The New York Times (We’re Still Here, No Thanks To The Internet) recently published an article on ‘How Not To Get Sick On A Flight’. It was as my grandfather used to say, a bunch of malarkey. Or at least I always imagined this was something he would say. We lived at the opposite ends of the country and sometimes the world, while I was growing up so my impressions of him are vague and imperfect. So when I need a grandparent that weathered the Great Depression and World War II and says things like ‘that’s a bunch of malarkey’ and ‘Great Jehoshaphat!’, I just envisage him saying that.
The NYT article reveals that the popular medicines’ and nostrums used by travelers essentially have as much effect as that of a witch doctor in warding off the evil spirits, I mean germs. A personal UV light to kill germs on airplane tray tables and remote controls? Right. My favorite might be the personal air filter, which as advertised uses ionic filtering to reduce air pollutants. Of course, filtering out ionized chemicals is slightly different than removing harmful pathogens, but details, shmetails. And why play around with a dinky personal air filters, why not just go the whole enchilada and outfit oneself in one’s very own personal chemical and biological protective suit, like this. I mean, if you want to be really, really safe…
My own approach to the issue of germs, viral infections, travel and me, is one part optimism, one part fatalism, and three parts heavy alcohol consumption. I like to think of myself as pretty resistant to infection, so that’s where the optimism part comes in. But then again, as I see it, I’m pretty much doomed anyway. It’s because I travel with Mary, so personal ionic air supply systems, disinfectant wipes and megavitamin dosages, are not going to be of any assistance. When we arrive in some exotic foreign destination the word goes out through the whole viral and bacterial network that Mary is in town. If I could hear the individual germs, I’m sure I’d hear a blast of congratulatory celebration – “Mary’s here! We’re all going to get a free trip back to the good ol’ U S of A!”
So, no matter what regimen of physical and respiratory protection I try, I’m not going to escape whatever exotic disease Mary has contracted this time be it cold, flu, malaria or Black Death. I am doomed. That’s the fatalism part right there. Fortunately, scientific analysis (my own research program, self-funded) has enabled me to determine though, that if I consume enough alcohol in enough different forms, I can at least hold off the onslaught till I get home from a trip. If not, at least I’ll be happy, regardless the symptoms, until the alcohol wears off, anyway. Mary, of course starts exhibiting full blown infections somewhere around the last third of our trip so by the time she boards the aircraft home she’s in prime ready-to-die mode.
So you people, go ahead and try out your voodoo fetishes and dance around the fire trying to drive the evil germs out. Meanwhile, I’ll be sitting over here having a nice gin and tonic, and trying not to look at the half psychotic nutter wiping down every exposed surface with HandiWipes.