Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sick in the City

Hi, folks. You may be wondering why I have not posted any fabulous new New York adventures lately. Or maybe you haven't. Maybe you've been pondering more important issues like health care reform, the loss of biodiversity, and Snookie's oh-so-Jersey-licious new buddy on Jersey Shore. Whatever. I'm going to tell you anyway. I've been sick. Not like sniffles and muscle aches sick. Like fever, hacking up a lung, I-wanna-crawl-under-a-rock-until-Spiderman-finally-opens-on-Broadway sick. Unfortunately, I do not (and probably never will) have the luxury of crawling under a rock when I'm sick. (If I do, though, I'm sure Spiderman still won't be open, so . . . I guess my statement stands). What to write about when I'm not feeling well enough to plan any new urban exploits? How's about I tell you how much it sucks to be sick in the city. 

First of all, let's talk about how you get sick in this city in the first place. Let's say you need to get from one place to another. You have one of three options (generally speaking). Option 1: Walk. That sounds simple enough, right? Sure. Try walking anywhere near Port Authority or Penn Station between the hours of 8-10am or 5-7pm or in the Theatre District between 6:30 - 8pm. What will you find? Hoards of people. It is literally impossible to traverse any of these areas during these times without Someone in front of or beside you sneezing or coughing. Chances are, that Someone is inevitably carrying a multitude of diseases, sinus infections, bronchitis, and heaven knows what other maladies that can befall the human body. Do you see the germ particles floating from their ailing hacking mouths through the air into your throat? No? Well, if you don't, here's something you CAN see. Remember those new laws that say that nobody can smoke anywhere in the city other than on the streets? So, where do you think Joe Schmo business guy will smoke his cancer stick on the way to or from work or the theatre? Yes, folks, that's right. Directly in front of you. Second hand smoke right in YOUR face. Not his. Remember, everyone on the sidewalk (except tourists in Times Square) walks at a fairly brisk pace. That means the person behind the nicotine addict will reap the second hand effects of said cancer stick. Congratulations. So . . . what if you manage to turn your head away from the clouds of killer smoke and the coughing person is germ-free? Well, then, you've probably been slimed. Yes, slimed. In the winter, one generally has protection from this awful experience, but in the summer, exposed arms, shoulders, backs, and calves tend to find the exposed (and generally sweaty) limbs of other (probably diseased - always assume diseased) people and the resulting effect is what I call a "sliming". I must say that this is the worst of the three walking casualties. By far. 

Okay, so you decide to take the subway so as to avoid all of the above. Yeah. Not so much. The only thing you'll avoid on the subway is the cigarette smoke. Take the remaining dangers of getting sick while walking, put them in a Petri dish, chug it, and that's what you get on the subway. At rush hour, there are at least 30-40 people per car. Enclosed in a car. Sandwiched together with no windows. What are the odds that one of those people is sick? What are the odds that you are standing near one? How long can you stay in a sealed area with those sick-people germs without contracting them? Who knows. Suddenly, a haggard red-eyed person inserts herself into the 6 inches of space next to you, coughs into your air space, remembers her manners, continues to cough into her hand, and then holds on to the subway pole. Images of Auschwitz come to mind. Don't breathe. Don't breathe. The car lurches forward and you grab the pole to keep from flattening a pregnant Asian woman next to you. Game over. Better call the pharmacist now because you're on the way to sich ubergeben. Same thing goes for a cab. No, you're not sharing air with the masses (except for the cab driver that mostly smells of either curry or garlic depending upon nationality), but YOU try to get into and out of a cab without touching the germy seat, handles, and windows. Do you even have a guess as to how many drunken passengers have puked on the seat you are currently occupying? You don't even want to know. 

So, you're sick. Fever, cough, stuffy head, achy muscles, headache, earache, rash, atrophied limbs . . . whatever. Name your own symptoms. How do you get to the doctor to diagnose those symptoms? Uh oh. You guessed it. Walk, take subway, or hail a cab. To infect the rest of America. "Let the circle be unbroken . . ." In order to attain medical attention, you must drag your infected ass out of the apartment, down the stairs, walk to the subway, go down the stairs, get on the train, go up the stairs, walk to the doctor's building, press the elevator buttons (L is always the germiest), turn the door knob, and see the doctor. In order to do your part to keep your fellow New Yorkers well, you must do all of these things without breathing, coughing, or touching anything. Ready, go! If you get to the doctor and have not managed to infect someone along the way with your illness, congratulations. No doctor in New York (none that I can afford anyway) makes house calls, so if you are going to get better, you have to sacrifice the health of some of the masses to seek medical attention for yourself. Such is life. It's all for the greater good, right? Wait . . .

After your diagnosis, repeat the steps above to schlep to the pharmacy, obtain healing drugs, and schlep back to your sickbed. Your phone rings. What to do when, instead of your doctor, it's your agent with an audition in a few hours for the role of your dreams? What? They will only see you tomorrow at noon? "But, Agent", you say, "I'm sick. Yes, Agent, I can still sing. No, Agent, I don't have a job after August. Um . . . sure. I'll go. I'll just be really careful to not get anyone else sick". So . . . you take LOTS of drugs, mask the symptoms, slather on makeup, and walk, take the subway, or hail a cab to the audition. Remember to refrain from breathing, coughing . . . you know the drill. Or . . . just forget about it, cough, breathe, and touch anything you want. It's all disgusting anyway. And you're going to get sick. You WILL get sick. And then you will get your fellow New Yorkers sick. And then they, in turn, will get you sick. And you can't stop them. What? No tag-backs, you say? There are always tag-backs when germs are concerned. And there always will be. "Let the circle be unbroken . . . "

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