or not they have fillings.

All of this to say, my first Christmas in DC I contracted a wicked case of Bronchitis. My inexperience with being ill made this devastating. I wanted to die. As a person completely unaccustomed to being unwell, and a person with a well know low threshold for any sort of discomfort, I am a bit of a baby when under the weather. Or when I stub my toe. Or when Redbox only has movies no one has ever heard of left on a Friday night. Anyway, the doctor said there was no telling which of the germs incubating in my lungs was the final cause of my demise. My lungs were a scrapbook of my fellow commuters’ ailments.  And, here I am. In Paris, with their previously mentioned lack of care for the cleanliness of public areas, with a newly contracted upper respiratory infection that has caused an ear infection, which has me longing for a cuddle and soothing words, or decapitation. Good news is, I have plenty of time to write. Onward.

Let me know your thoughts on being a sick person in public, if a person can’t stay home (like, say, she has less than a week left in Paris). Also, if you have a little-known remedy for an ear infection caused by the sludge of Europe infecting your lungs and then sloshing into your ear canal whilst you slept, let me know. Even if it doesn’t heal me, but makes me feel better, you’ll have my adoration and gratitude. Don’t even think of mentioning things like neti pots and ear candles…and no graphic descriptions, I have a weak constitution and a wild imagination. Actually, maybe it’s best that I ride this one out. Thanks, though.



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9 responses to “Congestion Theory: Metros and Mucus

  1. Oh, shoot, I missed it. I don’t think the email updater thingy is working.

    Constant hand washing and avoiding eye-, face- and nose-touching plus plenty of rest is my prevention plan. Hope you’re all better now!

  2. Corina

    OMG SHAKLEE?? We grew up on Shaklee, too. In fact my grandma still takes Shaklee vitamins!
    Drink plenty of fluids, hot tea with honey always helps. Get lots of rest, too…hopefully by now you are well!!

  3. Julie

    I love Shaklee too. Still drink the soy protein drink every morning! We were never sick either growing up and neither are my boys now. hmmm… I was also raised without processed food… double hmmm…

  4. Tina

    I would try mucinex for the cough and zyrtec-d for the ears. Ibuprofen will help with nasal swelling and throat swelling.(im working in a pharmacy right now) Hard candy will also help with the throat and the ears. I always sleep with a heating pad under my head when I have an ear ache. I would stay away from sweet oil though if anyone recommends because the pharmacists these days say it actually can increase bacterial breeding.

  5. Joy

    Vitamin C (drink with full glass of h20)
    gargle with warm salt water at least 2x daily (when you wake up and before you go to bed) dont touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands. I hope you feel better soon!

  6. Rebekah Judd

    Thank you, friend, for making an illness in a foreign country another fabulous read. Love your blog. Hoping you feel better soon so we can hear more of your adventures. By the way, I’ve heard watching Sense and Sensibility 10 times in a row cures just about anything.

  7. Nan

    Ohhh, so sad…yet so funny! Still believing for a miracle! Seriously.
    People who come to work sick cause ‘they’re so valuable that no one else can pick up the slack’ should stay home and not hack up a lung at work…get my hackles up! Note to everyone, we are each and every one of us, replaceable. If you die from said illness, your seat will be filled within the month. So know that you can stay in your cozy bed and we’ll pick up your work, or worst case scenario, you can do it when you get well…no worries…stay home where you belong when you’re sick! Otherwise you face co-workers being home sick in their beds while you peddle feverishly to get your work (and theirs) done… only to lower your resitance to other germs.

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