I am sitting on the plane heading to Rwanda and I can’t tell you how oddly relaxed I feel. Usually I am beyond apprehensive as I set out for somewhere new, especially when it means I have to be on a plane, clutching the armrests for twenty four hours, but I can’t wait to get to Africa where things are raw and real, without the candy coated veneer that rots your teeth and makes you fat. I am counting down the minutes until I can get away from media coverage of this new pandemic called “Going Rogue”. Everywhere you turn there she is, the creature you thought was gone for good is back. Hell you even bought a cat to make sure she wouldn’t come back, but no, she has been re-fortifying herself, scheming, mapping out the cheese and securing a behind the baseboard hiding area. I am sure I will forget all about her by the time I am on the ground ( I am praying for it in between Hail Marys), but right now all I want is to be very very far away from Sarah Palin and her book that is bound to sell millions of copies and grace coffee tables from here to George Bush’s ranch in Texas. I also want to move far away from the woman who checked my bag at security at Pearson airport in Toronto, whose hairstyle funnily enough resembles Sarahs’ ( hmm cousins maybe). Sometimes it takes every fiber in your being to smile and nod while you are on the receiving end of someone else’s apparently very, very bad day and this lady used up all my fibers . She yelled at me for touching my bag, told her supervisor she told me not to ( which seeing as how she never spoke to me at all, was impossible), gave me the cut eye and threw me under the bus in order to show off to her boss in front of fifteen people in line behind me, but instead of telling her what I thought, I bite my tongue and smiled. Now I am being rewarded with something infinitely more valuable, both emotionally and spiritually than saying my peace. I have been granted an aisle seat. Strangely enough, the man sitting right across from me looks exactly like John McCain.
In the same way that I promised myself to never again write about my cat ( omitting her at this moment is not difficult since she just made mincemeat out of my arm with her teeth and claws), I swore that when I hit send on my column last week I would also be done with talking about the flu. Thing is I didn’t actually do anything of interest all week but lie in bed hoping that the next time I crawled out from under the covers I would feel miraculously healed. It sounds so whiny with all the pain and suffering in the world to complain about something most people experience a couple of times a year, but a week indoors with nothing but the TV to keep you company does not a happy bedfellow make. Between watching the terrible events in Fort Hood on the news where so many brave souls lost their lives, to a standoff in an Orlando office building where a regular workday turned into a horror film, it seemed as if I was safest curled up in my bed. Then, just as I started to feel a little better I stumbled across an urgent health warning online stating the most dangerous signs of H1N1 complications were shortness of breath and pressure in the chest area and that anyone with these symptoms should go to the doctor immediately. These of course were the only real symptoms I had left and up until that moment I had absolutely dismissed the possibility of my having the H1N1 and only kept myself “quarantined” as a social precaution. That night I dreamed I was drowning and woke up coughing and struggling for my breath, the tension in my chest was like a bowling ball in a goldfish bowl swishing around trying to be alone, my cough became more and more pronounced and rattled like the mini roller coaster in the parking lot of the Avalon Mall. After a second night of nightmares I agreed to go to the walk in clinic. I had to kick up a bit of a stink because even though the clinic wasn’t closing for another hour there was a line of people, finally they said I was to be the last person. As my husband and I sat there and watched every second person leaving with a mask and a pair of glassy eyes I almost ran away when they called my name, knowing full well my fate. I will spare you the details but after checking me out the doctor fell short of calling me an idiot for wasting her time and for the first time in my life a look of disdain was music to my ears. Now at least if I catch H1N1 I’ll know exactly where I got it, the waiting room at the doctor’s office.
I am not sure what to say, think or do, this H1N1 flu has got everyone in a tizzy. With pamphlets delivered to our front doors it seems daily, instructing us to sneeze into our sleeves, wash our hands and pretty much not to touch, look at or think about anyone or anything that someone else has encountered, the government has pulled out all the stops insuring the majority of people will be scared enough to take the vaccine ( which has many critics). Now as paranoia mounts after the death of three otherwise healthy kids in Canada, people are lining up to get themselves vaccinated, only there is a flaw in the plan, there is not nearly enough vaccine. Somehow though, there is more than enough fear to go around and in some communities, more than enough body bags, while those who pay for private clinics are immunized before pregnant women waiting in the rain with their toddlers. Canada is a place known for its compassion and friendliness, so no matter where you are you get “a bless you” when you sneeze, whether you are in a silent yoga class or in the middle of an armed robbery. These days however people are so spooked if they hear a sneeze they turn on their heels wordlessly and run away from the offender. I know this because it happened to me in the grocery store on the weekend shopping for chamomile tea. I hadn’t been sick in a few years due to a daily measure of vitamins B12, D and C, coupled with a philosophy of mind over matter I begrudgingly picked up from an old friend, that is until last week when I felt the tell tale symptoms of a cold/flu enter my body and proceed to take over as supreme ruler. At first of course I wondered if I had H1N1 and looked online to diagnose myself, always the wrong move. Not only did I have The Spanish, Swine and Avian Flu, I had the symptoms of at least twelve other very serious illness’ . In the middle of hyperventilating I remembered something a wise friend said to me ,”don’t borrow trouble” and I calmed down, was able to enjoy lounging in bed, letting myself get better instead of getting more sick with worry. That and I practiced saying ” Bless you”, it seems people are going to need it.